The Rise and Fall of the Notification Badge

The inter-connected web we live has given rise to the notification and the little badge that goes along with it. This little badge has become a powerful medium to grab our attention.

Warwick Kay

I don’t know who first invented them but Email providers Facebook, Apple, Google and 100’s more are teaching the general day-to-day consumer to pay attention to Notification badges.

The inter-connected web we live has given rise to the notification and the little badge that goes along with it. This little badge (I’m going to call it Steve) has become a powerful medium to grab our attention.

While, yes, some of you may turn Steve off for all but the most important applications, they still resonate with us. We find it hard to look away when we see Steve alerting us to the new and exciting changes in our world. That is what these applications have taught us. When something new happens within our circle, Steve shows up to tell us all about it.

Thanks Steve, you've been there for us in the past, and in a way, you've made our lives better! But Steve, I’m here to tell you: you are being abused, over worked and down right taken advantage of! People have come to see how effective you are and they are abusing your power.

Let’s take a look

Abuser 1: Linkedin

I've just logged in and LOOK, WOW 2 new updates!

I must be important if an update has come in so quickly after I've just logged in. Let’s see what it is.

Oh it’s just Jessy hiring (it’s what he does, go Jessy). But somehow he posted that less than a minute ago, got 7 likes and a comment that’s around 2 hours old.

Now, this did happen, and Jessy is someone I’m connected to. However, it wasn't new and it didn't warrant the little (1) in the tab / title bar enticing me back to view the notification. It wasn't even related to me.

Abuser 2: Kogan

Don’t get me wrong, Kogan is a great brand. I've bought a few things from them (mainly a TV) and they all work great. However, the use of Steve here is simply to get people’s attention and plays on the need for users to ‘mark all as read’.

Abuser 3: OS X

Now, I may be missing something here (as I expect better from Apple) but this notification is the worst of all. It doesn't fit into the same category as the other two, as it is notifying me of new updates, but the usability of it is what makes it worth a mention.

It shows up when App updates need to be installed, sits above other applications, can’t be closed and if clicked opens a rather sluggish program.

Update: Since originally posting this Apple has done some work to this notification.

Dishonourable Mention:

  • Any app that adds Steve and only notifies the user of an ad or paid upgrade that existed in the app the whole time.
  • Facebook: Buggered if I can get it to do it again, but had a game show up in my Notifications earlier this month. Hopefully they only did it once and saw what it would do to Steve’s reputation and removed it. But only time will tell!

Now, I’m not going to say these aren't notifications. If the company feels the need to notify you about something, they can.

But doing it in this way only has a short-term pay off. In the long run, users are going to learn that Steve isn't helpful, that Steve is probably only trying to sell them something!

So, before you add Steve to your application or website for any reason at all; please, think of Steve and his family. Think of what it means to Steve… he wants to be helpful, wanted and attractive to users. He could be your best friend or your worst enemy. Use him, but don’t abuse him!

Note: This blog post was originally posted on my blog at however it may be going away soon, so moving the post to Medium seems like a good idea!

    Warwick Kay

    Written by

    I create beautiful, usable websites and applications, attempt to travel as much as possible and enjoy photography wherever I go

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