Icons; they have the capability of conveying intended meaning without any words. Along with an effective user mental model capture and the right affordance, usability seldom goes towards the dark side.
But what if icons make us misjudge their meaning?
Nielsen Norman Group says:
There are a few icons that enjoy mostly universal recognition from users. The icons for home, print, and the magnifying glass for search are such instances. Outside of these examples, most icons continue to be ambiguous to users due to their association with different meanings across various interfaces. This absence of a standard hurts the adoption of an icon over time, as users cannot rely on it having the same functionality every time it is encountered.
So here is my experience. We often add attachments to our emails several times a day. The most recognised icon to attach is the universal ‘pin’ icon.
But one particular thing has caught my eye recently.
In Gmail, when I have to attach a file, due to the visual similarity and adjacent placement of Attach Files icon and Insert Link icon, I often click on the link icon instead of Attach icon and it makes me really frustrated.
So after I click on the Add link icon by mistake, there is no way but to close the pop-out overlay and then click on the ‘correct’ Attach files icon for adding my precious files.