UX Review: Enabling Twitter mobile notifications

This is my experience about the UX of enabling mobile notifications for a Twitter account.

Goal

On the web app, I visit a profile on Twitter that I already follow. I’d like to receive a push notification on my phone every time there is a new tweet posted from that account.

Introduction

Like most users, I use Twitter’s web app while I’m using a computer. When I’m on the move, I use the mobile app. I have a pretty good idea of how Twitter’s profile pages are structured — so I scan through the profile header and find the “more” action beside the follow button. I expect a way to enable push notifications for that profile and I’m shown the “Turn on mobile notifications” exactly as per my expectation. On clicking that, I expect the notifications to be enabled, but this is where the experience seems broken.

User expectation vs app behavior

The above screen tells me that I need to enable “Tweet notifications” before I can receive notifications from that account. Alright, my expectation now is that as soon as I click on the button, an overall “Tweet notifications” will be enabled, and I’ll also be subscribed to the account’s tweets. That was easy — or so I thought.

Notice that I have scrolled several tweets down the user’s timeline. At some point, I realize that the user’s tweets seem interesting and I’d like to receive push notifications from the user. Getting thrown off the timeline at this time is the last thing I’d expect here.

And so, I click the “Enable Tweet notifications” only to be redirected to a Twitter Help Center page.

The Twitter help center page that educates users how to enable mobile notifications.

Alright, even on this screen I don’t see how to enable mobile notifications. And I still do not know if my last action actually enabled the notifications, and subscribed me to the user’s tweets.

These are the two problems I see here:
1. Redirecting the user to another page from an alert box’s Call-to-action button is completely unexpected, incorrect and misleading.
2. Interrupting the user’s flow here is potentially a costly mistake — the user could have scrolled down hundreds of tweets just to be unexpectedly interrupted. There’s no way to get back to the previous state, other than to go back and scroll down again manually.

Anyhow, let’s get back to the Help Center screen. I scroll down on that screen and I see this:

Although I see the instructions for iOS and Android (shown by their respective logos which itself can be confusing to someone like my parents), there is no mention of having to do this on the iOS or Android app. I could understand where they were going with the logos to represent the mobile operating systems, but the iconography just does not help here. I can easily see how this can be confusing to a layman as some of the described steps are true for the desktop/web app as well:

Clicking on the Profile icon has a ‘Settings and Privacy’ as a part of the list of menu items. What follows is even more confusing: There’s a ‘Notifications’ menu under it. It is easy to be confused that you can enable mobile notifications from the web app itself — which if you were probably wondering by this time — cannot be done. Because permissions are dynamically requested on mobile apps, the notification permissions would probably be asked only when the user turns on mobile notifications within the app.

Solution

Because of the fact that notifications deal with mobile OS permissions, the user must grant the permission from within the mobile app. All of the instructions currently provided by Twitter are of little or no avail in communicating this. Here’s my suggestion for this problem, which in my opinion, is a better solution. And it is right at the first screen:

This way, pro users would know to simply pull out their phone and go to the appropriate area in the app to enable mobile notifications. For the uninitiated, the “Click here” link would do the job.

Also, the “Click here” link should open the Help Center in a new tab and directly take the user to the second fold of that page (which itself can be organized better). And to avoid the confusion, the logos must be avoided and there should be a clear message that this must be done from within the app.

Conclusion

Twitter might have user tested their existing solution and might have found it to be optimal, although I feel that it could have been done better. Also, it goes without saying that any proposed solutions must be tested with users before releasing them to the public.

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