My error message has a sad face emoticon : ( so that users can easily know that there's an error since just making the alert background to the color red doesn't really emphasize an error message because our websites primary color scheme is red. Here's how it looks:


I want to make it consistent to all my alert messages so I will put emoticons on all alert types. On success, I will put smiley face emoticon :) with green background, but I can't think of any text emoticon for a warning alert (an alert that will not prevent users from persisting and is not that critical like errors, but still important to be read). I was planning to have it an orange background, is there a good text emoticon for a warning message?

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    I think I'm nostalgic for vintage emoticons. You know, ones that have noses. These modern emoticons with no noses just makes me feel sad. :-(
    – JonW
    Commented Mar 7, 2014 at 9:27
  • I think for success, instead of doing :-) you should do 8-). You can remove the noses if you want.
    – Seth
    Commented Mar 7, 2014 at 16:24

3 Answers 3


Emotions is widely used and expresses feelings, mode and tone of the sender of the message. It’s mostly used in between people communication, where you in a text message can convey irony, sadness, excitement or happiness, which would take too long to write out, especially if the number of characters are limited.

In the more recent years, these emoticons have also been used in machine to person communication between (usually) a web application and a user. It’s often used when something unexpected happens; the web app governor doesn’t want to scare the user away. Throwing an extensive text message or even worse a 404 file not found message, makes users uncomfortable. Instead of explaining in text, you want the user to feel secure and assured that the web app owner are sorry for what happened as fast as they can. And the fastest way to do that is to use something the user is familiar with, a big sad face emoticon – and the user immediately know that it wasn’t them that caused the problem, it was the web apps fault.

A very smooth way to convey messages - use the language and symbols in the users domain. I can only applaud these emoticons in web apps. Well Done!


Wikipedia definition of Emoticon:

An emoticon is a meta communicative pictorial representation of a facial expression which in the absence of body language and prosody serves to draw a receiver's attention to the tenor or temper of a sender's nominal verbal communication, changing and improving its interpretation. It expresses - usually by means of punctuation marks - a person's feelings or mood and can include numbers and letters, as well. These emoticons are usually flipped sideways. In the most recent years, as social media has become widespread, emoticons have played a significant role in communication through technology. These emoticons offer another range of "tone" and feeling through texting that portrays specific emotions through facial gestures while in the midst of cyber communication.

The warning message

I don't know of any warning messages, but things you can try (and test on your target audience) are the following:



  • \o/ ! Why didn't I think of those emoticons :-S You bested me there :-/ But maybe remove the dash to keep it consistent with other two emoticons? ;) Commented Mar 7, 2014 at 9:31
  • @Paul Thanks Paul! I hope you're too :( over it. But I admit it could work loosing the "nose" in both :S and :/. Or you could add the "nose" on the :-( emoticon as well. Testing is key here. Which one do most users understand?! Commented Mar 7, 2014 at 9:49
  • While I like the idea I am not sure how many people will relate or understand these emiticons
    – Mervin
    Commented Mar 7, 2014 at 10:16
  • @paul *not to sad, I ment. Sorry :( Commented Mar 7, 2014 at 17:20
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    \(^o^)/ Many thanks Benny, i decided to go on the second one :/, i'l l test it with noses too.. Commented Mar 10, 2014 at 1:58

Adding those emoticons is a bit odd, but I like it.
A warning message should alert the user. You can associate these terms with frightened or scared. The emoticon that pops to mind is this one:


On an other note. If you're afraid the messages will be hard to perceive as warning or success messages because the styling is similar with the styling of the rest of your website (it blends in) you might want to consider making it visually different.

If you look at the alert messages Twitter Bootstrap uses you'll notice they have subdued colors. They're not screaming something is amiss, but still draw enough attention. Adding slightly rounded borders can also set them more apart from your header.


I recently adopted this one, maybe it serves your purpose as well:

/!\ Warning Message /!\

What i like about it is, that it works well for people who are not very familiar with emoticons (yes, they exist by the boatload)

  • They look like missile warheads :-\
    – Seth
    Commented Mar 7, 2014 at 16:22

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