Ins and outs of notifications
Notifications in a nutshell
In short, notifications are small informative messages. They can be displayed automatically when a triggering event occurs, or you can send them manually.
Notifications come in many forms. When you are browsing through the internet and a small text box suddenly appears telling you that you’ve got mail, you have just received one. When your mobile phone alerts you that there is a nice restaurant nearby, you have received one.
Notifications can be public, in other words the same one is sent to many users, or private, which means the notification has been tailored to a specific user.
When used smartly, notifications can be a very powerful tool to interact with your visitors and increase user engagement. They capture your users attention much better than f.ex. an e-Mail or a link within a webpage.
Use cases for notifications
There aren’t many limitations as to where notifications can be used. Below I’ve given a few examples where they are commonly used in various websites.
- Shopping basket reminders in webshops – You can effectively alert your clients that they have items waiting in their shopping basket.
- Information about the contents of your customers shopping baskets such as
- Running low on stock on something your customer placed in it
- Price change of an item
- Want to make sure that your website visitor knows your support hours and has the necessary contact information at hand should they need it? Deliver it via a notification.
- Planning to do some maintenance work? Let your users know via a series of carefully timed countdown notifications.
- Have features with background tasks in your site? Inform your users when they have completed.
Power of notifications
Notifications are a quick and efficient way to communicate with your website visitors. They feel personal and have a proven effect on your website visitor. Use notifications smartly and both your user engagement, and user satisfaction, will increase significantly.
- You have the power of choosing exactly when, or why, your user gets one. They can be sent at a specific time, or tied to a specific triggering event.
- Personal aspect
- You can tailor them to your specific users needs. If you want to make them especially personal, you might want to consider allowing users to configure aspects about them.
- They don’t go unnoticed
- They alert your users in a similar manner an SMS or an incoming call in mobile phone does.
- Good notification leaves a lasting impact. If your visitor was delighted by your witty humor and snappy message, they are that much more likely to revisit.
- They can attract people to spend more time in your site
- Is your site the one people have always open in one of their tabs, but never really interact with? You can use notifications to remind them of all the great things you can offer.
- You can steer your users attention via notifications
- Just created a new amazing website? Notify users on your established sites to drive traffic to it.
- Notifications can be interactive
- Add a call to action button to enable quick and effortless user reaction.
You can use notifications to effectively update your visitor about something she is interested in. They also have the power to annoy them out of your website in a blink of an eye, if not used carefully.
Make sure you are not succumbing into these pitfalls:
- Like in so many areas in life there can be too much of a good thing with notifications. Use them to things that really matter to your user. Avoiding overuse does not necessarily mean trying to use them as little as possible. In some use cases, f.ex. a countdown to an event your users are looking forward to, they will expect to be notified regularly.
- Notifications capture your user’s attention. Make sure you are not interrupting something important with them. Think about it: You are playing your record Tetris game and suddenly one pops up. Your eyes wander to the box and bam – Game Over. Pretty annoying, isn’t it?
- Bad timing
- Since notifications are a little like SMS-messages, when it comes to their ability to capture users attention, timing them badly can leave your user both confused and annoyed. F.ex. a calendar reminder that comes at a wrong time, be it too early or too late, is not going to serve its purpose.
- Irrelevant or uninteresting content
- The power of notifications lies in the fact that your users notice them, and react to them. Using them to force feed content, that your users do not care for, is a surefire way to drive them away from your site.
Be smart about the copy
It’s usually not a good idea to try to vaguely summarise a long message in a short space – It will only serve the purpose of making your recipient ignore and forget the message. The purpose of a good notification should be to incentivise the recipient to act upon it. If you have a longer message to deliver, craft something that the user cannot resist clicking, and deliver the actual message in the targeted site.
When considering what motivates the recipient to act, keep the scarcity effect in mind. People tend to be more motivated to act with scarcely available incentives. Marketers steer towards limited time and -quantity ads for a reason.