How to design notifications so that it becomes purposeful and useful?

Notifications evoke mixed reactions from users. Many a times they find it useful. Many a times they are annoyed by it. But notifications serve a purpose. They are powerful tools to inform users of new features, updates, and inform them about new messages. From marketing perspective, they help connect with users who need to complete a process and promote engagement.

The very purpose of notifications is to engage the user to take action.

The Process


Implement notifications to inform users of unfinished tasks and increase user engagement by being…

  • Relevant
  • Timely
  • Contextual
  • Unobtrusive

Why do we need users to engage?

Through careful analysis of our research, I identified that users find notifications obtrusive and tend to dismiss them without actioning. Notifications provide short, timely, and relevant information for users to complete a specific task or communicate important messages.

This brings up the big questions…

How might we...

design notifications to less obtrusive?

make notifications more relevant to users?

design notifications to be more engaging?

The Framework

Designing the experience

Using our research notifications I discovered that notifications can be segmented into 2 distinct types.

  • Actionable – Well-timed and informative task reminders
  • Communication – To inform users of messages

To reduce the cognitive load and solve the “how might we make notifications less obtrusive” I broken down the anatomy of a notification into 4 easy to scan parts.

  1. Icon – Creates an association to the platform
  2. Short message – Content is the most prominent element
  3. Timestamp – Informing the user when the notification was sent
  4. Clear action – Enabling the user to action
Condensed Notification
Expanded Notification
Notification Indicator
Notifications modal
Notifications Anatomy

User testing and Iterations

The best way to get the design right is to put it to rigorous testing. After writing a test script for users to complete various tasks I used WhatUsersDo to test the design decisions. From the usability test, I created iterated a high fidelity prototype using Sketch and Axure to simulate the notifications and test the notification centre.

Hi-Fed Prototype
Notifications Test Results
Test user demographics
The Impact

Increase in user engagement and completion of tasks.

Redesigning the notifications to be relevanttimely and contextual has made a huge impact to user engagement and completion of user based tasks.