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I'm working on an app that does some manipulation and heavy lifting of user inputs behind the scenes while the user can go on to do other things. The timeframe for notifications happens seconds to minutes after the user interaction, not hours/days/etc. So I'm looking at session based notifications, not an email or inbox type message.

We currently use a "notification shade" that also provides messages like "you're inactive and will be logged out..."

Also, we force users to manually clear/close the shade to remove it from the screen.

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What are the best practices for notifying a user of progress/completion of those actions?

  • Are there preferred locations to display the notification?

  • Should they expire automatically? (timeout vs wait for acknowledgment)

  • How to handle notifications after a user has left the input screen/process?

  • How to handle event compounding? (eg process 1 completed, process 2 completed) Do they stack? Does #2 replace #1?

Any guidelines or links to particularly good examples would be much appreciated.

  • Do you have a mock for more context? What is the domain involved, and are users accustomed to working with task processing in the background? The more specific context, the better the community can assist you... – Mike M Nov 7 '18 at 20:14
  • @MikeM Yeah let me see what I can put together. I don't know how accustomed users are to background processes BUT its a healthcare tool that involves things like validating insurance coverage. So the users know that we're talking to another system much the same way they would on the phone. – Bryce Howitson Nov 7 '18 at 20:25
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I would take a look at how Facebook implements its notifications as many users will not only have experience with it, but Facebook has also spent many worker hours developing and refining it to what it is today.

Q: Are there preferred locations to display the notification?

Since you mention the user can go on and do other things, the notification should be out of the way, unless it needs their immediate attention. A good spot would be in a top bar (where most interfaces have notifications).

Q: Should they expire automatically? (timeout vs wait for acknowledgment)

This is heavily dependent on use case and I would suggest requires user testing to determine your typical user's behavior in response to seeing a notification.

Q: How to handle notifications after a user has left the input screen/process?

Since the user can go on and do other things -- this includes leaving their device. It would be cumbersome for the user to have to re-enter and/or re-submit the information their verifying. I would suggest that they can view a history of all of their notifications (like Facebook's click to view the most recent ones and a "See All" to view the full list).

Q: How to handle event compounding? (eg process 1 completed, process 2 completed) Do they stack? Does #2 replace #1?

Again this is heavily dependent on user behavior and their workflow with this app. Since they have the ability to do other things, this may involve submitting another input. They might even submit several inputs back to back to be checked -- in which case they would not want to be interrupted. If this is the case, they will most definitely need to be stacked.

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I see several options for you here, but I would try a notification cue (like Facebook's desktop site -- when you click the icon, it shows you the most recent notifications first with an option to view the full list). The most recent ones could be tied to the current app session. Again, user testing is important here.

In contrast, StackExchange's notification system shows a long list of notifications (might be all of them, not sure as I'm new to the platform and don't have a long history).

Both show a change in color and a number over an icon.

  • Thanks @Rogue-OP, Those are great examples. I should point out that users worklist/item list WILL change to visually show completion. So this is mainly a popup that's session based, eg working in profile C after changing/submitting profile A and profile B so we don't need to worry overly much about a "history" or things that happen while the user is off site. – Bryce Howitson Nov 7 '18 at 21:39

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