A Little Push: Best Practices for Push Notifications
August 18, 2017

Push notifications appear on a smartphoneIn the 1990s, we had the friendly “you’ve got mail!” In 2017, we have the trying-to-be-friendly push notification.

Push notifications are ubiquitous in the internet experience — but most developers don’t use them effectively.

Push notifications present a huge challenge for app developers. All but one industry have an opt-in push notification interaction rate of less than 60% (figure for iOS devices).

The best app push notifications are those that integrate seamlessly into a user’s day, and provide more value than annoyance. If your push notifications are on the wrong end of this spectrum, you could be driving users away who are otherwise perfectly fitted for your product.

Follow these best practices for designing push notifications and enhance your user’s experience, without crossing the line into nagging.

When to Provide a Push

The only industry with an opt-in rate above 60% is that of ride sharing apps. The reason is obvious: notifications from these apps provide a valuable, timely, and relevant update on the location of a user’s ride. The information provides instant value — all apps should strive for this.

Unfortunately, most apps nag rather than inform. This is because they don’t take into consideration the three elements that should be present in all push notifications: information must be valuable, timely, and relevant.

In order to successfully create timely and relevant notifications, you must align external and internal triggers. External triggers include the push notification itself — a nudge to get people to take a certain action. Internal triggers include what your user is feeling: bored, hungry, in need of a vacation, etc. Combining the two creates a useful push: i.e. timing your food delivery app to send a notification around dinnertime, when people are already thinking about their next meal. This creates the “you just read my mind” sensation that feels delightfully gratifying in the user’s experience with your brand.

Creating a push notification that provides valuable user information is more challenging, but possible. Here’s an example: language learning app busuu totally redesigned the user experience around push notifications, upping its open rates by 300%. It did this by creating personalized and variable push notifications for users. This included asking users if they remembered a recently learned word or phrase. The push notification also linked users to a part of the app directly relevant to the notification. If the notification asks you a question, you can click through to a quiz that answers said question. Developers found this much more effective than simply linking back to the home screen of the app.

When determining content for your push notifications, ask yourself: am I providing valuable information at a time when my user needs it? If the answer is yes, is the push notification linking users to the place where they can appropriately take that action?

Push Notifications for Wearables and IoT

Wearables and IoT devices benefit from the fact that people have purchased these devices to stay informed. Therefore, users are more likely to want and appreciate push notifications; still, considerations should be made to keep the experience a positive one.

Since wearables and IoT devices are more deeply integrated into our lives, push notifications here must be even more seamless than mobile notifications. Aim for a simple user experience — opt for shorter, grouped notifications rather than lengthy ones — and avoid irritating users. This can mean getting creative with your notifications; for instance, have a wearable or IoT device panel that lights up softly when a new message comes in, which can be a much gentler nudge than a jingle or vibration.

The practice of personalization is even more key with push notifications for wearables and IoT devices. Fitness wearables should send notifications encouraging users to continue their exercise streak, and the more personal these are to each user’s exercise preferences and routine, the more your app becomes part of their life. IoT devices can use internal data to “learn” about their owner — if a smart fridge realizes a given household goes through a lot of milk, then a notification can be specifically sent as a reminder to purchase that item regularly. Personalization enables notifications to be perceived as more friendly, helpful, and welcome; just as a coach may encourage you to jog another mile, or a family member may remind you to add milk to the grocery list.

Push Notifications for Enterprise Apps

Enterprise apps are developed for internal employee use, so push notifications in these devices must be personal, professional, and positive. Here are the features enterprise apps should consider:

Push notifications give developers a unique opportunity to start a conversation with their user — don’t make it an annoying one.

Need help crafting and implementing your app’s push notifications? Looking to improve your user experience as a whole? Reach out to our team at Barefoot Solutions, to chat about your app project. Our development team has the skills and experience to guide you in crafting a smooth and enjoyable user experience. We develop apps for both web and mobile with a focus on designing user interfaces that are beautifully simple to use, and offer true value to your consumers.

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