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Can I use the 💩 character as a legitimate status indication on, say, a web application, or in a desktop application? Or will it offend/embarrass people?

NSFW = "Not safe/suitable for work", although it's also become generally used regardless of the environment (for example: public places), and speaks to a general impression given.

  • 108
    Who doesn't love chocolate frozen yogurt? It's safe for work (until HR/management tells you otherwise). It's just in bad taste and would make you look unprofessional (unless you worked in waste management, or on a comedy show). – Stephan Branczyk Mar 19 '17 at 15:04
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    Keep in mind that many users (e.g. me) can't see that character. – isaacg Mar 20 '17 at 4:47
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    Ironically, this is now a Hot Network Question and will appear whenever someone goes to Stack Overflow/Stack Exchange for work. – Thunderforge Mar 20 '17 at 5:08
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    "…and for today's extra content we have this shit emoji. it can troll your conversations at any time, so we must deal with it." – Sarge Borsch Mar 20 '17 at 6:19
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    Well, I hope this isn't NSFW, because I've just viewed it. At work. – Martijn Mar 20 '17 at 12:41
113

If you have to ask, it's risky (not necessarily offensive)

This doesn't mean it won't get the job done for your users and the best way to find that out is ask a few of them and gauge their reaction.

Something delightful may quickly turn annoying

Keep in mind that just because something delights users when they first encounter it doesn't mean it will stay delightful on subsequent visits. This is especially true when it gets in the way of getting their task accomplished.

There is usually more than one solution

Consider what you're trying to communicate and see if there is a more universal way to say it.

Look for a solution which doesn't cater to one persona over another. In the case of a poo emoji you could communicate the same sentiment with the frown or angry (or possibly ice cream?) emoji.

  • 21
    This is pretty much the main point to think about: "If you have to ask, it's risky". If you need to think twice then it's clearly something you're unsure of and thus there is a reason for your uncertainty of using said emoji. After all, it is a smiling pile of poo according to Apple's text to speech feature. – user98214 Mar 20 '17 at 7:31
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    @DanielJames I see I'm a mere mortal compared to Apple's text to speech engineers. No matter how hard I look, I can't tell whether that pile of poo is smiling. – Dmitry Grigoryev Mar 20 '17 at 12:06
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    "Something delightful may quickly turn" - When I was first learning Javascript, I found something simple to test out my skills. I took the "Loading, please wait" on long running reports to have a small list of more creative phrases. Most thought it was cool. One person actually called my boss and was pretty upset about it. Note that this screen already had a dancing banana gif... so to this day I'm still not sure how the messages (which were all in good taste, admittedly so by Mr. Grumpy) were a bad thing... – corsiKa Mar 20 '17 at 14:19
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    @DmitryGrigoryev and DanielJames, Apple renders the emoji with a smiling face. – maxathousand Mar 20 '17 at 14:50
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    "parallax scrolling on web pages was delightful at first but quickly became annoying since the windows scroll thumb designed for navigating pages of content was being hijacked as a video scrubber" Is this the thing where "parallax scrolling" is constantly misused by authors to refer to something that actually has no relation to parallax scrolling whatsoever? That's what I glean from the term "video scrubber", at least. Because actual parallax scrolling doesn't hijack the scrolling mechanism to do something it wasn't intended for - it visually augments scrolling, and is usually non-intrusive. – BoltClock Mar 21 '17 at 17:39
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+100

I would suggest that it isn't necessarily offensive but juvenile, so it very much depends on the style, context and audience of your app.

Culture

Ask yourself if the app is available worldwide? I can only speak with authority about my own culture, which may be different than others.

Context

What might be totally inappropriate for a retirement savings website might be good fun in a mobile chat app.

On the other hand, I know a (very serious) medical lab that deals with stool samples. They use this emoji internally to disarm otherwise awkward discussions. "💩 Remember your PPE!"

In other words, I would say it's safe from an NSFW perspective, but you'll have to decide if it's appropriate.

