The Notification is the Interface

We have seen quite a few experiments geared towards using notifications and the notification centre as the main interface. Yo, Wut, Text are probably just the most eloquent examples of “notification only” services. Lightweight applications that allow you to compose or address a message on one end and just display a notification on the recipient’s device.

I’ve always been a big fan of minimal interfaces, and notifications as the interface are probably the ultimate frontier in terms of simplicity and surface size. They are consistent and constraining in design, but still very powerful.

Just (Another) View #

I like to think about notifications and the notification centre just as another view in the application with specific design constraints. When imagining your next product or refreshing your current one try to think about what is the most valuable minimal content you can display and the actions attached to that.

Zero Effort #

Lock screen notifications require next to zero effort to dismiss. Compare that to an email, an SMS or a Facebook notification. Those usually pile up and require you to open the application to consume the content and perform an action.

Policy and Control #

People using your app often can’t just decide to remove a view or two if they are not interested in that specific content. With notifications as the interface they actually have control over displaying notifications, sounds and device vibration. They can turn on “do not disturb” and the notifications will just wait there or disappear if not relevant anymore.

(Re) Engagement #

Notifications are great re-engagement tools. Something pops up on the screen, you tap it and voila, you are back in the app that you have been ignoring for the last month. When the notification becomes the interface the engagement model changes from entry point into an actionable item. That’s really powerful - specially when combined with deep-linking and background processes.

Quickly Actionable #

Notifications are getting more and more actionable. While enabling quick replies and multiple actions has long been possible on Android, iOS is catching up in the next release. You don’t need to open the application to reply, mark something as important or forward the item to everyone in your address-book. If I had to make a prediction, I think this part is going to be the most interesting in terms of innovation.

A few examples – Twitter could let you Favorite or Retweet a tweet straight from the notification. Spotify could enable you to [+] songs or playlists as your friends add them. Sunrise could let you say “I’m 5 min late!” to all the other participants of a meeting. And there are many more. All of this without ever opening the specific application.

That’s powerful.


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