Before emojis existed, emoticons :) were used. An emoji is an image with built in alt text that is added to digital communications to express a specific idea or feeling that are frequently used in text messages, social media and even on websites. However, despite the advancement, there are still disadvantages to using emojis in your communications.
Emojis are not a replacement for words. For example, using the text “Like” or “Share” provide clear labels for the actions available to the user. Replacing them solely with a thumbs up or link emoji may not convey the same information to a sighted visitor. Alternatively, hearing “Thumb up" or "Link symbol" could be difficult to decipher what the intent of those two links. If an abudance of emojis are used at once, it can be a lot of extra speaking from the screen reader and interrupt the user experience on a page.
Emoji overuse in action
This quick 30-second video showcases the impact of emoji usage to a user relying on a screen reader.
- Emojis should be used sparingly and not as a replacement for text
- Use common emojis to help with interpretation
- If you're unsure, check the alt text description
- If an emoji could be used on a light or dark background ensure there is enough contrast
- Use emojis at the end of sentences instead of in the middle as to not interrupt the user reading or listening experience
- Using a skin tone variation of an emoji adds the skin tone color to the alt text that is read by a screen reader, lengthening the narration of the emoji
- Emojis may look different or be unavailable on various devices; they may not translate the way you see them on your device