The first time I saw this on my android phone, I thought “wait a second, you’re notifying me of a notification… why not just show me the notification?” I’m not alone. If you haven’t seen it, here’s what it looks like.
You have unseen notifications. They can’t be seen. They are transparent. They are ghosts. They are not real. pic.twitter.com/rEwFtdm6EZ
— Steve Streza ⚡️ (@SteveStreza) March 28, 2014
This issue occurs on both iOS and android. Instagram is a well know app with a lot of polish. It demonstrates a lot of great design techniques. Still, I am at a loss as to why they would notify the user of notifications rather than showing the notification. This notification probably wouldn’t even exist if it actually showed the notification. I am aware that privacy settings on some phones will prevent sensitive content from being shown. That isn’t what’s going on here.
Tip #1: Don’t notify users of notifications – just show the notification
It’s okay to create a rollup of multiple notifications. That’s common with email. In Instagram, I have seen this occur when there appears to only be one notification.
The other issue that occurs is after the user select the notification. Instagram will open and then there’s no mention of notifications.
Tip #2: Notifications are a “call to action”. As such, when the user takes the action, they should arrive somewhere specific to the action.
Just launching the app or loading a website is not enough. This is similar to targeting ads online. If you’re advertising a snowboard sale, don’t take the user to the home page where they have to go searching for the snowboards. In this case, if you’re asking them to review their notifications, show them those notifications.
It’s clear I am not the only one who has run into this issue with Instagram. Here’s a few more troubled users on Quora, Facebook support and Yahoo Answers. Those links show some attempts to answer to why this issue occurs, but there’s no clear answer.
Here’s how some on Twitter feel about this issue
@stevestreza I like that they sent a notification informing you of unseen notifications.
— Michael Ayers (@turbotomato) March 28, 2014
@stevestreza You can not see the unseen, nor can you unsee the seen.
— Shawn Hansen (@geekles) March 28, 2014
@SteveStreza once seen, you can’t unsee… Unless using Instagram, apparently
— Aimee (@aimeeble) March 28, 2014
@SteveStreza Maybe that just means you succeeded at unseeing some notifications you had seen?
— thoughtful1 (@KsbjA) March 28, 2014