What do you think are the objective features of Yahoo's well known emoticon set, that they use for mail, instant messaging etc., that make them so much better at communicating user's feelings and subjectively look so much better than most other emoticon sets seen on the web or in desktop software?

(Explanation: I thought I was the only one liking the Yahoo emoticons much more than all the other emoticon sets on the web, but I asked a great number of regular user's and they all feel the same. On an imaginary 1 to 10 scale of evaluating emoticons based on "looking good", being "easy to understand" and actually having a way to "graphically communicate emotions", Gmail's square emoticons would probably rate 0, the other emoticon sets from Gmail would be somewhere like below 5, together with the annoying overly animated ones that some people get from weird email clients of adware-ish toolbars, the Skype and MS ones would be somewhere at 5 and Yahoo's would be much higher than all the other's, let's say at 10. And I want to understand what makes this particular set of little faces so much more appealing (especially to white European and American users).)

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    Why do white people subjectively like a particular icon set of annoying emoticon animations? I'm not sure there are many objective ways to connect them--other than perhaps Yahoo's are round and yellow and reflective of the traditional smiley face sticker. (as for me, subjectively, I think all emoticon systems are childish looking and objectively, tend to always distract from the message more than help.)
    – DA01
    Aug 28, 2012 at 17:56
  • Your research methodology is... less than scientific, but I think there is actually something in this. Look into the methodology by which the emoticons were developed. I seem to remember Yahoo took a bottom-up approach, doing real hands-on qualitative research to find out specific emotions users most wanted to express, with lots of trial and error, back when people (teenagers particularly) were first growing up using instant messaging and chatrooms; whereas others' approach was more, "We need some emoticons, someone draw some". But I may have remembered wrong... look into it! Aug 28, 2012 at 18:17
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    as a data point, I would probably jump out of a window if I had to look at Yahoo's animated emoticons on a regular basis. Your ratings may be biased towards the living.
    – horatio
    Aug 28, 2012 at 18:30
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    @horatio :D but to be fair, I think we're not the target audience... Aug 28, 2012 at 18:49
  • @user568458 I know, there's nothing scientific about it, it's just a "hunch" at this state that maybe there was some different methodology to how they did things... that's what I was hoping to find more about
    – NeuronQ
    Aug 28, 2012 at 20:02

1 Answer 1


I personally don't find emoticons appealing, but it's clear to me that someone who loves them has gone to a lot of trouble with these. If you look at them closely, you'll see alot of care given to the coloring and shading, plus all the the "cutesy" tricks of no nose (usually), large eyes, exaggerated expressions and so forth. They chose very well known gestures as well, so no secret sauce there, but they used lots of animation frames, upping the quality ante (look at the number of frames used just to bring up the blush - that's not even all the frames in the animation). Most folks, if they animate, do one or two on/off frames and call it a day.


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