Real Time Communications Featured Article

Better Designs for Messaging and Push Notifications

January 11, 2016

Mobile apps that are designed well typically have the focus a great user experience in mind. One component that sometimes leaves something to be desired however is the design of push notifications. There was a time before smartphones when phones did not receive push notifications, but today there are constant notifications about social network updates, weather, new emails, texts, new music and more. For all that push notifications do to provide rapid notice of things we might be interested in, there is a point where the behavior becomes too much. Users can become irritated by push notifications if things are not planned out well at the outset of design.

An important step in push design planning is to answer some questions about the experience.

  • Purpose – Why does the notification exist? What is the message?
  • Usefulness – Will users find notifications useful?  If so, which ones?
  • Audience – Are certain push notifications appropriate for a portion of the audience or all of the above?
  • Actions – What actions can the user take from the notifications?

It seems that some developers are tempted to use push notifications as a way to draw people into using an app. Constant alerts that are irrelevant are one thing that can make an app annoying, and it represents a missed opportunity. Push notifications can serve as a method of engagement that delivers specific, useful information to the user. 

Another aspect of push design is how pervasive the notifications are across devices. Today, we have game consoles, tablets, smartphones, PCs, and other devices that are connected with the same applications you favor. Multi-device notification behavior across apps and across devices can cover the spectrum from great to pretty bothersome.   

Push notifications are powerful elements in mobile application design. Most smartphone users have them enabled (or never bother to turn them off). It can be a remarkable marketing channel that can drive user engagement and inform users of relevant information, but it takes a bit of self-control and principle to keep the ‘push’ from getting ‘pushy’. 

Edited by Kyle Piscioniere

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