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!

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