Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Dieter Bohn’s Suggestions for Improving iOS Notifications

Dieter Bohn, the Verge:

The iPhone, though… Apple and I have fundamentally different philosophies about how we should relate to notifications. I see them as a new kind of email: annoying, necessary, and ultimately super useful. I want a framework for managing notifications — just like I have a framework for managing email.

Apple seems to believe that I shouldn’t go in for all that. Notifications are fundamentally distracting, so I think Apple’s solution is to convince us to stop giving them so much attention. Turn them off, let them float by, don’t worry about reaching “notification zero” (so to speak). My colleague Vlad Savov called it “an endless scrolling list of puffy notification clouds” and I think that’s apt. The result of this philosophy, I think, is that the tools Apple provides for dealing with notifications are blunt instruments. But I also think it’s the wrong philosophy. Some notifications are actually super important, but they’re too easy to miss in that endless pile of clouds.

Via John Voorhees at MacStories:

[…] I agree with Bohn that adding the ability to jump directly to an app’s notification settings from the notification itself would go a long way on iOS. As Federico and I discussed recently on AppStories, periodically evaluating and adjusting notifications is essential to avoiding notification overload on iOS, but it’s also something that becomes a project because it requires a lot of hunting and tapping. With a system like Android’s, I can imagine making fine-tuned adjustments to notifications more frequently because doing so would be less likely to disrupt what I was doing when I’m interrupted.

More than almost anything else on the system, managing notifications on iOS can quickly become a lot of work. I think a big reason for that it because we think of notifications as varying in importance — from high-priority phone calls and iMessage conversations right down to ads — but the system treats the vast majority of notifications similarly. There are basically four levels of notification, roughly in order of attention prioritization:

  1. Screen takeover, used for things like phone calls and the timer that have the highest priority notifications.

  2. Persistent banners.

  3. Temporary banners.

  4. Icon badges.

Most apps default to using temporary banners regardless of the notification’s priority, but that style is often way too intrusive, yet not helpful enough. With the exception of badges, notifications almost always cover part of an open app, which isn’t as passive as a “puffy notification cloud” ought to be. In addition, ways to handle notifications without having to open the spawning app have been added over time, with features like inline replies and richer notifications, but many apps don’t take full advantage of these characteristics.

In my ideal world, notifications would somehow not cover what I’m looking at, would be less prone to inundating me, and would do a better job of managing themselves without my intervention. I have no idea how to get to that point, but one thing I absolutely do not want, from Bohn’s list, is the ability for apps to add themselves to the status bar. That seems like an easy recipe for clutter, particularly with the notched status bar of the iPhone X.