I am coding a Tray Icon application in Java - it runs in the background & polls a server. On receiving a particular message from the server the application pops up an alert from the Tray Icon. The Alert contains a summary of the message. The user can click somewhere on the alert to get a dialog which gives more details & also allows the user to do some operations.

I have 2 questions. The answers to each question may influence the answer to the other.

1) What's the best way to go from the alert to the details dialog - should I have the summary in the alert along with a button on which the user clicks to go to the details dialog?

2) If there are multiple messages from the server (either multiple messages in the same dialog or single messages one after the other), what's the best way to display this? should I have multiple popups or one behind the other or what? I am currently thinking of going with stacked alerts enter image description here

  • You could use a circle over the Tray icon in Red with a number inside. This will ensure that the user knows how many alerts he has got. Somewhat like this: get.slack.help/hc/en-us/article_attachments/206234308/… Jun 13, 2016 at 4:37
  • Ideally, I would recommend you to show the last received alert when the user hovers over the tray icon and mention x more alerts below it. Maintain a separate page for alerts so that the user can keep a track of them. Jun 13, 2016 at 4:38
  • @SwapnilBorkar - The number is a good idea.
    – user93353
    Jun 13, 2016 at 4:40
  • @SwapnilBorkar - The alerts are very important - it should be in-your-face. I don't think showing it only on hovering will be suitable.
    – user93353
    Jun 13, 2016 at 4:40
  • 1
    Windows 10 features a notification center that enables users to see past messages. Might be worth integrating this with native notifications instead of your own...
    – Max
    Oct 28, 2017 at 17:04

3 Answers 3


You should always consider the importance of the alert being sent. As @Swapnil Borkar mentioned, depending on the importance of the alert have seperate colours for each type of alert. enter image description here

This way it clearly shows to the user whether or not the alert is important or not. Anyway, regarding your questions.

1) A good example of going from the alert to the details dialog is, upon the 'read more...' button is clicked, have the box extend height wise and have all the information displayed (make sure to only have key information, a big alert box isn't too user-friendly).

2) Sort the alerts in a format depending on the importance, so even if the most important alert was sent in the morning and another alert was sent in the afternoon however is 'neutral(not-as-important)', show the most important alert at the top. Stacked alerts seem the most cleanest way of doing this without occupying a lot of space on the screen.


I think the solution you have works just fine. The only flaw I see is in scalability. Say that the user receives 45 notifications. Though highly improbable, they would stack clear across the screen and quickly become a pain to manage.

Al alternative is to stack them on top of eachother. When one is dismissed, you see the next. This would require you to set a number that shows how many notices are currently active, of course.


To answer your questions:

  1. Maybe you can try having 2 states for your alerts. 1 to be the minimized version where the user can see the title + an expand icon. 2. Have the expanded version where you can show a quick action + view more details.

  2. This is something you need to tweak and understand better how many notifications can a user get per minute and how important those notifications are for the user. By understanding this you can get an idea of how you can group them or display all of them.

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