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I am trying to create a notification list for my website which is a small social network. The idea is that the notification list will list all new users who sign up who have similar interests as you, and all questions posted on a forum, which are related to your interests.

This is a general question - obviously I know how it COULD be done but I wonder are there efficient ways.

My immediate (and stupid approach) would be simply to list the 'events' that pertain to the user by pulling the data from the database (MySQL, btw). The problem is this:

How can you easily implement a system where by the user can then mark these as 'notified' (much in the same way as you mark and email as read). Is the only way to do this to have a separate database table that keeps tabs on all possible notifications for all users and you simply delete them off as a user marks them. This would mean that on notification may well have to be in the database hundreds of times, for the hundreds of users it relates to. This seems very inefficient to me. There must be something i am missing.

Any thoughts? I appreciate that this may technically not be UX, but in many ways it is.

Many thanks.....

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Hundreds of actions among hundreds of users isn’t that much of a load for a modern database. Therefore, that’s not a real issue. Nevertheless, focusing more on the User Experience side of things, I think you should look at what Facebook, Twitter and Google+ are doing. They all notify the number of notifications which hasn’t been viewed, but when a user access the list, the notification numbering indication immediately resets itself to zero, even though the user hasn’t accessed all of them. This works well on information notification where user actions isn’t needed.

However, notifications that do require user actions should still be implemented as a notification number even if the user access the list. This is key, since users need to keep track of actions they need to take. Only when the notification item have been accessed, the notification number should decrease.

Last, always make sure that users can configure what notification they want, and leave it up to the user to decide if they want notifications or not. The default notification setting should be the same as most user uses.

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