Would love to get some thoughts on this: I am working on an app that will allow users to rate their entries, e.g., on a scale from 1 to 5. The UX challenge, however, is that all entries are positive (think "gratitude journal"), so even the lowest rating is positive. Thanks to Amazon, Google Maps and the like, the feedback I get from my early testers is that they have a hard time accepting a rating of 1 as positive when on most platforms anything below 3 or 4 is considered not good. So somehow I need to make sure that users feel comfortable using the lower ratings.

How would you solve this? One idea I can think of is to use 5 positive emojis rather than a scale. But not sure whether this is the only option.

  • 5
    I have a teacher colleague who ran into this problem where he disliked the 4-level system of grading, so he designed a rubric where instead of quality of outcome, it's progress. So level 1 is "you're learning about it", level 2 is "you can do it with help", level 3 is "you can do it without help", and level 4 is "you can teach someone else how to do it". So it's normal for everyone to begin at a level 1 (instead of thinking you need to get 100% on the first assignment) and move up to level 3 or 4 by the end of the course, with only the last mark being counted. Pretty unique and all positive. Feb 17, 2023 at 12:26
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    No matter how you interpret the 5 options, you are still asking the user to make a 5-way distinction that they may have no time or interest in determining. No matter what you call the options, some users are going to figure out that while none of the options are meant to be negative, some of them are "less positive" than others, and will gain a negative connotation. (What's the purpose of the feedback? Are you supposed to try to improve low-ranked entries?)
    – chepner
    Feb 18, 2023 at 18:32

4 Answers 4


Well, of course, you have to take out any negative connotation and leave only positive options. Fortunately, there are very well-known (and tested) examples: the original Facebook (only one Like), Netflix, YouTube, and so on.

Facebook introduced reactions to express something other than just "Like" after much discussion about adding a "Don't Like" button. Since these features have been tested for years with billions of users, I think it's a good idea to take inspiration from them.

With the current FB reactions (and one that will supposedly be added in the future, though I doubt it), you could do something like this:

insert image description here

These are all positive, although I don't think they have a well-defined sort of gradation.

So I created a version based on the images above:

Insert image description here

Of course this is just an example, but I think it has a more defined grading that can be translated into a 1-5 scale.

The Likert option

Another idea would be to take inspiration from the Likert scale and apply it in a playful way. For example, you could use a scale like this:

How would you rate [x]?

Good - Very good - Excellent - Outstanding - Out of this world

Using the same idea, you could use variations with definitions from sports or comedy or whatever.

Of course, your target audience needs to understand the reference. For example, if you say, "That's a home run," I understand the reference because of movies. However, if you say something else about baseball, I've no idea what you're talking about.

The same goes for your audience: your language must be understandable to everyone, without limitations.

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    Hi Devin, thanks a lot, had totally forgotten about Facebook and others. Yes, these are very good ideas. A friend also suggested to change the metric for statistics and, rather than build an average out of the rating, use the sum of ratings as a score. This helps to avoid that a low rating reduces the result. With regard to emojis, I was thinking of making it customizable so that users can pick emojis that work for them. Again, thanks a lot! Feb 18, 2023 at 6:33
  • Glad to help. If you consider this is teh correct answer please mark it as correct so it doesn't remain open
    – Devin
    Feb 18, 2023 at 17:25
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    In general, I think this is the approach. Just wanted to add: gratitude logs and similar forms of journaling tend to err on the side of hyperbole when it comes to their language. Coming up with categories that matches that would feel adequate. Off the top of my mind, this could be stuff like "made my day", "special memory" and "life changing". Feb 24, 2023 at 22:04
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    Just marked it as correct, thanks again! Mar 3, 2023 at 10:08

5 (different, I guess) positive emojis could work, but it may be hard for your users to learn what the actual scale is, i.e. which one corresponds to which number.

Electrical appliances are rated for their energy usage with letters. The 'worst' ones got class E and the 'best' ones got class A, but as the technology improved, we also got A+, A++, A+++, etc. You could start your scale with A, or perhaps even drop the A and only work with pluses (or thumbs-up emojis, or hearts - basically anything that's positive. A star is positive too, it just reminds users too much of the standard rating scale).

Medals could work, but unfortunately there are only three of them. But maybe in combination with other awards, e.g. a trophy?

  • "There's no such thing as a no star hotel" ⭐ Feb 17, 2023 at 19:30
  • Hi Glorfindel, thanks a lot! I like the reference to electric appliances. It's a good reminder to reframe the problem. With regard to the numbers, I am flexible and could also use just three or ten (for instance) different ratings. So I will keep this in mind and see what user tests tell me. Again, appreciate your help! Feb 18, 2023 at 6:35

This is an interesting UX challenge. One way to approach this could be to reframe the meaning of the numbers on the scale. Instead of using the numbers 1 to 5 to indicate the quality of the entries, you could use them to indicate the user's level of engagement or satisfaction with the entry.

For example, you could use the following scale:

1: "Not feeling it today" or "This entry didn't resonate with me"

2: "Just okay" or "This entry was good, but not great"

3: "I appreciate this entry" or "This entry made me feel positive"

4: "This entry really resonated with me" or "I'm feeling grateful"

5: "This entry is amazing" or "I'm feeling ecstatic"

By using more descriptive phrases instead of just numbers, you can help users understand what each rating really means and make it easier for them to choose the appropriate rating.

Another approach could be to use smiley faces or other visual cues instead of numbers to represent the rating, as you suggested. This can be a more intuitive and playful way to encourage users to rate their entries.

Ultimately, the key is to make sure the meaning of the rating scale is clear and that users feel comfortable using it, even if the lowest rating is still positive. By testing and iterating with your users, you can find the best solution for your app.

  • Hi AndriiD, thanks a lot! The challenge with descriptive phrases seems to be, similar to that with emojis, that some descriptions are hard to rank. I had this discussion with one test user, who ranked adjectives describing feelings differently than I did. So the solution may be either to find the right ones or to make them customizable. As said in another post, one key solution to the problem may be to use the sum of ratings rather than the average in the evaluation, because then 5 + 1 + 1 is better than 5 + 1, which helps to overcome the challenge. Thanks again! Feb 18, 2023 at 6:38

Use a stepped range slider to enter a degree of gratitude:

smiley range

Here, using a smiley spectrum from happy to crazy happy. Other metaphors can be used, such as heart.


Alternatively, use the smiley for the range slider control, and change the image as the range is traversed:




  • Hi, yes, I like that. The challenge is to find the right emojis, but if I make the customizable, that could actually work. The ones I found online so far do not reliably and unambiguously define the right order. Will have to keep looking! Thanks! Feb 18, 2023 at 6:41
  • I like the idea of providing users emoji options—makes it personal. Likely give you a plethora of insight too. Feb 19, 2023 at 11:47

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