Johnson & Johnson : Mystifying icons

Graphic links that defy understanding.

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The Site

Johnson & Johnson, US-based health care company, provides a set of graphic links on its home page some of which are self-defeating. Johnson & Johnson's home page is given over to a Featured Stories display sandwiched between main navigation links above and a string of utilities and graphic buttons below. The set of seven buttons is labelled ‘Find us at’ and includes four recognisable social media icons: two for Twitter and one each for Facebook and YouTube. The three other icons are inscribed J&J ennTV, JNJ BTW and KH respectively. Each button yields a caption on mouseover. These reveal two separate Twitter feeds (JNJComm and JNJStories) and that KH represents ‘Kilmer House’; the J&J ennTV and JNJ BTW captions repeat the inscription.

The Takeaway

While many sites feature a cluster of social links on the home page or elsewhere, most stick to a small selection of instantly recognisable icons. Johnson & Johnson’s addition of three proprietary buttons introduces a potential for bewilderment that its management of the feature does much to realise. An element of confusion is even attached to the familiar icons with the inclusion of two visually identical Twitter buttons. Visitors must hover over each before they are offered a text label identifying the underlying Twitter account. The labels for the proprietary buttons offer no clues to the uninitiated, however, about what they link to. Instead of assuming they are self-explanatory (or of interest only to those who already know about them) the labels should offer some extra information; for example, that J&J ennTV is an employee news network. As it is, the use of icons here is thus ultimately counterproductive: rather than speeding up the journey out to external sites it introduces time-consuming confusion.
First published 19 July, 2012
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