When should you use flag or report, or is there a reason to always use one or the other?

In my current situation I will be using icons, let's say these two:

Material Design report icon Material Design flag icon

But if there are only studies based on text these are also welcome.

  • 2
    What does flag mean? Apr 24, 2017 at 16:56

1 Answer 1


System vs social

In general use:

  • Users report system problems.

  • Users flag community problems.

I'm not aware of any studies on the topic, so let's think about the terms semantically.

When I encounter a problem with your system I want to send it over to be placed in a queue of issues. I want to "report" it.

When I encounter something inappropriate, offensive, harmful, or malicious I want to call your immediate attention to deal with it as quickly as possible. I want to "raise a flag" to alert you.

Like I said, it's just semantics, not a study. But if you're looking for a way distinguish the two, it's a reasonable guide.

Context is everything

It's worth noting that this is relative to the larger system and cultural contexts. For instance, on the system side, I've worked on a couple of systems where we "flagged" things for the user. When they saw a flag in the interface, it meant that there was a pattern that needed their attention, not something they wanted to call our attention to.

  • 1
    Facebook uses the term "Report" for inappropriate content (which is what I think of for "commmunity problems") and YouTube uses it somewhat interchangeably (they call it flagging but the buttons say "Report" with a flag icon).
    – DasBeasto
    Apr 24, 2017 at 16:44
  • Note that I said "general" ;-) If you're going to use both, this is the convention. Apr 24, 2017 at 16:44
  • 1
    I think I agree but is there anything supporting that? I can't even find any sites using both to base it off of.
    – DasBeasto
    Apr 24, 2017 at 16:47
  • 1
    I might want to add that "flagging" is more generic, which might allow for more options, while report is fairly straight forward in which you're doing one option. I've seen this sort of behavior on iOS's mail application.
    – UXerUIer
    Apr 24, 2017 at 17:29
  • 1
    I still cannot find any studies or even anything related to flagging or reporting, so let's use this as the first go-to method!
    – Yates
    Apr 25, 2017 at 8:57

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