Push notifications on our smart phones and tablets are shaping up to be a central part of our experiences with those devices. The concept itself has many benefits, particularly where it lets us get information quickly and choose how to respond to that information. I have however recently had an experience with a notification that not only frustrated me but in turn forced me to conclude that we need smarter notifications.
The experience was several weeks back and it was with the CNN app. Tennis is among many of the sports I enjoy watching on TV. I especially like the major tournaments where 3 out of 4 are held in other parts of the world. The most recent major tournament was Wimbledon held in England. I watched many of the big match’s leading up to the championship between Rafael Nadal and Novak Jokovic.
Because of the time zone difference between the US and England the time for the championship match was on a Sunday morning. We had family things to do that morning so I set my DVR to record the finale. Perhaps you know where this story is going. Later that morning as we are driving around and I heard my phone alert me of a notification. Responding quickly to nearly every sound my phone makes, I quickly pulled it out to see a message from CNN saying Novak Jokovic had defeated Nadal and won Wimbledon.
Given that I was recording this match I would have loved to watch it without knowing the outcome. However the CNN app gives me no options to tell it not to send me any alerts related to sports or in even more detail which sports. Therefore the outcome was spoiled for me entirely and thus frustrating.
Perhaps deeper personalization of our phones would give apps the information necessary to know more about us and craft notifications that way. Or perhaps some level of context awareness could be used to dictate which notifications I receive and when.
Notifications are needed but they should also be smarter. However we solve this problem there needs to be a way for us to tell our smart devices which bits information we would like to be notified of and which ones we don’t need to be bothered with. This level of app personalization needs to be a key part of how we think about software in the future.