Imagine the following scenario: the user has installed your app on their device and opened it. They are presented with a sign-in screen, which they enter their credentials to access your service. Once signed-in, they navigate to content or perform some action in the app. Now imagine this is not simply an ‘isolated’ instance where the user has never used your app before, but they have already opened your app on this device multiple times.
Now imagine they lose their network connection or battery power at this point – either is entirely plausible in today’s always-on world! Your app has instantly become useless to them. They can’t access content or perform actions, and they don’t even have the option to come back later as if nothing had happened. They do however have a device with a working internet connection and battery power – typically their PC desktop computer.
This is where push notifications can be used to help you bring your service alive for these users who are offline or off-device.
Instead of presenting them with a login screen, you could present them with the content they had just seen on their device. They can now continue to see this content come in whilst offline via an RSS or Atom feed provided by your back-end service. If the user has already completed some action which resulted in any data being created in your service, you could then push this data to their other devices.
Don’t forget that users also typically use multiple devices and it will be important to ensure that the user experience across all of the devices is consistent. This should go without saying if your app is an official client for accessing your service! Ideally, using a common client-side framework like PhoneGap will help you achieve this.
If the app is not an official client, then it may be necessary to build some custom functionality in order to get content delivered across multiple devices. However, this would need to perform well on every type of device that your app is installed on, so care must be taken to ensure this is a necessary requirement before investing the time and effort.
When it comes to your users’ preferences, you should always aim to take their expectations into account – push notifications aren’t supposed to be persistent advertisements! This can lead down a slippery slope where they become annoying and intrusive. Instead, think about the types of notifications they will find useful and drive user engagement with your app.
When it comes time to decide which notification types you will support, here are some tips:
Always provide a ‘silent’ notification mode to let users receive content when they don’t want to see it. This is particularly useful if your app includes sensitive data, like bank account information etc. Users will be grateful for the peace of mind of knowing that no-one will be watching over their shoulder as they read through their latest notification whilst on the train home from work.
Setting up a ‘silent’ push notification:
Provide notifications for events which will likely take place at a different time to when your app is opened – such as an event that will only happen once every day, week or month. This works really well if your app is an email client. Users can plan to read their email when they get home or during their commute, so it’s nice if some of the notifications are pushed to them whilst offline.
Use push notifications to let users know about new content on your site, but only if this is something they will want to see right away. For example, if their friend shares a photo on Facebook of them at a party last night and you can push this to their phone while they are offline, then do it!
Alert users of your app if a task has been completed or a status change has occurred. For example, you might have an event manager app which allows the user to create events and invites their friends to join them. If the users have added everything that they wanted to, then give them a push notification which says their event is now live.
One thing to keep in mind when deploying your push notifications is that you do not want to overwhelm your users with too many different types of messages! You’ll want to make sure that whatever you send is highly relevant to the user and consider whether any content could benefit from visual cues.
If your app offers a rich experience which can be enhanced with rich notifications, then it’s important to take this into consideration when creating the template for your push notification messages. For example, if the user has a choice to make, let them know exactly what the outcome of each decision will be.
This isn’t always possible – sometimes you just want to keep things simple and clean, so don’t forget that if nothing else, your users can look forward to receiving something which looks nice!
They may only see it once, but you want them to remember what it looks like when they read your app again.
Give some careful consideration to how your notifications will be presented on the user’s device. Will they appear in a small popup window which is easily blocked by other content? Or will they make use of some of the larger spaces available on Android and iOS so they are the first thing the users notice?
When it comes to creating your push notification messages, be careful not to inundate the user with too many words. Reading a message in this format is a bit like reading an email on their phone – they might only have time for a quick scan before they decide to hit ‘delete’.
Try to keep them short and sweet but make sure that they are highly relevant to the user. If you think there is any chance that the users will want to refer back to it later, then write your message in a way which makes it easy for them to do so.
When deciding on what sort of content to include in your messages, give some consideration to the device they are using. If you have plenty of screen real estate or know that the user is reading their messages on a PC, for example, then there’s nothing wrong with including links within your notifications so users can jump directly to what they might be looking for.
The positive effects of push notifications don’t last forever. Users are sure to get tired of receiving the same message over and over again, so consider switching up your template/content if it has been a while since they were sent.
The next big thing
If you really want to engage your users, try sending push notifications which are interactive. Users will be able to complete small tasks without having to open your app by responding or taking an action directly within the notification itself. You could also use this technique in order to build up a relationship with your users by giving them the opportunity to provide you with feedback about the messages they are receiving.
For example, if your app is a dating service then you could let users know that somebody has messaged them or liked their profile picture without having to take them away from the page that they are on. This way, there’s no interruption to their browsing experience and they don’t have to go through the hassle of finding your app in their list of apps and then navigating to where they can perform whatever action needs taking.
When it comes to choosing which actions you want users to be able to complete within their notifications, think about what would enhance (or simplify) the experience. Get user friendly and bug free apps from Quiits – UK’s leading mobile app developers.