UX review #4

News in the emoji world — and why it does actually matter

October 2017 — week 42 
French version available here

Hello and welcome to the fourth article of my UX review ! I am Guillaume Tarsiguel, a French UX designer working in a company called Bloomin, and every week or so, I’ll share with you my thoughts on the news and trends of UX design, on the Internet and beyond.
On the menu of this week’s review : news in the emoji world and an emotional design gold nugget by Nintendo.
Let’s get started with the review UX #4 !

📰. Newsflash of the week

Facebook emojis update — and what’s behind

Fifteen month ago, Facebook creates a specific set of emojis for its messaging app Messenger. The objective was to ensure a consistent display of the emojis sent via Messenger, whether on Android, iOS, or any device.

On the left, emojis are displayed differently regarding the device. On the right , thanks to an harmonized set of emoji for Messenger, emojis appear the same on both iOS and Android (image Facebook)

Three months later though, here comes a new set of emojis for Facebook desktop version. And so, during a year, two distinct sets of emojis cohabited, each one for a different use of the Facebook platform : the actual social network, or the Messenger app.

A quite sketchy and confusing system, if you ask me. One could even wonder what is the reason behind such a division — as does Facebook itself, which announced on early October the Messenger emoji set would be discontinued.
And, with no less than 5 billions emojis sent daily on Messenger, this kind of decisions is far from anecdotic…

However, messaging app WhatsApp, also owned by Facebook, is yet a different case. Indeed, instead of joining the Facebook / Messenger emojis harmonization, WhatsApp gets its own brand new set of emojis.

(article in Englisg, estimated reading time : 5 minutes)

I find Facebook behaviour quite ambiguous here ; on the one hand, it standardizes emoji sets for two of its products (Facebook website and Messenger app), and on the other hand, it developps a different emoji set for a specific product (WhatsApp).
Where does this double standard might mean ?

The increasing popularity of custom emoji sets

For the past few years, custom sets of emojis have been on the rise. A policy popularized by Twitter, as it was one of the first to create a platform-specific set of emojis in 2014 : the twemojis.
Here are what I think are the main reasons that make it interesting for a social platform to develop its own custom emoji set :

  • Cross-platform compatibility and constitency

Officially, emojis depend on the Unicode norm, which provides a list of emojis that any emoji library should be based on. However, it is not rare for some emoji sets to take some liberties regarding this list.

As stated by Facebook regarding to its Messenger app, having a custom emoji set allows a cross-platform compatibility. In this way, the display of emojis do not depend on the device used by the user ; whether they are in iOS, Android, PC, or anything else, the emojis will always appear the same way.

It also prevents another issue, detailed in a study case by GroupLens (in English, estimated reading time : 5 minutes) : the problem of misunderstanding, of different perception meanings regarding emojis.

source GroupLens
  • Money

This reason might seem anecdotic, but it is real nonetheless. Indeed, custom-emojis pioneer platform Twitters sells sponsorised emojis !

For a small payment of $1,000,000, you can create your own emoji to be added to the platform. 17 companies have already got interested, among which are Coca-Cola, Dove, Starbucks, or even events such as the SuperBowl.

$17,000,000 for a handful of emojis — not bad, eh ?

  • Keeping control of the tone

Lastly, creating a custom emoji sets allow companies to keep control of their own tone policy.
A classic case is one of Apple, whose purinatism was criticized when it began watering down its emojis. See the two following examples :

  • The “gun” emoji, which is displayed as a water gun since iOS 10 update
  • The “peach” emoji, massively used for its butt-like appearance. Apple thought about changing its suggestive shape, but quickly reconsidered after public outcry

The last examples illustrate my thoughts about emojis, in which they form a legit modern language, both widely spread and yet still overlooked.

The growing interest that big companies, like Facebook and Apple, have for emojis further prove my point : keeping control of tone policy and language used in a social platform has more importance than it may seem at first sight.

Emoji dialect is a topic I could be talking about for hours, as I consider it to be the XXIst century esperanto. If you guys are interested in it, please let me know in a comment, and I might write an article on the subject ! 🍪

💎 The gold nugget of the week

Nintendo emotional design

Immersion, identification ; Nintendo here demonstrates a simple yet effective piece of emotional design in its Super Mario Run video game :

(source Reddit)

😅 The banter of the week

Emojis, the South Korean way

Still on the topic of emojis, let’s have a look at the peculiar case of Samsung. It illustrates quite well the difference of meaning that Unicode emojis can bear, depending on the display device.
The South Korean company is known to take quite the liberties with the display of emojis, as we can see in the following examples :

Different versions of the “cookie” emoji (source Emojipedia)
Different versions of the “imp” emoji (source Emojipedia)
Different versions of the “alien” emoji (source Emojipedia)

Examples are plenty, and you can find a more exhaustive article right above (article in English, estimated reading time : 5 minutes).

Before closing the UX review, a focus on Samsung emojis would not be complete without this classic : the “fingers crossed” emoji — which has been revised since.

Different versions of the “fingers crossed” emoji (source Emojipedia)

Did you notice what’s wrong with this one ? South Korean anatomy sure is surprising…

That’s all for this UX review, feel free to share your thoughts about it. See you next week !