Notifications Fatigue

Dealing with overwhelming notifications on my android mobile.

I am a freelancer who clocks about 6–7 hours of work in a typical day. To stay productive, I try and keep my mobile away during this time. At the end of my shift which is around 18 00 to 19 00, I reconnect with my mobile to catch up with what all I’ve missed out on.

Say hello to notifications. Notifications, a lot of them pile up on my lock screen, all demanding equal attention from me to take actions.

A lot of notifications, all demanding the same attention level.

That’s a lot to catch up with. There are times when the number is overwhelming to the point that I stop processing and just want to do away with the damn thing.

In my opinion, an interface needs to embrace the sensitivity of it’s user. When it comes to information consumption, there’s a lot that goes around and interactions become repetitive and time consuming. An example here would be scrolling down through large chunks of cards vertically with repetitive interaction.

Is this is a problem at all, is it worth solving?

Well, let me put it this way: Notifications exist to alert and inform us. The problem starts when their volume increases to an extent that processing them becomes a task.

To deal with this heavy lifting, it would help if a summary or an overview was presented. This view would simply prioritize notifications and would be made available only when a threshold was exceeded (in this case, the number of events and push notifications). I felt that I could prioritize this into three types :

a)Things I need to do immediately (missed calls, priority mails)

b)Things that were important (whatsapp, fb chat, reminders)

c)Things that could be taken care of later.

Visual Hierarchy for prioritized notifications, Would work only for large volume scenarios.

A great example of notifications being bundled together would be the echo lockscreen app. It does a wonderful job of grouping, all the while keeping the categories modifiable via users.

Echo lock screen categorizes notifications as per their source. This categorization is modifiable by users.

My idea is more towards suggestive grouping done by the OS itself in a manner that would be reduce cognitive load. This grouping would be an overview of all things left behind and invoking it could be done in 2 ways:

1) Explicitly by users pressing the read more notifications tab.

2)Implicitly when a user is performing a repetitive interaction over a period of time.

To conclude, this exercise was to explore how to deal with large volumes of notifications in a less stressful manner all the while keeping things functional.

*disclaimer: At the time when I wrote this article, I had android marshmallow installed in my moto G(3rd gen). The suggestions I’m making below are for OS level interventions.