I am not a UX expert but since I work in internet space I have some interest in it.

I am slightly bothered by multiple notifications for the same thing I receive on my mobile phone (I use android). For example, if I order something from amazon, I will receive following notifications on my mobile -

  1. Thanks for your order - via SMS
  2. Thanks for your order - via Email
  3. Thanks for your order - via Amazon mobile app

Similarly, when the order has been shipped.

  1. Your order is shipped - via SMS
  2. Your order is shipped - via Email
  3. Your order is shipped - via Amazon mobile app

AND then

  1. Your order is out for delivery - via SMS
  2. Your order is out for delivery - via Email
  3. Your order is out for delivery - via Amazon mobile app

AND then

  1. Your order is delivered - via SMS
  2. Your order is delivered - via Email
  3. Your order is delivered - via Amazon mobile app

It's not just amazon but almost all services send updates this way. My point is, everytime I check my mobile, I get same notifications in the set of three (via SMS, email and mobile app) which is kinda not a very good user experience.

I understand that since these are different communication medium (SMS, Email and App), they are different but like me, most people access/enable all these 3 services on mobile these days. Also, probably I can disable these notification if I try to but I am talking about general use case here.

Any ideas on how do we resolve this? Anyone working to resolve this?

  • 2
    The SMS, at least, is something you specifically opted into with Amazon. I don't use the Amazon app, but most apps can have notifications disabled. I suspect the email is the only notification here that you don't have control over. Commented Dec 3, 2015 at 16:17
  • If the users can choose which notifications to enable, why is it a problem to have multiple options? When I have the choice to configure notifications I care about (i.e. automated flight status notifications), I turn on both SMS and Email because I don't always have my phone with me, but when I do, the SMS alert is an "out of band" alert that calls my attention to it as being important. When I use mobile apps, I usually turn off the alerts from them since they overlaps with the SMS alert (and are often marketing alerts) unless the mobile app alerts are the only source of alerts.
    – Johnny
    Commented Dec 3, 2015 at 16:17
  • so they just send you a woof? Commented Dec 4, 2015 at 4:08

3 Answers 3


Good, practical question. In my experience with working on a booking platform recently, we touched/worked on this. More thoughts:

  • Why this is probably done: To ensure that the notification reaches the user through some channel or other. There could be cases where a few users ignore SMSs, or a few others do not check emails regularly. Hence, multiple channels help ensure delivery. Another reason could be helping the brand ring its name again and again - and the brand trying to showcase how much it cares for the user! "Thanks for your order, we love you!!", "Hey, we shipped your order in just 20 minutes! Aren't we awesome!! - Next time we will ship it before you order itself!!Hola!!"....;)

  • Why this is an issue/problem: Primarily duplication of information, which leads to frustration at times. It's more of a one way communication dump - which is bad user experience.

  • What could be done to improve this: A few suggestions:

1) Pop the word about notification preferences pro-actively, and at a suitable stage in the order process. I just sketched the attached example quickly. In an e-commerce case, this could be at the post-payment stage.

2) Provide easy way of editing/accessing this information, in the accounts section.

3) Alter the information tone and content to suit/leverage the device/channel. For example, on shipping the item, the SMS could let the user know and enable hotlinking to the app for tracking, or provide a URL for tracking on web. When the order is out for delivery, the app could possibly geo-locate and pop up an alert, "Seems you are away from home - your order will arrive within 2 hours, so ensure someone collects it. Take care :)" This also helps in duplication, as there is a thought on how every notification can add more value to the user.

  • A few insights: We tried a solution of avoiding SMS in some cases, and emails in some cases, assuming that for something like eg in the "Order is out for delivery" case, an email is not useful/needed. But when we spoke to multiple users and got some feedback, it turned out users have very different behaviors. It depends loosely on gender, geography, age and profession. Hence, it's better to allow the user to set these preferences easily without him/her looking out to find it. We tend to live with the pain many a time, since the fix for it requires effort.

mock-up of user interface for notification preferences.

  • another suggestion: stagger the notification timing (say an hour between each) and provide a link that says something like "Got it!" in each one that when clicked will stop all future notifications about the same thing. This way you only get multiple notifications if you haven't "responded" in a reasonable amount of time
    – celeriko
    Commented Dec 3, 2015 at 13:40
  • 1
    @celeriko But then you post-pone the information to some users, which is not a good idea either. Also, one could be pretty confused: last month I got an e-mail confirmation, but not this month? ...
    – yo'
    Commented Dec 3, 2015 at 13:55
  • 1
    @yo' maybe the user could be given the chance to prioritise the communication medium i.e. in Amit's mockup it could say "Try to inform me via --SMS-- first, if I don't confirm receipt try me on --EMAIL-- later."
    – Dave Haigh
    Commented Dec 3, 2015 at 15:14
  • @DaveHaigh Good point about the communication prioritization. However, the problem I think is the user not showing intent towards acknowledgment. For example, if a notification SMS asks to confirm receipt, you can assume most users not opting for it (even though they might have read the notification and are content)
    – Amit Jain
    Commented Dec 3, 2015 at 17:36
  • @AmitJain Good points from the service providers' point of view. Another way to achieve this may be that mobile OS (android or iOS) club these similar messages (from different channels) so user sees only 1 notification and can further probe it, if required, or swipe away all 3 in one go.
    – Aakash
    Commented Dec 4, 2015 at 8:02

This is not a complete solution, but perhaps an idea to reduce the annoyance.

Both emails and the Amazon app are able to determine (with some reliability) if the user has read the message.

  • Email software tends to embed javascript that can tell the sender when then email has been opened. I should clarify that I mean large-scale software such as Mandrill, people don't manually send these emails.

  • (I think) apps are notified if the user dismisses their notification.

By sending all three notifications 5 minutes apart, you could detect if the user has opened the email and feed that through to the app and SMS software to not notify the user.

Likewise, if the app notification has been dismissed, you could inform the SMS service not to send a text.

The downside with this would be that you could be interrupting the user 3 times instead of just once.

  • 1
    Note that I never let the sender know I've read the mail. You can call me crazy, but that's me and I'm not alone who does it. Therefore you shall consider it.
    – yo'
    Commented Dec 3, 2015 at 13:37
  • 1
    Javascript has nothing to do with how a sender knows a user has read an email. Generally a PHP script is embedded as an image with a unique identifier for the receiver, so the sender can track when it's opened. Commented Dec 3, 2015 at 14:22
  • @yo' I should clarify, I'm not talking about the little popup that appears in programs like outlook as a 'read receipt'. Doyle Lewis, can you cite that? It seems to me that that's a huge security risk and I can't imagine client-side companies allowing it.
    – Prinsig
    Commented Dec 3, 2015 at 14:46
  • 4
    @Prinsig email clients (those that I have seen) don't run javascript. The way tracking is done is with an image which is loaded from a server (not attached to the email), and in some cases by tracking if the user opens a link in the email. Thats why most email clients show you a warning before displaying non-attached images.
    – Vatev
    Commented Dec 3, 2015 at 15:15
  • 2
    @DoyleLewis You mean the image I never let appear? :D
    – yo'
    Commented Dec 3, 2015 at 15:42

You could let the user set their preference (probably in a settings screen) and let them decide how they want to be notified. Also it might be a good idea have a link to the user preferences at the end of the notification when it appears the 1st time.

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