Heart Eyes: Using Emojis in Search and Navigation

Last month I was browsing one of my fave baking blogs (Sprinkle Bakes, if you must know) looking for citrus recipes. Except when I got to the search bar instead of typing in “l-e-m-o-n” I caught myself tapping the lemon emoji on my keyboard.

Um, what?

It didn’t work but I caught my unconscious behavior and started thinking. If the human brain processes images faster than text and the “future is mobile” then am I missing out on some huge opportunities by not taking advantage of this visual, emotional, mobile first language?

I’d been was mulling over this for awhile and then yesterday while shopping (uhhh, I mean exploring) the Zappos app I stumbled upon this little easter egg:

An interesting factor here is the emojis are already on screen within thumbs reach rather than tucked away behind a couple clicks in the user’s tiny keypad. Zappos also encourages the user to layer emojis, such as “woman” and “dress” to search for womens dresses. So cool!

Ever since, I keep thinking about ways to bake emojis into my mobile designs. Here are a few blue sky ideas I’ve come up with.


What if brands could “own” and rank for an emoji in search engines? Google the truck emoji and you’ll get Ford. Tap the bee emoji and Beyonce pops up.

What if sites or apps had secret pages accessible only by emoji sequences? An influencer could release the “secret code” (let’s say heart – chicken – fire) on social media and the user could go to the Wendy’s mobile site or app, type that sequence into the search bar and boom! A page with a free Spicy Chicken Sandwich coupon.

What if emojis could be used in urls?

What if navigation apps could be supplemented with emojis? Ie, a user taps the hospital emoji or beach emoji in Google Maps to get directions to that location.


I’m just a UX Designer and this sounds great to me but is there an SEO reason this won’t work? A dev reason this won’t work? Let me know in the comments. Or have another “What If” idea for how emojis could be used in mobile navigation or search? Seen someone do something like this before? Tell me below!

Maslow’s Hierarchy, Mutated


Most everyone is familiar with or has at least heard of Maslow and his triangle of human needs.

After spending some time with humans though, a tweaked version has begun growing in my head: Maslow’s Spectrum.

First, instead of a clean triangle, I see a smudgy ladder. The needs listed are just what we can perceive right now with our meager understanding of ourselves. Think of the light spectrum with invisible infrared and ultraviolet light on either side of the visible colors. In the same way, I’m guessing there are “invisible” needs on either side of Maslow’s list we can’t yet comprehend because we are too embedded in the human experience. Remember, scientists still have no idea what consciousness is. Until that human fundamental is unraveled it’s not possible to know everything a conscious human being needs.

What could come before? A need for self-awareness? A need for consciousness?

What could come after? I have no idea.

What I do know is cavemen weren’t discussing self-actualization when they could barely feed and clothe themselves. They didn’t know there was anything more out there than food, sex, and a warm cave but technology like agriculture allowed them to meet those lower needs and consider needs higher up the ladder. Fast forward to the modern day and huge technologies continue to sweep in. No one knows what human needs these new advances will reveal but it’s fun to guess.

Second, just as light is the common thread that runs through the light spectrum, control is the common thread that winds through Maslow’s Spectrum.

Control of our environment. Control of our bodies. Control of our relationships. Control of our future.

We think needing control is some negative trait other annoying humans struggle with (not us) but let’s grab a different lens to peer through. Isn’t “You’re so controlling” just a murky way of saying “I don’t have enough control”? It’s like screaming “You’re so hungry!” at whoever took the last piece of pizza. We wouldn’t be critical of others craving control if we weren’t also grasping at it for ourselves. Needing control isn’t a character flaw, it’s a basic human need.

While working as a nurse my users (patients) were catapulted into situations where everyone but them was in charge. However, the creativity they used to wrangle back even the tiniest shard of control always amazed me. A perennial favorite was turning the request for a simple glass of water into a Starbucks worthy drink order.  “Nurse, get me half a cup of water, no ice, not from the tap”. “Nurse, I want 1/3 ice, filled up to here with water, but in a new cup…and make sure it’s the GOOD ice.” A new glass of water sitting in an air-conditioned room for 60 minutes became “hot” and was unfit to drink. Countless times I was ordered to dump out and “refresh” cups of water that were fresh enough to still have ice floating in them.

Did I somehow only get the diva patients day after day? Or the eccentrics who created weird H2O cocktails every time they were thirsty? No, these were normal people trying to meet a human need the healthcare system had failed to address. My patients were in pain, hungry, sick, upset, terrified of the future, sometimes even struggling to breathe and yet what were they reaching for first? Control. The basement human need, the one that underlines all other needs.


Humans have been seeking immortality for centuries. If we found a way to achieve that with technology would it find its way onto Maslow’s list?

Does a human need only exist once we have the technology to meet it? Or does it exist before we can achieve it?

Is “Interactive Experience” just another way of saying “an experience where the user has lots of control”?

How can control be included along with things like humor and surprise to add irresistible human appeal to the products I design?

Does it make a difference if the product offers actual control or just perceived control?