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7 Push Notification Mistakes That Drive Users Crazy

By Nick Epson on October 23, 2020

Push notifications are a double-edged sword: it’s nice to get reminders for pressing matters but there are push notification mistakes that far too many companies make which drive many of us up the wall. Some businesses just couldn’t help but build their app to be as obnoxious as a child who wants to show off the karate they learned from a cartoon.

Like a sugared-up child doing livingroom Kung Fu, push notifications often bring information to your eyes that probably don’t care to see. While notifications don’t scare the family dog, they’re distracting and time is money. You know the trope. 

Of course, these alerts can be a good thing but that’s not always the case. Let’s first look at a few examples of good push notifications then touch on the many irritating things that apps notify us about so we can commiserate together.

The value of push notifications

From a business perspective, push notifications are great for user retention. And in many cases, users are privy to notifications when they indicate valuable information.

Some distractions are welcome from apps that you use. For example, it’s nice when you’re working with a team and you’re waiting for someone to ping you on Slack – you hear the ding, look at your phone, and boom… your teammate’s message tells you that you’re on the same page.

Outside the professional world, push notifications play useful roles in gaming. Many games offer rewards at certain times or have in-game stores that rotate stock based on a timer. If you’re waiting for a certain item to become available, it’s nice to get a notification so you can keep your focus on important things like scrolling through Reddit. 

Too, for those of us with busy schedules, it’s great to get quick reminders from your calendar or email app when you have an upcoming meeting. If you share a bank account with your significant other, it’s nice to see when they’re spending your money on things you didn’t agree on so you can preemptively strategize for the fight you’ll have when they get home.

The above entirely sums up every good thing a push notification can possibly do. So if your app’s push notifications are described by one of the above scenarios, then great. But if you fall anywhere in the following points then, well, shame on you for your push notification mistakes.

The 7 push notification mistakes that drive your user base bananas

If your app’s notification strategy can be likened to an insufferable cartoon character, keep in mind they only kept Scoobie Doo’s irritating nephew, Scrappy, in for one painful season of faux ghost hunting. Users might cancel you like Hanna-Barbera axed Scrappy by turning their notifications off altogether, ultimately causing them to get less out of an otherwise useful piece of software. Think a bit about the “what” and “why” of your push notification strategy and please, take note of the following.

1. Irrelevant information

There’s a saying that goes, “It is better to remain silent at the risk of being thought a fool than to talk and remove all doubt of it.” Keep this in mind as the same concept should be applied to your notification strategy. 

Notifications, like the one in this section from a Final Fantasy game I play, are completely useless – I only play the story mode and feel like the app should realize this. Instead, it tells me everything and even worse, it only provides the option to shut off all notifications.

Writing this made me so heated that I just deleted that app. Good riddance.

2. Too frequent

It’s cool when an app regularly reminds about pressing issues but when they constantly try to peddle marginally useful information or sell something I don’t’ care about, it’s infuriating. Maybe ask me to upgrade my account if it seems like I might enjoy added features but don’t keep asking me, especially if you’re not personalizing your messaging. I work in content marketing, after all.

As far as push notification mistakes go, this tops the list of what pisses people off the most. Like an ex-lover blowing up your phone, it can feel overwhelming when you’re deluged with redundant information. No one needs to hear “I still love you” over and over from someone they already left in the dust.

3. No options for tailoring your notifications

With most banking apps, you usually can turn off portions of notifications, which is especially useful if you’re pinged every swipe of your card. I know I bought a pack of smokes for X amount and a sandwich for Y amount –  I don’t need to be notified after every purchase so thankfully, my banking app provides the ability to shush this portion of notifications.

This ties in some with the irrelevant information point. Make sure that all segments of your notification strategy are useful and remember that all users are a little different. It’s best to include plenty of options for users to tailor their push notifications.

4. No notifications

In some cases, the peace is appealing but there are certain apps where you’d like to see information as soon as it becomes available in the app. I use Credit Karma and while a good app, it would be nice they would notify me about important changes to my accounts. I’ve forgotten to pay for things that aren’t on autopay and been dinged as a result – it would be nice to know as soon as (if not, before) these things happen so they can be immediately addressed.

(Yes, I know I could put this kind of information in a calendar app but eh…)

5. Bad linking

Don’t take me to the main page of the app when there’s something specific and useful in a push notification. Take me exactly where I need to go so I’m not wasting time trying to figure out where I need to navigate in the app to handle whatever the issue might be. Even for well-designed apps, it can be frustrating when whatever you’re being notified for is buried under a series of menus. As far as push notification mistakes go, this is just lazy.

6. Be to the point

You ever sit around and listen to a friend tell an uninteresting story for 10 minutes and even worse, you realize the whole thing could have been summed up in about 45 seconds? Notifications sometimes do this by trying to pack too much or poorly worded information into a message. Make it short and sweet.

7. Getting notifications at weirds times

The earth is a sphere. This means everyone sleeps at different times. Please, keep this in mind as it’s not hard to take note of a user’s locations to prevent you from sending out messages at weird times.

Blue Label Labs builds apps that won’t irritate your users

We don’t want to deter your users from your app by driving them up a wall because of a shitty notification strategy. After all, Blue Label Labs epicenter is solution architecture – everything from the big picture to granular details is captured in our design and output. Feel free to reach out to learn more about how we can build an app for you that doesn’t drive your users bonkers.

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