Emoji in mobile applications — a trend that cannot be ignored

In 2019, the trend of emotional experiences is gaining momentum. More and more designers are integrating the emotional component into mobile interfaces. That makes the user experience more engaging and enjoyable. And the most popular way to express emotions in digital communications — emojis.

Maria Kovalevich
Jul 4, 2019 · 8 min read

Emoji — the best way to connect with your user 🤗

Emoji transforms today’s digital communication. Instagram study says that emojis increasingly push text out of our messages.

In April 2019 LinkedIn announced reactions feature enabling users to use emotions on posts. Image from www.linkedin.com

A bit of history

Humanity uses symbols for communication since the beginning of time from cave paintings to codified systems. People used ideograms and pictograms, which then became letters and symbols. And now humanity began to return to the original idea of ​​using images instead of text.

Image from www.reddit.com

“It was a set of “characters that can be conveyed to the whole spectrum of human emotions.”


“Emoji are going to be some of the most recognisable icons of the 21st century”

…says architect Changiz Tehrani, which is why he decided to cast 22 of them in concrete and use them as decoration for a building in the Dutch city of Amersfoort.

22 concrete smiles. Image: Attika Architekten / Bart van Hoek

Emoji in mobile interfaces📱

Today, in almost every popular application you will find emojis. And this is not only social applications, but we are also talking about various kinds of financial applications 💳, delivery services 🚴, taxi 🚕 , etc. You can find emoji everywhere — onboarding screens, empty states, coach marks, dialogs, and even push notifications.

Push Notifications in Capital (Android) & Revolut (Android)
Flow (Android)
Notion (Android) & Revolut (Android)
Snapchat (Android) & Bolt (Android)
Wolt (Android)

How to use emojis properly

As any character, you can interpret an emoji differently, depending on the context. It’s a double-edged sword with pros and cons. Here are a few factors to consider when choosing emoji.

I. Consistency with your app’s tone of voice 🎤

Emoji must be consistent with your target group and your app’s tone of voice. The specific emojis and their amount should fully support your communication approach (playful, serious or anything in between). If you are building a social application for teens to hang out, feel to go overboard with emojis. If it’s a serious mortgage application maybe just a 🎉 to support a celebratory mood when approving a mortgage will be enough. Unfortunately, there’s no one size fits all. It all depends on specific cases and your brand's approach to talking with users.

II. Remember about the culture differences

A number of studies confirm that all nations interpret emojis equally for basic emotions — love ❤️, happiness 😊, sadness 😔, anger 😤, and so on. But, according to the research on emoji usage across cultures Cultural Differences in Emoji Usage across the East and the West — different cultures may value different types of emotions (e.g., Americans value excitement while Asians prefer calm). There are also different rules for display of emotions across cultures. The biggest difference in Emoji usage occurs in the ‘Symbols’, ‘Food & Drink’, and ‘Activities’ categories. This is not surprising, because they often have different symbols reflecting local customs and values. The emojis for rice bowl 🍚 and ramen 🍜 dominated the East, while meat-related emojis 🍖, 🍗, etc. take the majority in the West.

Top 15 frequent emojis in the East and in the West, in
the percentage of total emojis captured in the corresponding corpora. Image from Cultural Differences in Emoji Usage across the East and the West research.
Image from Emojineering Part 1: Machine Learning for Emoji Trends

III. Use the right emoji for the task

Try and use the correct emoji to support the emotional state of your user in that instance. It’s quite easy to plot the most common used emojis to emotions, or if you are too lazy you can use these guys work, he already mapped them quite nicely to Plutchik’s Wheel:

IV. Don’t replace text with emoji

Unlike social networks and chats, an application is always a tool for solving specific tasks that does not tolerate ambiguity. Emoji in a mobile application is only an auxiliary tool that can enhance the emotionality of your text, but not replace it.

V. Not all emojis are created equal

Different platforms sometimes display the same emoji specification in different ways. The drooling face can both represent fear and enjoyment. Clapping hands can mean either “let’s wash our hands” or “let’s pray”. Here are some examples to see just a couple of ways you could get unexpected results on different devices:

Images from Emojipedia


It’s clear that emojis are one of the cheapest ways in 2019 to enrich your user experience even if a tiny bit. There’s no wrong place to use them, just apply with careful intent and empathy. Microstates, dialogs, transactional communication, etc., all could be made a little bit more engaging that way 💎.

Used links:

Chili Labs

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