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Poll: Does Nokia need to change their default icons and fonts? (#N8 #Symbian)

| June 16, 2010 | 23 Replies

S60 5th Edition - via N97

Symbian icons and fonts – does Nokia need to change them?

(Did you also know that YOU can change both icons and fonts easily with themes?)

Scroll at end or click here to vote at the poll

The Nokia N8 received rapturous applause in its multimedia prowess and strength of design. The resounding notion was that in hardware it was the cream of the crop, but in software, much improvement was still needed.

Annoyingly, many things that people dislike in Symbian^3 have been ironed out in Symbian^4. The layout has improved over S^3, less space wasting, the homescreen isn’t limited to panels, screen buttons are more conveniently placed etc.

Though there are many UI elements needing to be improved, one of the common issues people had with S60 5th Edition (and S60 in general) was the tired looking fonts and icons. Since these are consistent across all Nokia devices, including the upcoming Nokia N8, it immediately contributed to the perception that Symbian^3 is still dated looking.

These are subtle aspects but they do make great differences to the overall user experience.

The Font

This is from a previous post back in february

A font says a lot, though quite subtly, and so often overlooked.

The narrow Nokia font made sense in older phones when trying to conserve on pixel usage. But now we’ve got high res screens and can afford wider fonts, narrow, sharp fonts look much less appealing than their plumper, rounder counterparts.

The curviness of “Century Gothic” [Very similar to “Prelude”, used in Palm Pre I think] is often found in children’s books because of the emphasis on classic alphabet shapes and thus readability. Prelude is probably the best font at the moment being used on phones. The letters are very curved, a little more readable than Century Gothic (E.G. letter r), but less wasteful on character spacing.

We probably won’t see that font on a Nokia anytime soon, but it’s a step in the right direction that Nokia’s changing the font to something more pleasing to the eye.

Palm Pre font – considered the best by many for a smartphone.

The change is small yet highly influential to the overall user experience.

Most importantly however, this change is easy to make and you can do it yourself.

Symbian has always been on the forefront of customizability in themes. Find the right one and you can change the entire look of the phone.

Symbian^4 with veranda font:

This unfortunately is not the default look for S^4, but just one of the themes available (I think we’re still stuck in Nokia Sans)

The Icons

One of the issues with the icons (other than their actual design) is their lack of uniformity.

What I mean is that when icons are placed in a grid, because they can assume any shapes,

  • they form less clean lines,
  • you’re not really sure where you can press (i.e. inconsistent clickable areas)
  • (It could be argued however, that such icons with transparent backgrounds make it easier to recognize those icons. Consistency over all devices helps this too.)

Take a look at the default icons below.

Take a look at slightly modified icons (Simple Symbian theme installation – no hacking). They look nicer, more modern (the ones that are changed anyway), but they still aren’t uniform.

Maybe it’s the space constraint, and these type of icons aren’t suited for smaller screens. (Maybe the busy backgrounds aren’t helping?)

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Now check out how they look in iPhone icons, i.e. in standard shapes. Squircles (curvy squares?).

  • The grid lines are cleaner to the eye
  • There’s basic symmetry and our eyes by instinct favour this.
  • Curves are innately more appealing than jagged edges (more modern looking – streamlined)
  • You know to always press within the space of the squircles.

Here’s another look but with slightly bigger, more 3D iPhone icons.

Adding squircles

Whilst Nokia couldn’t simply copy iPhone’s icons and put into default themes, you could just put squircles behind the default/any previous icon design.

A bit like Maemo 5 on N900 homescreen (and the new Samsung iPhone Galaxy S)

Size, symmetry and layout of course is important as well as icon design. This is just to demonstrate the ease of adding squircles which instantly make it more visually accessible.

MeeGo tablets have already been seen with uniform circle or uniform square icons. Not a Nokia product, but possibly a shape of things to come?

Which one is the iPhone

N8 with slightly revamped icons. Same shape, more modern looking.

Note portrait mode still has similar S60 5th layout but landscape has newer 2×6 grid.

N8 with iPad theme

Poll: Does Nokia Need to change their Default icons and fonts?

[polldaddy poll=3352737]

If you voted yes to a change, how should the icons be changed? What font should Nokia use?

And remember, most likely we'll also get themes as customizable as S60 5th where we can change fonts and icons to our taste.

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Category: Nokia, Rant, Suggestions

About the Author ()

Hey, thanks for reading my post. My name is Jay and I'm a medical student at the University of Manchester. When I can, I blog here at mynokiablog.com and tweet now and again @jaymontano. We also have a twitter and facebook accounts @mynokiablog and  Facebook.com/mynokiablog. Check out the tips, guides and rules for commenting >>click<< Contact us at tips(@)mynokiablog.com or email me directly on jay[at]mynokiablog.com