Notifications Are Noise




I was building a little app for myself when another dev friend asked me a question regarding notifications. While I was coming up with a funny come back I found myself having more to say than I thought. Which brings me here.

It’s starting to make me feel old to say this, but growing up we had no cell phones. There was no way to contact someone in an instant, other than calling their house phone which sparks many hilarious jokes.

The idea of a notification didn’t exist. If it was important you either got a phone call or a piece of mail, which expected you to make another phone call. Let’s just pretend faxing never existed, m'kay?

Now, at the time of this piece, everything is a notification. Everything is battling for your attention. It doesn’t matter what the relevance is. Your bank account notifications are lumped in with your Snapchat notifications. In my option only one of those are important.

Notifications are noise!

With everything being a notification, it all just becomes noise. You as an individual are now tasked with the responsibility of weeded through that noise to find what’s actually important versus habit. That means changing preferences and configuring devices and emails, the list goes on.

So in the context of building a product, and the original question, there is no best answer. The equation always comes out to more noise.

The best you can do for a user is not notify them at all present options to them in regards to how they want to stay informed. It still comes out to context and relevance of the information against the user which is a highly fluctuating variable.

Me? I disable 90% of my notifications. I keep work related email off my phone and also enable do not disturb mode from 7pm to 7am. That’s personal time, even your phone calls don’t alert me.

If it is truly important I will receive a phone call or a text, during business hours. Everything else I can check-in on individually.


The original question posed to me was: "What is the best daily alert a person could get - SMS sized, in your opinion?"