I work on a product called AwesomeAds, a marketing platform that specializes in kid industry where users can create an ad campaign and monitor the performance of their campaign (engagements, budget spents etc)

A year ago we decided to implement notifications that will help our users keep a better track of their ad campaigns. We made a mistake to add an event that happens repeatedly multiple times each day, the result was Feature blindness:

enter image description here

Once we noticed our mistake, we removed these events and kept a very few events, but the damage was done and even we told these users that we fixed the notifications they didn't bother to check their notifications. If users don't check their notifications, they won't be notified about crucial changes to the campaign(s) or bad performing campaign(s).

Right now they can individually monitor each campaign but this manual monitoring won't scale, also we experienced lots of mistakes due to human error because they weren't aware their campaign wasn't performing well.

We have new users that use the notifications daily while the old users keep ignoring them.

We thought to change the UI, using a different colour and icon for notifications, basically changing the cognitive load:

enter image description here

Any ideas to break this cycle? Is changing UI enough to change their habits?

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    Did you remove those unnecessary events from their history (so the count is small), or only for new events, which would mean they kept the very high count? – jcaron Aug 31 at 12:11
  • They removed the events from history, so these high counts accumulated from many weeks of unchecked notifications. – Deniz Erdal Aug 31 at 13:37
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    What is the downside of not checking the notifications? My email gets 2/1000 important emails a day but I still try to find the important ones. It sounds like your users decided they can live without the notifications. – MonkeyZeus Aug 31 at 15:33
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    @MonkeyZeus They won't be notified about crucial changes to the campaign(s) or bad performing campaign(s). Right now they can individually monitor each campaign but this manual monitoring won't scale, also we experienced lots of mistakes due to human error because they weren't aware their campaign wasn't performing well. – Deniz Erdal Aug 31 at 16:49
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    "We told these users that we fixed the notifications they didn't bothered to check their notifications" -- how do you know they got that message? – BallpointBen Sep 1 at 16:11
up vote 21 down vote accepted

I honestly do not think that this is a UI issue but it has rather evolved into a trust issue. All things considered, you clearly have a good UI because new people are actively checking their notifications.

I am not sure how long your product has been providing meaningless alerts but it was apparently long enough that people are still bitter about the experience.

My first observation is that rectifying this trust issue is going to take time so you could just wait for the user to make enough mistakes and eventually learn that the notifications are useful once more.

My second observation/suggestion is that you could implement a secondary notification which reads:

Attention, you have 1 or more campaigns which are performing poorly. Click here for details.

This could be a modal overlay or just an inline message at the top of the UI; just make it prominent and give the user a sense of "ACTION REQUIRED". Clicking on "Click here for details." should activate the notification inbox.

This secondary notification should be presented based on a combination of how important the message is and how long ago the message was generated in comparison to how long it's been since the user checked their inbox.

Important: Make sure that this notification only shows up for the absolute most critical notifications because the last thing you want is for users to immediately ignore the new notification.


Anecdote:

I extensively use my bank's online portal which has a message center and I get about 3 messages a month and not once have I found the messages useful so now I check the messages once a year. If my bank can convince me that I am missing an important message then I will check that inbox more often.

You would think that by virtue of being a bank I would check their messages more often but, alas, here we are...

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    +1 I'd probably also stress that this message needs to only be used for the most critical notifications. After losing the users' trust with the notification button, the worst thing that you could do would be to give the users a new notification that they think they can ignore. – kuhl Aug 31 at 18:03
  • @kuhl Absolutely agreed. Do you think I should expand upon my second to last paragraph? – MonkeyZeus Aug 31 at 18:04
  • I think I would if it was my answer. – kuhl Aug 31 at 18:04
  • I think one of the ways to recreate this trust could be to show the most recent/important notification expanded. This way if the message is truly important, with enough repetition, they might re-associate the notification icon with important stuff. – Umur Kontacı Sep 1 at 20:41

As other's have said already it's a very good idea to change the colours and even add a more friendly color than the danger one that is red. However maybe you should give notifications a new use. Add a new feature that will point attention to the notifications. That way when old users see your "What's new?" alert, they might be more likely to use it. (I would have commented this but I don't have 50 rep yet)

First, a couple of points about your new users and the new design

Can you be sure that new users are clicking to view notifications because the design has been improved, and not because they're still in the early learning and curiosity phase? One thing I would monitor is interaction over time, to make sure there's not a drop-off from new users.

You didn't mention what other types of notifications are used there — other than notifications "about crucial changes to the campaign(s) or bad performing campaign(s)" — but I assume some may also be about feature changes, or successful campaigns?

My thinking is, new users who might not see a "crucial change" or "bad performing campaign" message in their first 2-3 months will (incorrectly) learn that's there's nothing of great importance to bother checking.

If you can, I'd also A/B test the bell icon against the envelope icon because "inbox fatigue" is very real. While that term refers to your email client inbox being overloaded, the information scent of an envelope icon has a strong association with unimportant, non-urgent, or marketing messages.

The bell icon is more synonymous with an "alert" or "action required" notifications.

Changing the behaviour of older users

The secondary notification for "action required" messages is a good idea. Or, if you're not already, design the notifications message drawer so that non-urgent messages are visually separated from important alerts.

Confluence uses icons to denote different notification types (e.g. comments versus to-do items) but you could also use colour or hierarchy to draw attention to "action required" messages.

Confluence uses icons to denote different notification types, for example, comments versus to-do items

Then, to make sure new and old users know about the types of notifications they might receive, run a one-time overlay modal (activated immediately after logging in) to promote the change.

And finally, something crossed my mind when I read this: "we experienced lots of mistakes due to human error because they weren't aware their campaign wasn't performing well". Do you send system emails to account admins to alert them of things like this?

Because, I imagine you have customers who only need to sign in once a month to set up or monitor their campaigns. No matter how successful you are at training users to read notifications, it sounds like in-app alerts could be too late for some.

  • Great answer! I will follow this advice – MaKo Sep 10 at 6:55

One solution I can think of is can be a reminder of alerts on the screen as a pop up information box (near the edge of the screen where alerts displayed would be most suitable "I suppose". I don't know if they have special names).

You may prefer to dislay once every user's new sign-in. Or even better, try to force quit once for all and it can make each single user to be able to see and aware.

Then you may prefer to display the alerts as the same way what most matter for the user.

Here is one sample what I meant as an alert or information pop-up below,

enter image description here

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    I think those are called Toast Notifications – MonkeyZeus Aug 31 at 15:37
  • Cool, thank you @MonkeyZeus, even I have seen on many platforms in different manners and possibly even misnamed, it was informative for me to see that named somewhere. – Erhan Yaşar Aug 31 at 15:42
  • Glad I could help. Figuring out specific names for UX elements/features can be really tricky at times! – MonkeyZeus Aug 31 at 15:44

I think the change of the color and icon is a good idea, but I am not sure if this alone will be enough to get the existing users to check the notifications. But that is just a guess. You could implement it and then test it.

If it is not working, you could do something a little more intrusive. Somthing that jumps into my mind is the notification on macOS. If i got let's say an Slack notification the Slack icon jumps an pulls the attention to it. Something similar you could do is, hide the notification badge and then show it in an animated way. If the badge is animated it will draw the attention to it. BUT you would have to be very careful about the animation. If it is to intense it will be annoying for all users. If it is to "lame" it wont work.

These are just my thoughts. I think it will be necessary to run some usability tests on this.

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