Are emojis good for user experience?

Recognised the world over – and a handy way to condense your messaging – emojis are now commonly used for positive user experience (UX). Is that a good idea?

Text speak is not the only shorthand people now use to communicate. It’s possible for whole chunks of words to be replaced with a simple graphic – an emoji.

What is an emoji?

Graphic of hieroglyphic and emoji

Emojis are the modern day equivalent of hieroglyphics.

Emojis are the modern equivalent of hieroglyphics, a digital symbol that depicts emotions, activities, animals or objects. Since they became the Oxford Dictionaries’ word of the year in 2015, emojis have swiftly transitioned from popular culture to everyday communications.

Fortunately, unlike abbreviations, emojis are understood across the globe and many resonate with all age groups. So much so, that studies suggest 92% of those who use the internet use emojis.

How many unique emojis are there?

Graphic with different emojis

There are over 3,000 emojis, including 150 variations of the smiley face.

Their popularity explains why there are well over 3,000 emojis in the Unicode Standard (the universal encoding scheme for written characters and text). Including 150 variations on a smiley face.

New ones emerge regularly and are assigned Unicode numbers.

For commercial reasons, tech giants like Google, Apple and Samsung can take an individual emoji and design their own variation, as long as the core outline remains consistent and doesn’t breach any ethical confines.

What is the most used emoji? Well, the poo emoji certainly finds its way into a surprisingly diverse number of applications, but for 2019 and 2020 it was the smiley face with tears of laughter or joy.

The red heart is also highly popular, we are happy to report.

How does this impact on UX?

Graphic example of how an emoji adds emotion

Using emojis can help convey emotion.

One of the reasons to add emojis to your marketing and sales content – within web designs, emails and SMS messages – is that the human brain is hard-wired to process visual input quickly.

Also, this form of non-verbal communication carries emotional depth that words can’t always convey as successfully or succinctly.

For instance, if you were to say ‘unfortunately delivery is delayed’ it can sound cold. A sad face can send a more personal, emotive message.

You are in essence, humanising your company. You are also showing that you communicate in a way your customers understand and appreciate, in some situations adding a touch of contemporary fun to your content.

Research on the topic reports that a large proportion of consumers believe that using emojis in a business context makes you more ‘likeable’ and even more credible!

Here’s a statistic that may not surprise you. Using emojis in Facebook posts provides a 57% increase in engagement, and for Instagram, it’s 48%.

There’s potential for you to develop your own emoji designs, to use as shorthand for customer communications and to build your brand identity in a visual and personal way. It’s the sort of graphic device that can be used to help customers track goods or services, or as part of friendly online chat interactions for instance.

For most user groups, they should certainly punctuate and enhance your social media posts, not least to help you maintain brevity and that personal connection.

Can you overdo emoji use?

A set of scales with one scale being heavier and full of emojis

You should balance the use of all types of visual content with the needs and expectations of your users.

Here’s an important message about emojis and UX. Too much of anything can be a bad thing! Also, you must balance the use of all types of visual content with the needs and expectations of your users.

For example, if your users are senior citizens, they may recognise the meaning of some emojis but could well still find them irritating or inappropriate in the context of your product or service. An emoji of a person in a wheelchair next to mobility aids or a pained face next to digestive remedies could be seen as patronising or even wildly inappropriate.

Even a younger audience may feel over-use of emojis undermines your brand or distracts them from important information. Especially when looking to you for trustworthy, reliable and authoritative help. A bank manager sending a frowning emoji can seem a tad too glib!

It’s all about correct context, and strategic use of these handy digital graphics. Our strong advice is to use emojis well, and in the right place, or don’t use them at all.

Language never stops evolving and neither does powerful UX. To get insights on both, to build your brand and customer engagement (and give yourself a big smiley face) contact the team at Factory Pattern.