Differentiate Admin and Moderator Shield Icons

Hi all,

When using the Admin page to view who has access and at what level, clicking on the level 4 / leader level (/admin/users/list/leader) indicates users who are Admins and/or Moderators, there is the use of a shield icon;


I believe there is ambiguity here, because at a glance you cannot tell which is which. For example, does a single shield icon indicate Moderator, but two icons indicate Admin? It’s only if you hover over these icons that there is any affordance.

My suggestion would be to perhaps colour code them, perhaps gold / silver or any colour scheme really which indicates the level of hierarchy in these access levels, much like that already implemented to distinguish between the user levels (bronze, silver and gold etc)

On a very related note, as a hosted solution we often have members of the Discourse team/family add themselves to our installation to help resolve issues (thank you :slight_smile: ) but they tend not to remove themselves aftewards - no massive issue with this, we trust you :wink: but it does mean at a glance that trying to recognise who is a member of the Discourse team and who are our Admins/Moderators is more tricky.

Could this page be perhaps grouped in some way, perhaps a horizontal line and then the list of Discourse staff at the bottom who have access, or, perhaps using the shield icons again, have a third colour which indicates Discourse staff?

Thanks for reading :slight_smile:


I think we’d want to avoid colors being the only thing conveying the difference because there’s so much variation once you get into color schemes. Plus colorblind users wouldn’t be able to tell the difference in some cases.

I haven’t looked into it yet, but since we’ve upgraded our icons we have a lot more available than we used to… so there might be a better way to distinguish moderator vs admin rather than doubling the icon.

Maybe admins get the shield and moderators have a gavel?


Hi Kris,

I did wonder that when I was writing my post, but I figured that as you are already using colours for the user levels on the Dashboard;


…perhaps it would be ok. I suppose in that scenario you do also have the level numbers which help to distinguish should anyone not be able to tell the colours apart.

I like the idea of the differing icons, albeit you made me Google “gavel” :wink:

What are you thoughts with regards to differentiating Discourse staff as well as just general “staff”? I like to keep a tidy ship and often purge anyone who isn’t in our team, but currently that relies on checking each user and then their email address and hoping that there are some clues.

Just another thought, if those icons were changed/used, it would be good if they could also be reflected on the main topic views also, like your’s here for example;



Yes, we’ve started to drill into this and we agree. We have a few mitigations in place right now:

  • any Discourse staff admin account with no posts is always auto-removed after 48 hours (presumably, the account was there to help with setup tweaks or diagnosis, and can be removed)

  • any admin, from any source, who has not logged into the site in over a year, will be automatically invalidated – meaning to log in again this user will need to re-validate their email and confirm they control that email address.

We’re planning to add more mitigations here soon cc @jomaxro


That sounds great, thanks Jeff, the first bullet point would most likely be the most beneficial to us here but the latter would also be good for clearing down our own staff if they go, feral.

Just to add, we do, of course, fully appreciate all of the help and support we receive from the team :slight_smile:


If we can’t find a suitable icon, perhaps we can simply organize the icons into 3 (very narrow) columns? First column 2FA, then mod shield, then admin shield? Then you could visually at a glance get a sense of which users are what.

That said, I like the gavel idea for the admin list.

Admins don’t get a public icon, only moderators.


Hey Joshua,

Thanks for the reply.

2FA (two factor authentication?), is this for indicating the Discourse staff?

I like the idea of the three narrow columns, you’d lose the header as you scroll down but if there was some indication of the indentation of those icons as you scrolled you’d be able to tell them apart as you suggested.

Ah, yes, I recall this in a conversation with Jeff previously now, my bad. :slight_smile:

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Nope, it’s for any user who has enable 2FA within Discourse (staff or not).

In the image above you can see 3 users - one is an admin with 2FA enabled, one is an admin (bot), and I am an moderator & admin and have 2FA enabled. See Discourse 2.0.0.beta4 Release Notes for more details on 2FA in Discourse.

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Oh right, thanks, I hadn’t seen this additional padlock or realised it would show in this column - why does/would it, if it only relates to the user’s authentication as opposed to their level of access?

Would you not include an icon/indication of Discourse staff on this view then? *sniff*

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I can’t answer with certainty why that location was chosen for the icon, I don’t know the background. I think it was chosen so you could at a glance see if a user (or staff) had enabled 2FA.

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Hmmm, I don’t really know enough about this feature I guess to understand why it would be there, but thanks for the response - and the link - I’m just reading through some of the updates now :slight_smile:

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When did this feature get removed for admins?

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As far as I know it never existed for admins. If a user is only an admin (not an admin + moderator) they don’t get a shield. Been this way as long as I can remember.


My recollection was incorrect, it was actually cpradio, Tobias, and Sam who responded, here’s the link;

The consensus was that it was about making Admins less visible.

Hope this helps :slight_smile:


Forum moderator here, to me a gavel is going to look very similar to a hammer, and “ban hammer” is a widely used phrase.

So it reduces our role to the symbol of last resort, while reminding (threatening) members on every post about the fact we sometimes have to ban people. For whatever my opinion is worth, I am most strongly opposed to this, I’d be horrified to log-in one day and see I am now portrayed as this:


Wouldn’t crossed spanners behind the shield for Admin be more indicative of the difference?


That’s a really good point you raise, I’d personally not given much consideration to what the icon would be, I was merely delighted that there was the possibility to have something which would indicate the difference access levels based on my original post.

I guess the shield icon does represent defence/safety which is a more positive representation of the role. In the topic I linked to above where it was suggested that the Admin role is more of a tweaker of settings, in the background etc, perhaps a cog icon for the admin and leave the moderator as a shield?

Not my place to choose, but I think you’ve raised a really good point - thanks :slight_smile:


That’s such a nice idea, combine the two glyphs so it is a “coat of arms” with wrenches behind it. cc @awesomerobot


I like that idea, but these icons are super tiny. Combining two at this scale makes one of them end up a blob. Even a star with a shield is borderline unreadable (I tried flipping it, with the wrench behind the shield, but that was even worse).



I browsed through the icons we have available, and another option could be a crown?


How about full black shield for admin? That’d be much simpler. Half black = mod, full black = admin


only the half-shield is available in the free set unfortunately, I could make two custom shields to circumvent that?