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I'm working on the notification system for a web app. It has very few messages to display, but these are very important in the use of the platform. I was wondering if it would be best to include call-to-action text (something like "click here to answer Tom") or if descriptive text ("Tom posted a new comment") would be enough?

I think it would be best to keep these notifications short, clear and friendly, so every word counts.

Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest use simple and straightforward text.

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Start with the purpose of the notification....

  • Usually, notifications are created to inform the user that something has happened.

  • Therefore, the primary UX goal is to convey that information.

  • Usually, getting the user to take action (e.g. reply, dismiss, approve) is a secondary UX goal, because it's hard for the user to take action without first reading the information.


...that will lead you to correct design

As a result, notifications almost always convey the information first. For example, here's a typical notification:

toast

If you want to prompt users to take action, do it AFTER you have presented the information. Here's an example of a notification with the information first, then action options:

toast with acction

...so in your case you should always convey the information first. Then you can decide whether to provide a reply action for the user also.

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Users have gotten used to the fact that a notification is clickable, so based on that I don't think you need to add text like "click here to answer Tom". Users expect a notification to be clickable by default, so "Tom posted a new comment" should be enough.

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More than the wording, make sure the notification itself is clear enough. If this is a really important part of your app, I'd load a dialog box when the user enters the page, requiring an action. So, something like this:

enter image description here

But of course, if this is not THAT important, then you can leave a notification icon in your menu or actions bar

  • Thanks, no it's not that important. It doesn't need to stop the user from what he is doing, so a dialog box might be a bit too intrusive here. – Julihan May 11 '15 at 16:51
  • hence why I asked, since I have no information on what you are doing, only that " those are very important in the use of the platform". So you can have an action bar like FB or StackOverflow and that's it (you could even use the dialog approach if needed) – Devin May 11 '15 at 17:00
  • Yeah thx, it will be more like FB or SO but to be efficient it has to be concise. So I was wondering if a call-to-action was a necessity. – Julihan May 11 '15 at 17:07
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Conciseness is key

Conciseness is definitely important particularly when it comes to notifications.this being said you can still follow a progressive disclosure approach whereby you can show the user more relevant information and action points as they dig deeper.


Conveying action

You can convey when user action is required using emphasis, hierarchy and iconography,metaphors...So no need for specific CTA as it should be self-evident from layout and affordances attached to different design elements how things should work, but do consider these carefully and ensure they work together as whole.

Below is a wireframed example where notifications are provided within a collapsible panel:

enter image description here

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