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    I cringe with embarrassment for the person that is using this emoji. – user89845 Mar 19 '17 at 23:14
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    Yes, well, it has its moments. – cloudworks Mar 20 '17 at 2:55
  • The Culture section in your answer involuntarily made me wonder whether the depicted pile of poo is culture-specific and might not be recognized for what it is in some regions of the world. – O. R. Mapper Mar 22 '17 at 13:41
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    I'm waiting for the follow up question: "What does 💩mean to you?" – cloudworks Mar 22 '17 at 15:37
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    @BaileyS Well, still, you kinda have to admit that it makes an impression (humorous or not), which is a good thing given the context. Makes it hard to forget your PPE, so at least it's effective for the end goal. You know, I actually see a lot of bad / juvenile / tasteless humor regarding important safety equipment in labs and industrial contexts (e.g. there's a whole series of The Simpson's safety posters); I never thought about it before but it is an effective strategy when used sparingly (by "sparingly" I mean if everything is a joke then nothing stands out as memorable). – Jason C Mar 23 '17 at 1:36
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On a Monday morning, I didn't expect to start my day with this question. I am amused and smiling and not embarrassed at all.

Having said that, it depends on the target audience and context of your application. I would definitely not use this in enterprise or professional apps as we are expected to maintain some sort of decorum in the way we design our interfaces.

At the same time, if you are building something for teenagers, or people expecting your app to have a funny, quirky and amusing way of interacting, I'd not hesitate to keep this as a status indication.

Here are a few options for escalation status icons.

😐, 😩, 😡, 💩, 💩✴

The last being '💩 hits the fan' but I am sure you can come up with a better icon.

  • 3
    How about using ✽? – Bergi Mar 22 '17 at 4:02
  • I would not be happy being disciplined for failing to treat an [icon] [icon] case with appropriate seriousness. I can't figure out how to type those icons on an iPad, or to be more precise, I have no reason to want to. This goes double if I'm on a platform which does not support the icon and I see 🇮🇩🔒. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Mar 22 '17 at 15:44
7

I would classify something as NSFW when it runs the risk of creating a hostile (in the sense of discrimination, sexual harassment, etc.) environment for others you're interacting professionally with - coworkers, clients, customers, etc. I don't think the poop emoji fits this criterion. It's potentially gross, juvenile, etc. but not hostile. This may vary by culture and context, of course.

Now, whether it's suitable/good UX, which seems to be what you really want to know, is another matter, and really depends on your application's audience. The answer by cloudworks gives a great example of a unique situation in which I think it is very appropriate. Apps with casual/lighthearted purpose, which people interact with purely by choice, not because it's something they need to use to get work done, would also be candidates where you could consider its use, contingent on cultural considerations. In most contexts, though, I think it will just, well, make your app look like 💩.

6

Isn't interesting that we've invented emoticons to convey emotion that is difficult to do in text. That said, when I read an official document or communication from a corporation, I neither expect or want to find an emoticon.

Are emoticons safe for work - sure. Are they appropriate for official communication, probably not. Are the appropriate for email between colleagues - probably not.

  • Right. It's not an NSFW question, it's a professionalism question. – Mathieu K. Mar 21 '17 at 2:49
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+100

In the game Furcadia, we deliberately blocked and filtered out codepoints in the Fixedsys Excelsior 2 font which mapped to penises, poops, and other such things, as it was an app that could be used by children. This was more about the penises than the poops, though.

Still, it is arguably considered, at least by one company, as "not child safe".

Based on this, if your work could be used by children, then you could argue it is also "not work safe".

From a UX standpoint, I would recommend an icon with a more universally-understood message: in Japan, the poop emoji means "I am very sorry, I messed up". In the US, it is a funny emoji with no fixed reason.

1

My opinion on the matter is that an icon like this, as a status, would represent something bad or undesirable happening. If I were a worker using this program and I encountered this problem, be it an small error or a critical failure on a hypothetical shop floor, the last thing I would want is a bit of comedy sprinkled on top of a terrible situation. So, it really depends on when you're displaying it. As an ignorant user, I might wonder something along the lines of, "Why did they take the time to put this icon here, rather than prevent the error?!"

If that makes sense.

protected by Community Mar 23 '17 at 21:06

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