Notification Overload?

We are seeing an increasing trend of mobile-only business. Ecommerce is going mobile only. Does this signify the beginning of a notification drawer and lockscreen battle? In this article, I will share some of the notes I made while reading a few papers on the impact of mobile notifications.


Iqbal and Bailey [1] define a notification as a visual cue, auditory signal, or haptic alert generated by an application or service that relays information to a user outside her current focus of attention.

Notifications can be useful, informative and valuable if the content is interesting and at the same time annoying and frustrating too. Their nature is disrupting and are intended to grab attention. Here are a few points that will help you decide on suitable notifications for your applications.

  1. People tend to drop the current work to check a notification, and it becomes difficult for them to return to the previous task. This effect gets multiplied when the task is cognitively demanding.
  2. An increase in the no. of notifications results in negative emotions and stress. However, there is a feeling of connectedness with the notifications. On an average, a person receives 65 notifications a day, most of which are system generated or triggered by a chat conversation application ( Whatsapp, FB messenger or BBM) or SMS related. But people consider that the no. of notifications they receive is less.
  3. Notifications come from different sources, some are explicit and some from external actions. Notifications from Messengers or SMS are considered most important. The notifications from games or readers/news or markets are considered not so important. There’s correlation between tap time (time taken to act upon the notification) and the importance of the notification. More important notifications have less tap time.
  4. Almost 50 % of the notifications are checked in the first 30 secs of receiving the notification. Market-related notifications have a tap-response time of 5 minutes.. If a notification isn’t checked in the first 5 mins then the probability that it ever will be checked is 17%.
  5. If an app creates a notification it should ensure that the content is important and relevant for the user. If apps, which are not perceived useful, keep sending notifications users become annoyed and consider deleting those apps. Annoying notifications which render ads and misuse the notifications bar are few reasons why apps get uninstalled.
  6. Messenger notifications are never disabled, whereas, e-commerce apps are in the top 3 categories of applications to which notifications access is disabled.

E-commerce in India

Myntra has gone app only and looks like Flipkart will go that route as well. Everyone is offering huge discounts on apps. Not all but some e-commerce companies have been misusing the notifications.

These are the notifications @myntra sent in the month of June. This is not the full set and I’ve missed several, obviously. I guess they send almost 45–50 notifications a month.

Annoyed users have been asking @myntra how to disable push notifications.


Asking the users to turn off the notifications isn’t the right solution. Users who turned off the notifications will not be receiving tracking and shipping details of their orders as a push. A better thing to do, would be to let users select what kind of notifications to send them. So instead of one universal notification on/off you’re going to let users choose types of notifications to receive.

This is exactly what Amazon does.


The data mentioned above is quoted from the following research papers:

[1]. Notifications and Awareness: A Field Study of Alert Usage and Preferences. Shamsi T. Iqbal and Eric Horvitz

[2]. Large-Scale Assessment of Mobile Notifications. Alireza Sahami Shirazi, Niels Henze, Tilman Dingler, Martin Pieloty, Dominik Weber, Albrecht Schmidt

[3]. I’ve Got 99 Problems, But Vibration Ain’t One: A Survey of Smartphone Users’ Concerns. Adrienne Porter Felt, Serge Egelman, and David Wagner

[4]. An In-Situ Study of Mobile Phone Notifications. Martin Pielot, Karen Church, Rodrigo de Oliveira

Sponsorship Section

This article is supported by Raft, the lovely people who are making commuters life easier. Raft is a lightweight android application that gives commuters the best ways to reach their destination using Public Transport. Raft is the most used Public Transit app in Chennai, launching soon in other cities across India.

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