Push Notification Best Practices: The Right Amount *Is* The Right Amount

Form Follows Function

One of the questions we routinely get from our customers is, “What is the right amount of Push?” How often an app sends push notifications can help determine the success of the app. App publishers use push because they want to increase engagement with their users, but they don’t want to overwhelm users.

Often this question is posed as, “How many push notifications can I send before users get annoyed?” This is based on the wrong premise. Publishers should not be thinking, “How much can we get away with,” but rather, “How can I give users the best experience with my app?”

So. What is the right amount of Push? A good rule of thumb is: “The right amount of push.” By that we mean your usage of push should align specifically with the purpose of your app and your usage should depend on user preferences for how and how often they receive notifications. Think about why your user downloaded your app – they like your content. So the right amount of push means you are matching their interest with additional content or information.

For example, a very popular — and successful — app sends out push notifications with the word of the day. Users of this app have downloaded it and opted-in for push notifications announcing the word of the day. So the right amount of push for that app is “daily.”

With apps that deliver “breaking news,” the right frequency is more subjective. Is this really “news?” Is it really “breaking?” News organizations have been evaluating these questions since they started cutting into regularly scheduled television programming. Like network executives, app publishers will make an editorial call. So the right amount of push for that app is “every time there is breaking news.”

Apps that send push notifications with updates on friend check-ins and whereabouts market themselves for this purpose. Users who download this app, for the most part, are signing up for notifications on the whereabouts and activities of friends. Again, the right amount of push is exactly what the user reasonably expects.

Let Users Set Preferences

That said, another best practice is to allow your users some control over how, and how often, they receive notifications. Make sure your app lets users set preferences and make these controls easy to find and use. Allow users the choice of receiving notifications as audio alerts, as pop-up boxes, or as the more passive application badge updates. Allow users to set quiet times and give them fine-grained control over what content they receive.

Using our examples above, the breaking news app could allow users to set some parameters on which breaking news they find worthy of a push (this can be content-specific categories such as “sports scores,” “general news,” “business”). The check-in app would ask users, every time they add a new friend, if they want to be notified when that new friend checks in.

Don’t make assumptions on how and when users want to receive your push notifications. In the end, the work you do upfront to give users control will pay off. Your users will want your app to engage them, and they’ll be satisfied when it does.

We advise our customers to let their app dictate the frequency of their push, then give users fine control over the details. Form follows function follows user desire.

This post is part of an ongoing series Push Notification Best Practices. We’ll look at different aspects of push and provide guidance on effective tactics. Up next, we’ll cover Measuring Push Notifications Effectiveness.