From my understanding, alert messages/notifications should not just disappear after a certain amount of time for accessibility reasons - some people may require more time to read them so they should just be dismissible whenever the user decides to do so.

  1. Does this still hold true for alert messages that don't require any action on the user's part?

  2. How should you handle multiple alerts? Should it be displayed one at a time even though they are for different actions?

  • I also came across a suggestion of adding a duration of 1 second per 4 letters. However, one reason this may not be ideal is for internationalization purposes. If this app is English-only, then we may be able to get away with that.
    – J Bo
    Mar 18, 2016 at 17:30

2 Answers 2


I find messages that dismiss themselves to be extremely frustrating. If my attention is not focused on the application at the time, I may miss important information, or information that I worry might have been important.

  1. My suggestion is to allow messages to dismiss themselves, but only if there is a way that the user can reread them if they weren't paying attention. Having an icon for a notification center of sorts that indicates when messages go by "undismissed" could be helpful as well.

  2. I believe one message at a time is reasonable considering that the user will not have more than a couple at a time being shown to them. It doesn't seem like a good experience to make the user repeatedly read the topmost part of the screen for 15+ seconds as multiple messages keep coming in.

See how RidePost handles this: notification demonstration

  • Thanks for the reply. For #2 though, what if some notifications require action and the others don't? If the first notification shows up and the user has not performed the required action yet, I don't think it's a good idea to "replace" it with the new notification (say one that doesn't require action)? This is for a scenario where there isn't something in place for notifications that are accessible later.
    – J Bo
    Mar 18, 2016 at 19:38
  • @Beenster I absolutely agree. I would have two types of messages: ones that do not require action can appear at the top of the screen then dismiss themselves, while messages that require user interaction can be more of an alert box style with prompts for action. Mar 18, 2016 at 20:22

I like the solution made by FogCreek in their FogBugz product (BTW, StackExchange is also a FogCreek product).

Alerts can appear on the screen, stay until a timeout expires, and then fold with animation to a place where user can access them anytime:

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If an acknowledgement is required, the badge indicates how many unacknowledged alerts are there. Otherwise it may just indicate that there are alerts. Clicking the icon opens a list of alerts with details:

enter image description here

In FogBugz user has to click the alerts to acknowledge them, but if it is not needed, you may just auto acknowledge them once user opens the list (Facebook does that for their notifications). If no acknowledgement required the list just displays latest alerts.

Speaking of the multiple alert problem, you may display one alert at a time, but use that badge to indicate there are unseen alerts. That said, I think this is quite a generic pattern which can be used in many cases with slightly different logic, depending on the context.

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