Conscious Design: How to Help Your Users Avoid Notification Fatigue
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Whether or not you’ve ever heard of notification fatigue, the term is probably easy to understand. If you’ve defined it as feeling like you get so many notifications you become desensitized to the them you’ve defined it correctly.
Do you feel like you’re getting too many notifications? If you answered yes, chances are your users also think they get too many notifications. But just because there are some bad spam-like actors doesn’t mean users dislike or disengage with all notifications. In fact, studies have shown users still engage with notifications at a high rate.
To reduce or eliminate notification fatigue, you should create a notification system that sends relevant notifications to the right users at the right time.
Send notifications to select people at select times
Creating a fatigue-free (and meaningful) notification experience is all about sending relevant messages at the most optimal time for both your customer and you. This can be achieved through a combination of segmenting, personalization, and thoughtful timelines.
Segmenting is the practice of breaking your users into groups to better identify them as they relate to your product. Building or implementing a segmenting tool will allow you to identify users as groups or individuals instead of treating everyone as a generic user. While there are a handful of ways to segment a group, the two easiest to get started with are behavioral and geographic. This is due to the nature of data collection and how much PII (personally identifiable information) you have access to or are willing to securely collect.
Let’s start with a common segmentation option you likely have access to based on data collection — geographic. And as you can imagine, this can be broken down a number of ways:
- Time zone
- Zip code
This geographic data can be used to discover user needs and patterns based on location. Cultures obviously vary between locations, and dissecting these geographic patterns can help target the right notification to the right user.
The second most common segmentation is behavioral. Trackers are often used to attach behavioral patterns to a user — like what time of day they are actively engaged with your product or service. Some other user behavior patterns are:
- Purchasing patterns
- Engagement level
- Customer satisfaction
- App/product behavior (think: visiting blog, customer support page, or service price information)
Note: This data is not PII if it remains anonymized. However, using it to segment users means it becomes non-anonymized. You have more responsibility to use this information in a trustworthy way.
We’re going to break down timeliness into two kinds: literal time and actionable items.
You want to get notifications to users when it makes sense for them, like during the times when they are actively using your product — not when they’re sleeping. You can use both geographic (i.e., country) and behavioral (i.e., individual activity levels throughout the day) segmentation data to address the issue of timeliness (see, these data points are helpful in more ways than one)!
Going even further, the principle of timeliness extends to sending action-based notifications to users or notifications sent in response to an individual’s behavior within your app. These actions could be based on a user’s behavior or preference settings within your product.
An obvious example of this might be sending a tracking notification when purchased items have shipped. But other notifications like requests for surveys, reminders, and onboarding messages need to be more nuanced.
It makes sense to send a survey about a user experience (Tell us about your recent experience with our customer service rep!) when the experience is still fresh in their mind. Sending it a few weeks out from the event could cause notification fatigue by simply forcing the user to try and recall an experience that is too far in the past.
Creating a personalized experience for your user isn’t creepy; it’s better for the user and creates more engagement. This could be as simple as incorporating the user’s name into the notification, but there are other ways to personalize an experience.
Segmented data can come in handy for personalization as well. In addition to creating notifications based on behavioral patterns (“Hey, we noticed you spent time on our blog yesterday, here’s a new article we just published!”), you can also use deep segmentation data to find out more about your user to create a more personalized experience. This could be PII related to age, gender, income, marital status (with compliance, of course).
When you combine personalization with segmentation and timeliness, you are creating a purposeful notification experience rather than creating notification fatigue.
Avoid dark patterns that lead to notification fatigue
A dark pattern is a design choice that makes a user do something they didn’t mean to. Dark patterns take advantage of a user’s short attention span or lack of attention to detail. An example of this might be a form that already has the “subscribe to newsletter” button checked — and that button happens to be tiny and out of sight, where the user is unlikely to see their email is about to be added to a mailing list. These patterns are all over our digital experiences, and they can sneak into notification design (even if you don’t create them intentionally).
Users will most likely recognize when they are being taken advantage of through misleading notification tactics. Tricking users to engage with notifications through misleading copy is not real engagement and will inevitably annoy them and cause notification fatigue.
Extreme copy is a dark pattern that can be designed into a notification, both on purpose or unintentionally. You don’t want your notification to be the equivalent of “Is this common household item destroying your air quality?! Find out tonight at 11 pm!”
Avoid copy that makes a user think something is wrong. Sending a notification that says “Reset your password now!” would make someone reasonably think an account has been compromised. It’s misleading to have a user click on a notification like that to then see it simply wants to re-verify their account because they haven’t engaged in months.
Vague copy can also fall prey to dark pattern behavior. Instead of sending a notification that says “You have a message waiting for you!” send one that identifies to the user why it’s being sent so they know whether or not they need to engage with it immediately.
“We’ve updated our terms and conditions, and we need you to verify your account.” and “We’ve marked everything 50% off!” are examples of clear, actionable copy. If a user can’t act at that moment, they have the information they need to act later when it’s more reasonable for them to do so.
Give users options and settings
One way to combat notification fatigue is to let users take control of their notifications. While most mobile users can change and update their push notification preferences in their phone’s overall settings (including turning off all notifications), this is not true for in-app notifications or emails.
Users probably don’t need to be reminded every single day your product or app exists. According to a survey from HelpLama, 64% of users will delete an app if they receive five or more notifications a week. However, that same survey finds that 61% of users will continue to use an app if notifications follow their preference settings.
While push notifications are easily identifiable, in-app notifications can take lots of forms (including a form). Simple toast messages are similar in look and style to push notifications, but other in-app notifications can be full-fledged survey modals. In-app notifications can be about advertising, reminders, and onboarding tips — in other words, there’s no shortage of notification options to engage your users while they’re using your product.
But just because you can send users all the notifications doesn’t mean you should. If you are worried your notification strategy might be too aggressive, in addition to re-thinking that strategy, help users find notification settings. Notification settings allow users to tailor preferences so their messages remain relevant to them. And if you don’t have notification settings, build them! You can even send a nice in-app notification to alert a user where they can go to update their preferences. 😉
If you need a custom inbox where users can manage their notifications, MagicBell can help you get there with a completely customizable inbox. You can build an inbox that allows users to control whether or not they see badges, and inboxes can be pop-up modals or completely separate pages in your product.
Make less noise and be heard more
Any app maker should be aware that these days users suffer from an excess of information and alerts. The best way to stand out, almost counterintuitively, is to step back and make less noise.
Nobel Laureate Herbert A. Simon explains the attention economy as “a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.” Bertram Gross explains that “Decision makers have fairly limited cognitive processing capacity. Consequently, when information overload occurs, it is likely that a reduction in decision quality will occur.” This is information overload.
Give users more control and lessen their notification fatigue with a solid notification strategy and a solid notification inbox.
Partner with MagicBell and become a more conscious designer for your users.