Alternatives to lock icon for categories

Quite a bit later, but I still find the lock quite startling and confusing, it just feels like its a category that can not be posted into cause it was shut down. I really wish we could have a different icon there, even if its not the group icon.


Perhaps a key instead of a lock. A key implies special access better, I think.


This. Lock implies “Closed” and those categories are not. Especially when that’s exactly what it means on topics.


If the lock looks too closed, maybe this could be an alternative? (is there a clever way to post FontAwesome characters, btw?!). Or this could work, as already mentioned by @boomzilla (though the FA glyph looks a tiny bit too medieval for my taste): . Or (my favourite, although a bit NSA-y):


I think fa-unlock is a bad idea, because it’s still misleading. fa-user-secret is better than either padlock glyph.


I agree with @JSey also think the open-lock is better:

It indicates it’s unlocked for you.

Also consider the alternative unlocked image

And thinking a little outside the box just to throw it out there if this is not a viable alternative, consider some of these other options:

Diamond indicating some extra value / privileged:

Something that is not too distracting - simple and just indicates a difference:


I actually like this one best. The circles are already in use with the tracking button and look too generic IMHO. They seem to say something like “click me or don’t”… I had a look at fa-unlock-alt, too, but discarded it as being too similar to the locked padlock; if the glyph is smaller, I don’t think it will prevent the idea “this is locked” since the opening is too small.


Honestly I just prefer the original fa-group I think it is fine and people are already used to it.


I got used to it, too - but first, I had no clue why there’s a bunch of icon people looking at me from the lounge (“there aren’t that much members on my new instance, wtf?!”). I got the meaning after importing my existing data and setting the staff categories to private… so, it’s not completely intuitive. Neither is the new lock icon in my opinion. But, as usual: YMMV…


This. The key is an alternative, but the original is better IMO.

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Couple things:

  • The weakness of the group glyph on private categories was brought up multiple times before this change was made and I initially opposed the change. But over time I came to believe the dissenters were correct.

  • Lock is universally understood as permissions required, e.g. if you see the lock there are permissions required to view the category you are looking at. Same exact semantic usage on GitHub for private repos, hundreds of other sites.

  • The group glyph was ultimately meaningless. It’s a group of people, which means… what exactly? There are groups of people everywhere, but not necessarily locks. It’s also hard to read at small sizes, as it is a complex glyph. The lock glyph is much simpler and clearer to read at all sizes.

  • I agree that it’s not completely ideal to use for both category and topic, but a closed topic is also a permissions change in that any staff member can post in the topic, but regular users cannot. So the permissions to the topic change when the topic is closed. Permission required = lock. That is the same usage as category.

  • To be honest, if anything, the close icon should change. But I can’t think of any better, more appropriate glyph, and I’d argue the lock is 90% correct where it is, because permissions.

(The most compelling argument in favor of another change – and to the close glyph – would be if we had ad-hoc per topic permissions. But we don’t, really.)

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In terms of this review…

These are the standard icons used for Facebook post permissions:

The “Secondary School” item is a custom list of people.

I’m used to these.


I’m not sure thats true in all cases - lock can also indicate no-entry, etc. I’m not sure there’s much purpose in a glyph at all that insinuates a lock if the only people who can see it are already at the permission level to see it.

Maybe the solution is the ability to choose a fa icon within cat settings, similar to badges.


Sure, but you could already do that right now with override CSS in Admin, Customize, CSS/HTML.


Let’s assume that I’m stupid - what class would need to be changed?

I guess, while its absolutely possible on the CSS side, it’d be nice if all customization for an element was in one area. If there’s already an area to change the BG color of the cat, and add images and descriptions, it seems logical - at least to me - to strive to put as many relevant options in the same central area. Whether or not this is relevant, I’m not sure - maybe this is thought of as more of a changing a discourse default rather than a community option.

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Filled/unfilled circles are already used for regular/tracking, which are also used category-wide.

i.fa.fa-lock::before {  
    content: "\f09c";

(odd side note: the diamond and user-secret glyphs are new in version 4.3.0 of FA, so they’re currently not available in Discourse - I’m not sure what version is imported into :discourse: …)

4 Likes is not that bad


Hm… looks a bit like a “delete user button” to me. Let me test that!

oh, also not available since a version 43 glyph… argh.

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I feel that any staff restricted forums should have the shield icon:

Contextually for private/group categories using eye slash makes the most sense (I know @codinghorror dislikes it because it reminds him of that movie).

The user secret one could work as well, but reminds me of incognito mode. I guess it would make sense for that purpose.