The Ultimate Guide to Perfecting Notification Preferences: Putting your users in Control

Anjali Arya
August 30, 2023

Notifications are the heartbeat of user engagement. But like any powerful tool, it needs to be carefully handled. If used well, you can send 100s of notifications to your users without them realizing it. Chat apps like Slack are a great example of that. But when mismanaged, they also have the potential to overwhelm and drive users away. 

Users seek the delicate equilibrium between staying informed and avoiding interruptions and this choice is unique to each users’ preferences. Your product will have a whole spectrum of user types, from new users to power users, or users with different roles in a company, who not only have a different tolerance to the volume of notifications but different channel preferences, and different timings in which they engage with their devices.

So, how do you cater to these varied choices and give a personalised experience to your users? The answer lies in granting them control. Instead of struggling to create a blanket solution, you can empower your users to set their own notification preferences. They get to decide the type of notifications they receive, where they receive them, and how often they hear from you.

In this article, we’ll cover how you can create the best notification preference experience within an hour.

The Why behind Notification Preferences

Notification preferences are a way for users to configure how and when they would like to be notified of anything important happening within the product or service. Apart from the fact that it gives your users control over their notification experience, it is a must have feature for any product for various reasons -

Did you know that an average user receives 46 push notifications, 121 emails and 32 text messages every day?
  • Mitigating Notification Fatigue: Users get frustrated when they don’t get the option to turn off certain types of notifications. There is an old article in new york times of a user frustrated with facebook’s overwhelming notifications.
  • Compliance and Consent: In some countries, data privacy and regulation acts like GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act) require you to take user’s consent to send them communication and also an option to opt-out. Preferences serve as tangible proof of user consent here.
  • Marketing Insights: Notification preferences extend beyond user experience; they also offer valuable insights. By understanding which channels and topics most of your users prefer, you can send more targeted campaigns to your users. Most marketing platforms still offer limited preference control, often allowing users only to switch all notifications on or off, which is not a great idea anymore.
  • Preventing Complete Notification Disengagement: When not given the option to set notification preferences at granular level, users often resort to extreme measures and end up turning off all notifications for a channel. This includes marking your emails as spam, opting-out from text messages, or turning off mobile notifications from application settings. Such drastic actions leads to a complete loss of touch base on that channel, even for critical notifications.

Crafting the Best Preference Experience

The best preference control is the one which provides granular control for every user’s needs. Platforms like Slack do a great job here, where you can customize notification sounds, choose when to be alerted and which notifications should be silent. You can also set mobile push notifications during periods of inactivity.

Slack Notification Preferences

Most successful apps like Linkedin, Quora, Teams build highly customizable preference control. Follow these steps to create an advanced preference centre akin to these platforms:

1. Start by Understanding your users

Before designing your preference centre, take a moment to empathize with your users and try to understand what level of control they would need in your platform. 

  • Is there just one tenant in your system or multiple tenants who control the preferences, like an admin of an organization. 
  • Is your user base spread across different corners of the world, each ticking to a different time zone
  • Perhaps your product can send notifications at odd hours, demanding a feature that lets users dictate their own "off" time.
  • At what frequency would they like to be notified, instantly, or a daily / weekly digest?

By gaining insight into your users' needs, you'll be better equipped to design a preference center that resonates with their unique requirements.

2. Create notification categories and unsubscription rules

You might be sending 100 notifications to a user on a daily basis. Setting preferences for each notification can be very confusing. To handle this, we have introduced notification categories in SuprSend. You can group similar notifications into a notification category for easy reference. You can also club categories into sections for even cleaner mapping. For example, “payment reminders” and “invoices” category can be grouped under “Payment” section.

While we are all in for granting user control, certain notifications like "Email Verification" are critical and should not be turned off even if users decide to disable the rest. As a developer, you can determine default notification behaviours, and mark such critical notifications as "can't unsubscribe". Users can’t completely disable these notifications, reassuring that they receive critical notifications irrespective of their choice.

3. Provide a way for users to set their preferences

Create an intuitive preference centre UI which is easily accessible to your users. You can embed a ready preference centre inside your application using our frontend SDKs or APIs. The page is designed to be easily navigable, where toggling preferences for notification topics and channels is as simple as a mouse click.

By default, SuprSend creates a hosted preference page for capturing out of product user preferences. No sign-up required, facilitates getting preferences from unregistered users.

4. Offering Granular Customization to your users

Every user has a unique way of engaging with your product. Your power users might want to know about every new product update, while managers might want to subscribe to a few categories, and to a summary of all activities once in a day in the form of digest. Some users might like a real-time alert, while others might just want an in-app feed that they can view in their own time and space.

Here’s the level of granularity that you can handle inside SuprSend:

A. Opting out of notification categories and setting preferred channels

A major source of user frustration arises when marketing and transactional notifications invade the same channels. Also, the choice of channel also varies depending on the type of notification type. For example, I like to receive offers and product updates on email, whereas important alerts around direct messages on Slack. With SuprSend, users can opt-out of notification categories, channels or handpick their preferred channels inside each category.

B. Finding the Sweet Spot: Setting Notification Frequency

A common mistake when implementing preferences is offering a binary choice: all notifications or none at all. Frequently, users need a middle ground. 

For instance, not every Quora user may wish to receive instant notifications for a new story recommendation and instead want a daily / weekly digest of all the recommendations in a single notification. This can be solved with batched notifications (digests) and offering users the flexibility to set their preferred notification frequency—immediate, daily, or weekly.

Quora : Option to set Digest Frequency

C. Setting notification schedule / out of office hours

In our fast-paced world, everyone needs some peaceful time. Respect users' downtime by allowing them to set notification schedules aligned with their work hours or personal time. While you are giving this support, you should also accommodate for user timezones.

Setting Notification Schedule in Slack

5. Giving Preference control at multiple user levels

SuprSend’s preference management functionality supports multi-level preference control.

  • Intra-organizational Use Case: In complex organizations with multi-level hierarchy, admins can set notification preferences for all users at the account level, and end users can further set their individual preferences.
  • Multi-Tenant Communication: In multi-tenant communication, your tenants can control what notifications should be sent to their users and on which channels. Combine it with a whole suite of capabilities available for multi-tenant communication to give a 360 degree solution to your users.

6. Storing user preferences and applying it in workflow runs

Maintain synchronization between user preferences and notification workflows through SuprSend's real-time preference synchronization. User preferences are automatically stored in the SuprSend database, ensuring seamless alignment between user settings and actual notification execution.

7. Visibility and logs: Know when someone opts out

Know when someone opts out of notifications through SuprSend logs. Maintaining logs aids in debugging, compliance, and customer support. You can also check the latest user preferences on SuprSend dashboard, or via API.

8. Testing and Iteration

Continue to collect user feedback and iterate on your preferences. You can easily preview and test your new preference changes in the staging environment (used for testing your notification changes) before deploying them to production.

Get started with SuprSend Preferences today

Integrating preference management into your notification strategy can yield benefits that extend beyond user satisfaction. With SuprSend Preferences, you can save months of effort and go live with an advanced preference centre in less than an hour.

To learn more and start designing the best preference experience, take a closer look at our docs. We’re sure your users will love the control, and your business will reap the rewards of a more engaged and satisfied user base.

Written by:
Anjali Arya
Product & Analytics, SuprSend

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