The UX of fixed icon screen elements | by Eva Schicker | Sep, 2021


They are en vogue and ubiquitous

Fixed, or static, icons and elements are now part of our screen experience, whether users are aware of it or not. For some actions, such as the scrolling-back-to-top, users expect a fixed icon to be integral to a content-heavy site by default. This is indeed the case for most super-complex sites with extensive scrolling.

Fixed screen elements serve the user with a function regardless of the user’s journey at that very moment

Clicking on a fixed icon element is not dependent on any other user action

Fixed icons are often found towards the bottom right corner of the screen, assuming that the user is right-handed and reads from left to right. The bottom right is considered the hot spot for a fixed button action. However, fixed icons are also often placed toward other positions by the edge of the viewport.

Here are 7 examples of fixed icon elements that impress by their UX strategies:

Every device user must have encountered some version of the chat box on the lower right of the screen. The chat box invites the user to speak with a customer representative about account inquiries. In some cases, there is a real rep on the other side, in others, a bot will answer queries and delegate the user to some FAQs, or list of phone numbers.

Figure 1

Figure 1: Example of a chat box bottom right icon on a website.

A chat box can help users with finding answers to their questions

Users’ needs come first. Fixed icon buttons are providing something more. They are necessary because users might request to take a certain action based on their total experience thus far, and not based on content interaction. Users will take note of such action availability, and may or may not access them. However, in every instance, the user will perceive this available option as a positive user value and remember it for future use.

For instance, web accessibility is key to provide excellent client service for some sites where additional ease of use is asked for.

Figure 2

Figure 2: Example of a accessibility fixed button that provides a pop-up window to activate or deactivated screen adjustments, such as larger type, contrast, spacing, and many more.

Figure 2 is an example of a fixed screen icon button that provides accessibility adjustments to users throughout their site journey. When the accessibility icon is clicked, a pop-up window applet lists the two dozen or so screen adjustments available to the user, such as increased font sizes, contrast adjustments, activating a screen reader, cursor adjustments, and many more. Individual screen item adjustments can be clicked on or off at any time.

Accessibility assistants provide screen adjustments at any time throughout the user’s journey

Static icons can draw attention to a temporary user benefit, regardless of the page the user is on. The button rests at the bottom of the screen throughout the site.

The limited life-span of the button is most often expressed through words such as “Today’s Deal”, or “Limited Time Offer”, or “Season’s Sale”. Call-out buttons are in essence call-to-action buttons. They connote impermanence and some urgency of action.

Figure 3

Figure 3: Example of a daily sale button. The shopping bag icon suggests value, whereas carrot icon suggests a further important step the user has to take.

Figure 3 shows an example of a sale button that is attractive to the user as a data nugget, but not intrusive to their overall shopping experience.

A call-out element is designed to inform, inspire, and inquire

At times, organizations like to use their home page for immediate customer feedback. A simple, often a agree/disagree, or yes/no question appears fixed on the screen, does not disappear when scrolling, and needs to be clicked on before it can get dismissed.

This is a fixed item that can be also looked at as a pop-up, but in essence, the user needs to take action before it disappears.

Figure 4

Figure 4: A fixed item/pop up customer query that remains fixed until it is clicked on by the user.

These quick-bite user surveys are often designed as a catch-all to engage the user in further action, such as signing up for an e-mail list, donating funds, or engaging in a trial membership.

Market research fixed elements should be used sparingly

Companies thrive on user feedback. A fixed icon can guide users to voice their opinions on the company at some point in their screen journey. Asking for feedback with an unobtrusive fixed icon label as a gentle nudge for the customer’s input might return valuable insights for that company.

Customer feedback can be gathered with simple queries about the user’s experience, or more in-depth prodding on the customer’s satisfaction. In either case, users should not get overwhelmed with filling out lenghty reviews.

Figure 5

Figure 5: A fixed item label is positioned to the right edge of the screen. Feedback can be given at any time in the user’s journey.

A request for feedback ought to be presented as a gentle, unobtrusive action

The concept of a fixed screen item can be applied to a on-screen fixed product item. Brand sites can use this strategy to draw attention to their brand’s uniqueness, for instance, an expensive watch, a piece of jewelry, or a valuable bottle of spirits.

Figure 6

Figure 6: In this site map example, a precious bottle of spirits is represented as a hero image in a fixed position. As the user scrolls down, texts and images scroll up on the left and right side of the fixed item. The hero image remains fixed, regardless of the scrolling position.

Fixed hero items can take up a significant portion of the screen. They are the sole object of attraction of the site.

Sidebars can be used as white space areas, that, at a certain position, reveal a element with a specific teaser. For instance, users can get encouraged to find out more, or, subscribe, or accept an invitation, unobtrusively, by a fixed sidebar element that appears within a defined vertical space.

Figure 7

Figure 7: A fixed sidebar with an important message to the customer. The call-to-action is integral to the message.

Positively-worded fixed sidebar teasers can entice the user to engage further

A fixed screen icon element provides an added value to the user.

Fixed elements need to be unobtrusive.

Fixed elements are most often placed towards the edge of a screen. However, the concept of a fixed element can also be used as a unique brand design element in itself.

Fixed icons can be designed in many ways. It is at the brand’s and the designer’s discretion to push an icon’s appearance beyond the customary format.

Fixed icons are meant for the user’s delight.

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