Transparent, Configurable Notifications

As I was sitting down to do some other work, a notification from LinkedIn popped up on my phone, recommending an article to read. I rarely use the LinkedIn app, but if I do, it’s typically to connect and communicate with people, and not to find reading material.

I am pretty particular about informational and visual noise in my environment, so I try hard to make sure I only get notifications that are actually meaningful/useful to me. It drives me nuts when I get spammy notifications from apps.

So, I immediately opened the notification in hopes that there was an easy way to disable that type of notification and avoid receiving it in the future.

Selecting the notification brought me to this screen:

The message in the bottom told me why I received the notification (and what it was- an alert for “Editor’s Picks” articles) and it told me how to change whether I was receiving similar notifications by linking me directly to my settings.

And it did so in a subtle enough manner that it wouldn’t interrupt my experience if I wanted to read the article. And it had an easily identifiable “x” in the corner to dismiss the message.

I wish more apps were that transparent when it came to their notifications. The pop-up message informs the user, helps them make relevant changes if they desire, but, because it’s not required or urgent information, it doesn’t demand the user’s visual attention (i.e., it’s not brightly colored, or in the middle of the screen, or obstructing anything). The user doesn’t need to interact with it in order to continue with interacting the app in other ways, if they don’t want to.

Now, for my wish list. It’s great that that pop-up takes the user directly to the appropriate screen of their settings to make changes to the types of notifications they receive.

However, from a learning standpoint (and don’t you want your users to learn how to use your app well?), it’d be even better if it actually showed you how to get to those settings. The initial pop-up might stay the same, but then, perhaps on the settings page it takes you to, there’d be another pop-up that says something like “to return to this page in the future, go to your profile and then hit the gear icon”. Equip the user, and don’t just solve the issue at hand.

Also, it could be useful, on the notifications setting screen, to highlight the particular type of notification that brought me there, since there are about two and a half pages of types of push notifications.

Luckily, in this case the initial informative pop-up referred to the notification exactly as it appeared in the list.


A mobile app can be a great asset for a social network. Through intentional use of notifications, a mobile app can be used to encourage network members to engage more with the network. But too many notifications will feel spammy and may ultimately lead a user to uninstall the app and therefore participate in the network substantially less than they might’ve without any notifications at all.

Ideally, a social networking app meets its members at the engagement level they’re at, and gets them to increase that engagement. One way to help accomplish that is through appropriate quantity and type of notifications of activity on the network. The notifications need to provide value to the user. And, therefore, the user should be able to disable (or otherwise influence) notifications that do not provide value to them. This allows the user to be an active participant in shaping their experience with with the app/network.

Empowering the user through transparent, consistent design helps the user trust the app and its content. Allowing them to shape their own experience with the app helps them help you (the designer) to make it valuable to them.