Making Notifications Better

March 8, 2011

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about notifications. A few weeks ago, I started using Beluga with some of my friends at work. Beluga is a great group messaging app; so nice that it’s tempting to use it almost a bit too often.

Beluga seems to work best if you respond in real-time, like SMS or IM. I only get a few SMS messages a day, so I tend to read and reply to them right away. With Beluga, it’s easy to get a dozen messages in the span of a few minutes, since every response is a reply-all to the members of the group. This is dandy, unless of course it’s 7am on a Friday morning and you’re still trying to sleep.

Fred Wilson recently wrote that mobile notifications are one of the biggest game changers to come along in our world recently. I think he’s absolutely right that it’s an interesting space right now. I know of at least two companies built around notification platforms: Boxcar and Notifo. Both seem to be more interested in more notifications, but what I’d really like to see is better notifications. Ones that don’t wake me up at 7am or interrupt me when I don’t want to be disturbed.

I think this is going to be a really important area in the next few years, given the rate at which people are buying smartphones and adopting services like Facebook, Twitter, and Beluga. Any HCI students out there looking for a research topic?

Anyone who’s interested in this stuff should also take a look at Sebastiaan de With’s Getting Notified, which is a nice analysis of the differences in the notification UIs of iOS, Android, and webOS.