It’s reassuring to stay updated about everything. Still, amid the rising number of apps, websites, and services people use today, the number of alerts incoming to your device every minute gets overwhelming. So, what is the golden middle for the arrangement of notifications?
The wisest decision is to stop the guesswork and hire UX designers with in-depth market expertise and an understanding of user psychology. They will help you determine the optimal number and type of notifications to be included in your app to retain their value without going overboard and irritating users.
Let’s talk about the concept of push notifications at length to show what they mean, how they are used, and what types can be really helpful to users.
Introduction to Notifications
We’ll start with the basics – defining a notification as a UI element. In a nutshell, a notification, or alert, is the notice you bring to the user. It’s a message or a pop-up alert you receive on your smartphone’s screen, with the icon of your app neatly included to show who sent it to you.
The most common type of notifications currently used by web app producers is a push notification. It works as follows: you receive an alert on your device’s screen. By clicking on it, you will be redirected to the app and view the received message, email, or status change. By sliding or swiping it, you will remove the push notification from the screen. Thus, alerts allow users to see new incoming information and either study it in full or remove it from the home screen, deciding to take action later.
In-App Notifications: Yes or No?
There are always ardent opponents and loyal advocates of notifications. The marketer’s position is as follows:
– Alerts help connect with users who use apps or have abandoned them
– They promote user engagement and can encourage re-adoption
– Different notification types deliver vital information to users (e.g., app crashes, the introduction of new features, updates, etc.)
However, the UX designer’s position is usually quite the opposite:
– Notifications undermine the UX
– They serve as the user’s distraction in most cases
– Once the number of alerts gets high, users abandon apps because they are irritated
No matter whose position you take, you will be right. The reason for this is that apps need to be usable and minimalist while at the same time keeping their users posted about the updates and actions. So, it’s all about choices and balance. Making the right decision gets simpler if you understand different app types and can pick the right ones for you.
Alerts come from different sources and are triggered by a variety of events. Here are the most common notifications you can get directly to your device from users, systems, and apps.
This type of alert comes when you receive a message from another user on your messengers or social networks. As a rule, users are most engaged with such notifications as they understand that the information comes from another human being.
An innovative but quickly spreading type of notification is the context-based alert. You can receive notifications from restaurant rating websites when your GPS shows you’re in a café; you can get an invitation to visit a hotel nearby. Some alerts of this kind are the natural outcome of using voice assistants; once you ask your assistant to remind you of scheduling a call with a colleague, it will naturally ask you about the preferred software and timing, which also comes in as a notification.
– System-generated (push notifications)
The rest of the alerts are app-generated, meaning that apps and services send you notifications without your input. Some of them require your action, while others are only passive alerts delivering some information to you (e.g., a weather forecast).
A-Z Instruction for Notification Design
Now that we know what notifications plague users’ smartphones every day, it’s time to understand how you can design valuable, meaningful, and optimally numbered alerts for your app. Here are a couple of rules to follow.
#1 Think about Importance
Use different colors or designs to deliver messages of varying importance. This way, the chances that users will pay attention to important alerts are higher.
#2 Add Valuable Content
As soon as you start planning your notifications, weigh the value each of them will deliver. If some information is not critical and can be checked in the app, don’t harass users with alerts.
#3 Allow User Control
Give users the power to customize notifications in the app’s settings. They should be able to turn specific alert types on and off depending on their individual preferences.
#4 Combine Alerts Neatly
It’s always better to display one common alert (e.g., “you have 3 incoming messages”) instead of several separate tabs on the screen. So, include this option in the UI setup.
#5 Test and Adjust
You’ll never know what your users think about notifications until you ask them. Conduct A/B testing, research user tastes, and make UI adjustments based on cold hard facts.
A Parting Shot: When to Avoid Using Notifications?
As you can see, notification use is an ambiguous sphere with its pros and cons for users. On the one hand, having too many notifications is annoying for the user, urging them to uninstall the irritator. On the other hand, notifications send important alerts about the status changes, in-app events, and arrival of the requested information. Thus, you can’t do without them altogether, and an optimal number of alerts is valuable for the app’s usability.
A wise solution is to ask users about their preferences and track user feedback on the rising or falling number of notifications, responding to their preferences flexibly. One thing is for sure; you need to avoid notifications by all means in the following situations:
– Users never visited your app
– The alert has no valuable information (e.g., “where have you gone?”)
– Review/rating requests
– Error alerts that don’t need user input, with the app doing all recovery work automatically.
Keep these rules in mind and adjust the rest of the settings to your users’ needs. Remember, everything is relative in the complex world of user psychology. So, doing what is best for your target audience may deviate from the widely adopted industry rules.