Windows Phone notification central (CONCEPT)

| June 1, 2012 | 37 Replies

Central location for all notifications seems to be something many people wish they had in their Windows Phone devices. This is a very convenient feature to have, so there is a certain justification for that demand. Notification centres are a great way to show users all the new content that requires user’s attention and to make sure nothing important goes unnoticed. All other big OS out there have implemented their own solutions for this, but WP is still lacking similar feature.

So there is no universal place in WP7 for all the notifications received. WP8 might bring a new solution for that, but currently there’s no information if any new notification system will be implemented. WP relies on displaying notification information on Live Tiles by displaying a number of new items inside appropriate Live Tiles. While this technically does count as a notification, it’s a very inefficient and uninformative way for doing that. Even with new items, Tile appearance will remain the same (color, size) as other Tiles and the distribution of Tiles require scrolling around to check if there are new notifications.


The problem lies in Metro UI

There have been plenty of different fan-made concepts how this could be implemented also in WP involving third home screens, modified toast notification screens and pull-down menus, but those all require messing with the Metro UI more or less. This is problematic as Microsoft is really committed to the Metro UI and if a new solution deviates from Metro UI too much it becomes unfeasible in reality, no matter how effective the solution might otherwise be. Metro UI has plenty of good points with its fresh, clean look and intuitive animations, but it is also quite rigid in its guidelines. This is especially true when it involves the home screen, the place where notifications should somehow appear as it is the starting point for the user.

Because of this, I feel that the only feasible solution (with the current pre-WP8 premise) for centralized notification system for WP is an application. If the notifications would be implemented by an application, it would give much more room how to display and interact with the new notification items. The application itself would of course get its own Live Tile, which would show condensed info about all the current notifications. As this application would require to have access to pretty much every user data and preferably also have a double-wide Live Tile, it would require it to be a 1st party application, something that’s available only for Microsoft or Nokia.


Possible solution by Nokia

If Microsoft won’t be changing anything about how the notifications are handled in WP8, Nokia would still have an option to do their own solution for that. While Nokia has said loud and clear that they aren’t going to mess with the WP8 UI with anything drastic like squircle tiles, with an application-based solution they would just be offering another Lumia-exclusive service, something they’ve already done several times before, like for example with Nokia Reading. With Notifications application they would actually have quite nice feature to differentiate themselves in the WP market.

One challenge would still be to figure out only how to effectively inform user about the new notifications (author’s note: Nokifications?) without going against the principles of Metro UI. WP8 might bring some viable options to execute centralized notifications but since we don’t really know much about WP8 yet except that it will have Live Tiles, I’ll only consider next how it could be implemented in the Mango.


Dynamic Live Tile for Notifications

To ensure that the user won’t ever miss a single new notification and that the user also gets condensed information about them with a single glance, I propose a new special Notifications Live Tile (henceforth referred as NLT) for the notification app made by Nokia. To put it simply, NLT would be a double-wide Live Tile that appears only when there’s a new notification. NLT puts itself on top of the home screen above users Live Tiles and remains there until user has acknowledged the new notification by accessing it through the notification app or the said application from which the notification originates. Or maybe simply after exiting the app after opening it. After user action, the NLT simply disappears from the home screen. To push the visibility a bit further NLT would be of different color than the current choice for accent color, preferably something around the complementary color region.


Example illustration of Notifications Live Tile. When new notification is received, new Live Tile appears on top of the home screen and pushes the other Tiles down. In this example, the user has previously dismissed notifications from the Twitter and Mail without accessing them. New notification makes the NLT appear again, as new Whatsapp message is received.


This implementation could be one way to effectively solve the native notification problem for many people in Windows Phone without intruding user experience too much or deviating from the Metro UI, which is the biggest challenge. While it does allow access to notifications only from the home screen instead of everywhere like for example in iOS, similar transient notification logic has already been proved to work very well in the MeeGo Harmattan of N9. There is also plenty of alternative options to handle the NLT, such as keeping it static but changing color when new notification is received making it effectively act almost the same as Symbian Anna notification widget. I personally prefer my original suggestion, as I feel that one would provide appropriate amount visibility for the notifications without sacrificing any screen estate.


Notification application functions

The notification application itself would only be a repository of notifications displaying condensed information about new notifications, eg. New e-mails, messages, twitter mentions, software updates etc. Items in the application would be only links to their native applications. It’s not wise to enable any further functions than that as it would require plenty of unnecessary coding effort. It could possibly be used also for browsing other notification-related information in separate pages, like reminders, today’s calendar items or to-do lists. Perhaps an option to generate notification from those items (when due) could also be useful.


Example illustration of Notifications application. Notifications application will show condensed information about all the notifications received. Note that this is just a quick  illustration, I didn’t bother to polish the UI for the application so there’s stuff missing, wrong marginals etc.


There you go. Simple proposal how to add a feature missed by many people.



Category: Concept, Lumia, Mango, Windows Phone

About the Author ()

Hi, I'm Peter. Nokia, Windows Phone and UI/UX design enthusiast.