Using emoji as visual tags in Office365

It all started with this Tweet:

That looked interesting so I spent a most enjoyable day finding out how and where it works in Office365, and if I could find anything remarkable.
By the way, you get the emoji keyboard when you click the Windows-key plus . or ;

Emojikeyboard
You can type and see suggested emoji (on top), or you can search (bottom left) or navigate between various categories. Now shown: recently used.

The Windows 10 emoji work almost universally, including Office365. You can use it in SharePoint document libraries, folders and documents; in Yammer groups, Teams channels, Outlook, To Do, well, everywhere I have tried!
It also works in Twitter and Hootsuite and I guess on many more platforms.

Benefits

In most cases they merely look nice, but I think their biggest benefit is that they can help people identify the most important item(s) in a long list, e.g. OneDrive,  SharePoint or Outlook folders. They act as “visual tags”.

My favourite

My personal favourite usage is in List names of ToDo. I share a lot of lists with my colleague and I like being able to see to which list a task in My Day, Assigned to Me or Planned Tasks belongs. The colour scheme you can apply to a list does not provide sufficient contrast, and if you have more lists than the 5 colours available you still need to look at the list name.
Until now I always thought I had a lot of redundant tasks, because one task can show in different views, but now I can easily see where they belong.

Emoji-ToDo
Now that I have added icons to my lists, it is easier to see which task is for which list. BTW, you also see that the default list icon is being overwritten if I add the emoji to the left. Neat.

Things to know

  1. Not every image has sufficient detail – stay on the safe side and choose images that are clear and unambiguous for your team.
  2. Always use text in combination with your emoji…otherwise you will have to refer to “that folder with the red-and-white striped tshirt” which is a bit silly.
  3. Do not overdo it – adding an emoji to every folder looks cluttered and defies its purpose of making things stand out.
  4. Does adding “little coloured images” fit your organization? I am quite sure that I would have had a serious (and unpleasant) discussion in my former organization, had I suggested to use it there. I think it will be appreciated in my current one, though.
  5. They display nicely in all web and mobile apps (screenshot below, left), but the desktop apps (screenshot below, right) show them only in black-and-white. No problem for me, as I find I am using the web apps more and more, but be aware if your colleagues are all desk(top) jockeys. 🙂
  6. I would suggest to not use this in high level names and URLs, such as SharePoint site names or Teams names. I do not know if you run into issues if you need to access these types of names or URLs with Powershell or in the admin mode. (Please let me know if you have experiences with this)
  7. Although you can use this in document names, I would suggest to pin a document to the top of the library if you want to highlight it. That way the document will always be visible, regardless of sorting, folders, etc.
  8. Speaking of sorting, the sort order can change when you add emoji. In the screenshot below I have made a list of folders in the Ninja Cat library in a SharePoint site. All folders were created in one go, i.e. I added the emoji when creating the folder. You see that a folder with an emoji first, gets shown on top, while an emoji behind the name sorts “normally”. (Look at the “Clothes” folder, which are two different instances)
    If I add the emoji to the left of an existing folder name, it suddenly moves to a different position!

    emoji-sortorderfolders1
    Sort order: name ascending. Depending on the location of the emoji, the folders end up in different locations. Look at the Clothes folder.

    Now let’s see what happens if I add an emoji to the Clothing folder, to the left of the name.

    emoji-sortorderfolders2
    When I add the emoji to the left of the name, it moves up!

    In the above example I could create two folders with the same name – so apparently “👕 Clothes” is NOT the same as “Clothes 👕”. They have different URL’s, where an addition comes either before or after the word “Clothes”. Yet it is impossible to create a third plain “Clothes” folder as “that already exists”. Why?

  9. I tried to copy and paste the different URL’s of both folders in this post, but as soon as I did that, the red-and-white stripes of the emoji in 8. suddenly turned into plain blue! (BTW, this also happened when I switched to the HTML editor writing this post) What sorcery is that? So I have to use a screenshot:

    emoji-folderurl
    Different URL’s for the Clothes folders. But why can I not create a new plain Clothes one?
  10. Yammer groups have a number in their URL, not a name, so you should be able to use them safely in Yammer groups. But if you use Yammer on your phone or tablet, the group icons are already displayed so why add another one?
    I hope Microsoft will address this and make the group icons also show in your list when you work on your PC or laptop. (which would make the emoji redundant)

    Emoji-Yammer group on laptop
    Laptop, where adding an emoji makes sense

    emoji-yammermobile
    Mobile app, which displays the group images anyway, so an extra emoji does not add much
  11. In Teams, the team image is displayed with the name, so adding an emoji in the Teams name only clutters things up. But using an emoji in a Channel name makes sense, both on laptop and on mobile.

    emoji-teamchannels
    Team channels – I admit adding too many images make it a bit cluttered.
  12. Should you add images left or right to the name? To the left gives a more uniform appearance, and in To Do, it nicely overwrites the default icon. But I think it is generally better if they are to the right, as the text should be more important than the image and you are more in control of the sorting. Also, they stand out more when they are not all aligned. Any thoughts? (Since Wedge told us that decorative illustrations of a post should be to the right, unless they are an essential part of the post, I have added illustrations to the right of my post, so that’s why I think to the right is better)

 

Conclusion

Adding an emoji to a folder or Teams channel name can be a nice way to shows its content or purpose, or to make it stand out. However, use with caution as not everyone may like it or understand the image, things may get cluttered and it may even break some things as well.

There’s still a lot to find out, especially in admin and any other occasion where a URL is involved.  If you have any experiences with usage in Office365, especially from the admin side of things, please let me know!

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