Designing Useful Notifications - Android

As you can see, the notification capabilities on the Android platform are quite robust—so robust that it is easy to overdo it and make your application tiresome for the user. Here are some tips for designing useful notifications:

  • Only use notifications when your application is not in the foreground. When in the foreground, use Toast or Dialog controls.
  • Allow the user to determine what types (text, lights, sound, vibration) and frequency of notifications she will receive, as well as what events to trigger notifications for.
  • Whenever possible, update and reuse an existing notification instead of creating a new one.
  • Clear notifications regularly so as not to overwhelm the user with dated information.
  • When in doubt, generate “polite” notifications (read: quiet).
  • Make sure your notifications contain useful information in the ticker, title, and body text fields and launch sensible intents.

The notification framework is lightweight yet powerful. However, some applications such as alarm clocks or stock market monitors might also need to implement their own alert windows above and beyond the notification framework provided. In this case, they may use a background service and launch full Activity windows upon certain events. In Android 2.0 and later, developers can use the WindowManager.LayoutParams class to enable activity windows to display, even when the screen is locked with a keyguard.

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