As a mobile UX designer, I’m always on the lookout for the latest and greatest apps, both in terms of design and functionality. I’ve downloaded hundreds of them to my smartphone throughout the years, so I’ve definitely seen my fair share of push notifications appear on my lock screen. But I’ll admit it…one of the things I hate the most about apps are push notifications. The first place I usually go after downloading an app is my phone’s settings to see what notifications I’m supposed to get. And typically, I turn them off right then and there. Not because I don’t find notifications useful, but because so many apps get them wrong. Everyday, users are bombarded with useless notifications that distract them from their day-to-day activities and it gets downright annoying. Take now for instance, I literally just got the same notification on all my devices (two laptops, an iPod, and my phone) as I sit here writing. Designing notifications to be useful and relevant for your users is extremely important, but how do you create them?**Quality Notifications**
Before you start creating notifications for an app, it’s absolutely critical to ask yourself some important questions first:
- What is the purpose of the notification?
- How is the notification going to be useful to users?
- Will the notification be relevant to all users or just a certain user segment?
- Do you really need notifications in your app at all?
- What action(s) is the user expected to take after receiving the notification?
You shouldn’t include notifications just to lure users into using your app, they should be implemented to engage your audience memberswith useful information that’s specifically tailored to them.
Take the Netflix app for example. It knows which shows I’ve watched in the past and notifies me when a new season has aired. Obviously I’m interested in the series since I’ve watched the previous seasons, so it’s doing a good job alerting me to personalized and relevant information.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Facebook app routinely sends me notifications to connect to randomly suggested people or to “find more of my friends." I have a few problems with this:
- Why would I stop what I’m doing during the day to browse through a list of people that I may or may not know? If I wanted to be friends with somebody, I likely would have already sent them a friend request.
- This is a poor attempt to direct users back into the app. Don’t interrupt my day with irrelevant alerts.
- The worst part is, I can’t even turn off these notifications from within the app! I will forever receive these notifications that do nothing but annoy me. This is a huge no-no when it comes to app design. Annoyed users ultimately abandon or delete the app altogether.
Timely Notifications I can’t tell you how many times I’ve received notifications in the middle of the night that woke me up. Most of civilization is not awake at 3 AM, so why would you want to send your users a notification to check out the latest deal?
Now of course, users can always turn on the settings on their device to Do Not Disturb, but that’s not a solution. A real solution would be sending a notification out at a reasonable time that would be most effective to your users, unless it’s critical to inform them of something happening right then (e.g. a tornado warning).
Another example of a good and timely notification is a location-based one. Wouldn’t it be great to alert users of a sale going on as they walk by the store in the mall? Well, you can do that! Customers are more likely to act upon a notification if it’s about something that’s happening within their vicinity, as opposed to receiving it while sitting on the couch at home.
The New York City Football Club (NYCFC) app also does a great job with timely notifications. People tend to have busy schedules and can’t always watch the clock waiting for a match to start. But thanks to their app, NYCFC can send a notification out to their users letting them know that a match is about to begin. This way, NYCFC fans can go about their day without worrying about missing a match.
Final Thoughts on Pushy Push Notifications
A lot of push notifications these days leave much to be desired. Just make sure yours aren’t overlooked when it comes to the user experience of your app. Poorly thought out notifications can irritate users and leave a bad taste in their mouth, but well designed ones can be incredibly useful and greatly increase a user’s engagement with an app.