Focus on design for notifications

Design for mobile has one important aspect that is overlooked often: notifications. I think that the connection with an app and the functionality is highly defined by smart use of notifications. Mostly notifications are applied directly connected to the in app streams or to the functions of the app in general. I think however that you can win a lot with doing a separate design track for these notifications. Building a relation via the right (and not the wrong) notifications is a chance.
This will even become more important with the merge of OSes to cloud-based operating systems, like the new Mountain Lion indicates clearly. Notifications everywhere are a result of the trend to mobile first and well put in this article on SoMoClo.

When I have to judge designs for mobile apps I always pay extra attention to the notifications. And with designing service ecosystems with coherent touch-points the notifications can be the binding element, the element that is key in the relation with the service of the organisation.

Some basic rules for good notification design that I propose.

  • think of the relation a user has with the service as the start
  • make a concept; based on motivations of use
  • be humble and relevant; with notifications as default
  • be personal and adaptive; let the user define the level of notifications
  • design the landing separately; connected to the intention of the notification
  • adapt to the context; ideally a notification on your phone on the go should be different from the one when your are on the couch. At least make a difference between devices
  • provide good copy; make copy personal, fitting the service. Choose carefully what to put in the notification for direct reading.

I have to think hard on good examples. Some apps do it right on parts of the notifications. I like the way Foursquare let me filter on users instead of only on functions for instance. And boxcar does a good job to set filters. But I don’t can think of one compelling example. Let me know if you have any!

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I work as strategy director, one of the oldest internet agencies in the Netherlands. Based in the heart of Amsterdam, specialized in the creation and realization of online services. Inspired on our models Virtual Warmth and Exploding Website and Realtime Company. I'm educated as Industrial Design Engineer I work since 1994 in digital media as interaction designer, concept developer and strategist. Enthusiastic of the added value of interactiveness and the social power of connected media I advice our client how to transform their products and services into online platforms. My passion lies in how human behavior works and is related to the use of products and services and the interactions with others. Looking for longtime developments and creating these to robust concepts.

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