I'm speaking of alerts that don't require the users direct attention, more of a "oh, by the way, this actions just happened". Not much unlike gmail's "you action has been undone" or "Your message has sent".

Gmail's 'your action has been undone' alert

I would hate to have to click "OK" every single time that that I send an email in gmail, but it's good to know that the action completed without error.

Is there a standard name for these types of alerts and are there rules as to when I should use them?

  • These are often called "flash messages". There are a few old threads here about them. – Kit Grose Jun 4 '15 at 21:24

In Android, there is a "Toast" that is a message that is displayed briefly and then automatically disappears.

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"Notifications" is what you're talking about. As for rules, it's basically the scenario you outlined: use notifications when you just want to tell the user about something and no action is required on his or her part. A separate but related thing are "push notifications" on mobile devices (typically showing up on the phone's message bar).

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  • We use the same classifications. I'd be interested to hear if there are other terms. – Johnny UX Jun 4 '15 at 20:22

I think this is platform dependent. Different platforms have their own ways to name those. I find the names given by Apple for Mac OSX more intuitive.

Banner Appear for a short period of time and then disappear without interrupting what user is doing.

Alert Requires user's action and are important announcements that appear similar to banners

I think notification is too broad term that can contain both banner and alert and even badge.

Find more info here https://support.apple.com/en-gb/HT204079

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