Hi guys I need your suggestion with feedback or rating system. I'm thinking instead of the common stars icon I will be using mood emoticon. Is this a good approach?

Example: something like this moods, I will pick 5 emoticon from here to stand for rating 1-5.

1 - Sad 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - Happy

Attached sample mockup, this is for a food review/feedback app.enter image description here

  • I like it - more personable as you said. Stars are standard, but they're also boring and pretentious. You also run into conflicting interpretations (is "4-stars" for a hotel the guest rating or quality category?). Since you're showing these in sequence it's obvious it's a progression; no need to worry as much about misinterpreting a single face. As mentioned below, having an odd number may be preferable for more accurate stats & portraying the "in-between" votes. I'd suggest adding a "most negative" one since the 2nd one is already rather "neutral"
    – mc01
    Jun 16, 2015 at 2:27
  • @mc01 - which emoticon would you suggest for "most negative"? The one from row 3 column 3 seems appropriate to me.
    – Mike
    Mar 29, 2017 at 14:48

5 Answers 5


I think the mockup makes sense, although I definitely think some user testing is required to figure out the 'best' way to do it. Once thing to be wary of is analysis paralysis with lots of choices.

If you give the user a screen like this there's like 12 icons and it's pretty overwhelming - personally I couldn't be bothered processing that!

So the other options - maybe they can just heart it if they like it? I guess it's less of a 'rating' but it's less of a commitment for the user to make and you'd probably get more results (although test it, that's an assumption!!).

Also you could reveal question by question - ie. only show the second option after the first is answered, then the third after the second is answered. That keeps the user focus and keeps them less 'overwhelmed'.

Also I agree with the other answer regarding the expressions. While I like the idea of expressions as it brings more emotion into the design, stars are probably easier to use from a rating point of view. Yelp being the prime example of this.

Hearts definitely adds some emotion but typical heart behaviour is you 'heart it' or not, rather than say giving it 5 hearts - not unheard of but slightly unusual.

Also on the subject of this, think of what Twitter do with their new 'favourite' animation. It's a great little microinteraction which is a bit of a suprise and delight - this will get your users emotional, regardless of whether you use stars or not!

LAST IDEA: Maybe there could be conditional ratings? E.g. 'Would you eat here again?' - if they say yes then ask why and gather more info, if they say no, same thing. That idea needs some more thinking, just an option.

Hope that helps a bit. In short - keep it easy engage with and make it 'fun'.


Do you think it is going to be easy to compare ratings using images?

I think if you want to use icons, then you can't have too large a scale otherwise it will be difficult to tell the difference between say 3 and 4, whereas in a normal rating system this will be quite clear.

Also, what will you do with average review ratings, would you round it up?

  • Hi Michael thanks for your feedback. It's for a food app. The rating will stand if the example if satisfy by the food by using moods. For example on the updated mockup that I attached for the first one the mood is disappointed face. Something like that, its more personal.
    – marx
    Jun 16, 2015 at 0:25
  • @marx Seems to me like you are trying to develop a semi-quantitative scale, which comes with the advantages of qualitative and quantitative measures but also the perils of not being able to use it correctly or to its full potential due to its limitations. I'd definitely think about whether there are other ways to design the rating to make it either just quantitative (use an image for happy and another one for unhappy and have a sliding scale) or qualitative (use images for different feelings but not too related or connected to keep the values discreet).
    – Michael Lai
    Jun 16, 2015 at 0:41

First of all, where is this planned to be used? What's your target audience? Is this for kids in a forum or discussion board? Is this to review products? Is this intended for management levels in a corporation? Is this for western culture? Eastern? How do you plan to convey neutral statuses? What if I don't like the post or whatever? What if I find it utterly offensive? Should I use a sad icon when it got me mad? Did you study legibility of those icons? Are these the actual icons you plan to use?

See, using mood icons is not a bad idea in itself, but you'll need to be very careful with all aspects, from design to semiotics. Your icons needs to be unmistakably unique, legibility has to be perfect at any size (hint: try SVG) and the mood your icons transmit has to be the correct one. Keep in mind connotative meaning is hard to achieve amongst different targets.

But well, try it, test it and see what happens. As I said, the idea is not bad, just problematic

PS: if you REALLY want to dive into semiotics, try this article to start understanding the complexities between Eastern and Western cultures in language. And you'll be just scratching the surface!

EDIT: Now that I see your edit and the mockup, I see what you mean and barring some geo considerations, I think it's good, exception made of your last icon. To me, it looks like "shocked" rather than "great!" (see what I meant?).

Besides, it's always a good idea to have an odd number and at least 5, because your 3rd icon would be a middle point, your 5th icon the best, and the 1st one the worst. But what if I want to give an "above average, yet not perfect" or a "below average, just not horrible" review?

In short, try to provide at least 5 icons (and choose them in a way there's no room to interpretation)

  • Hi Devin thanks for the feedback, it's for a food app. I edited my post to add a sample mockup. Please let me know your thought :)
    – marx
    Jun 16, 2015 at 0:22
  • I'm thinking also maybe just 3 icons? I will remove the last part. hmmm
    – marx
    Jun 16, 2015 at 0:50
  • I explained why 3 icons is not the best option. Anyways, you could easily use the "heart eyes" or the "sunglasses" icon for a 5 rating, and the bottom center icon for a 2 rating. Or modify the icons and use a straight line for neutral (3) and a downwards slightly arched line for 2 and a pronounced arch for 1, then an upwards slightly arched line for 4 and an upwards pronounced arch for 5
    – Devin
    Jun 16, 2015 at 1:03
  • @Devin makes some great points. Because of cultural and perceptual differences, I'd recommend testing this with a very diverse range of users - not just culturally diverse, but also different ages and genders.
    – mhick
    Jun 16, 2015 at 17:22

When you're not sure I suggest sticking to standards - especially for your beta to first launch. You can always do a mock-up and see how your users respond to your mood icons - do they get it?

Using standards reduces your user's need to "think" because they see controls (in this case using STARS to rate) that are familiar and they already know what they mean/do. Having mood icons will require them to think much more about what they are choosing.


You need to specify the needs for the evaluation. If you want to preserve as many information as possible (for later algorithmic or other statistical analysis), you should use at least interval scales, i.e. make sure that the ordered smilies are associated the values with equal distance.

If the rating with the smilies or similar symbols is important and you want to retrieve correct information from it, I strongly recommend review by a sociologist or equally trained person which eventually supports you in conducting validity and reliability tests of your scales.

That said, the first selection of smilies doesn't provide you with any information at all.

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