Alternatives to lock icon for categories

Eye slash is already used for unlisted topics. Shield would only work for categories limited to staff.

1 Like

That I didn’t know. Then again I haven’t really unlisted topics in a while or just didn’t notice.

That is my point, at least those would be easier for staff to differentiate visually. Then again minor issue here.

User secret then definitely edges out as far as appropriate in context and meaning:


Just to share again, this is what a “Facebook Group” privacy settings looks like:

A group being Facebook’s closest comparison to both public and private discussion forum.


The lock is very, very well understood.

We just hide the icon on our forum. Users with rights have access to more categories. They don’t have to be reminded every time that this is a special category. We are used to it from the phpBB days. Instead, we just have a particular set of colors for restricted categories.

Obviously, it doesn’t work for everyone.

1 Like

You seem to be the only one who thinks so. If you are going to use an icon:

  • go back to the fa-group icon, as @sam suggested
  • switch to fa-user-secret as @chapel and @JSey have suggested.
  • use fa-diamond as @DeanMarkTaylor suggested

The main issue with the lock is that it already has multiple meanings in Discourse. Using the same icon over and over to mean different things is bad UX design.


@abarker Codinghorror is not the only one, I think that a lock is perfectly fine and better than the other options. And every facebook user is used to the lock, and just to rembemer you, facebook has quite some users…

For the simple fact that a lock (a closed padlock) means something cannot be entered into and a key implies the ability to be able to pass that padlock, I’m going to stick my vote on using a key for those private (but enter-able if visible) categories, if I had any say regardless of anything else.

However, Discourse has the open padlock for the login which already gives prior context that ‘fa-unlock’ means ‘give credentials (or have the right ones) and you will gain access’, which I think is a good compromise here.

I think the disconnect with this might be those who see these icons as their basic, fundamental actions and some who want to specifically label the concept of private categories that only certain groups can enter into.

My current thoughts are that I will try and add the world icon next to the public categories to streamline the indications.

My case might be different to others as I have 10 public categories and 32+ well organised categories with configured group permissions.

This might make more sense to our users (for the specific Discourse instance I am thinking of).

I don’t think there is a problem with using the same lock / padlock icon - as long as there is a clear enough context.

A padlock next to a category name can mean something different to a padlock next to the text “close poll”.

Again another reference image, here is a Google+ privacy selector:

In this case the icon used for “Your circles” is the same as used for selected groups of people (circle = group of people).

1 Like

oh gawd, I’m posting again - conversation with myself much - shhh quiet - what did you say!?

####The Circle of Trust


The Cheese Stands Alone

1 Like

It means the same thing each time it’s used in Facebook. This is not the case here.

As a TL3 user, I can’t post here:

But I can post in here:

Ah, but as a moderator or staff member, you could post in those closed topics. Sadly you are neither. :cry:

So yet again – it’s a permissions issue. Which is what lock means.

I don’t have an opinion either way, as it can easily be overridden via CSS, but typically users can’t see Categories they do not have access to right? So when the category becomes available for the first time, they see a lock icon… when they actually do have permissions to enter it. May not seem the most inviting, but it also doesn’t bother me that much with the way it is today (and I’d get used to it if it were something else).

1 Like

So there’s this door I want to walk through. Unfortunately, a big bouncer is blocking my way, glaring daggers through my skull. Obviously, I have a permission issue, but I would really, really like to know if he’s going to push me through the nearest brick wall or let me through the door before trying to reach for the handle.

Ideally, the icon should really tell me more than just “hey, there’s some restriction in place here”. If that restriction affects me, I would like to know right away how it’s going to affect me.


“I can view this category, but I won’t be able to talk in it”.


“I can view this category, but I can only reply to existing topics.”

“I can view and use this category without restriction, but I will only reach a small group of people.”


Maybe it’s because I put the icon into context that I have no problem with it meaning somewhat different things.

If it’s with a Category, that Category requires permission to see it, enter it
If it’s with a Topic, it’s Closed - unless less I’m a Mod with permission to post in it if need be.

Or TL4 :wink: So I can anyway, but I was thinking from the POV of someone without Leader power.
Fair point though.

I could get behind this, but there are cases where a category can be both of the bottom two.

Hover tool-tips to explain the icons would help desktop users.

1 Like

It’s too bad that there isn’t a “users” icon with a slash because that could convey the meaning “not for the general public”.