26 June 2015

Barley currently utilizes a customized version of the original Font Awesome icon font for all of its various icons. We liked the way we could use a font and not have to load sprites/images, especially multiple sizes for different resolutions (Barley launched around the time when retina computers were becoming mainstream in our circles). Font Awesome is, well, awesome. It is extremely versatile and an all-around solid resource. I’d recommend it, but you all know about it already.

That said, when we launched, the icons included were limited. There were some UI tools represented but we needed much more. There weren’t many (any?) social icons. We wanted some other random icons as well. So, we took out our pocket knives and started whittling. We added new icons. We added a few nips and tucks to some existing icons, changing some stroke weights and even completely revamped a few. 

This worked great (and still does), but when recently reevaluating UI elements, it was clear that we have some work to do. Besides the fact that we’d like our icons to stand out a bit from a set that is so ubiquitous, there are some discrepancies. Open icons with strokes. Filled icons. Icons that are highly stylized. Icons that are abstract. You get the point.

I doubt we’ll ever have a set that cleans up all inconsistencies (does anyone?) but we can do better. A big thing we’ve been focusing on in all UI decisions is cognitive load. We want Barely to be as light as possible both in size and appearance, to keep the focus on the user’s content and, ultimately, stay out of the way. So, we’ve been playing around with some sketches for line-based icons. 

Possible new icons for our Site Bar:

Some refinements are needed, for sure, but they seem to work a little better as a system. Plus, being truly custom, it will be easier to sprinkle in some extra character here and there. Time to get these puppies finished off and start testing!

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