Notification Center Concept: Hyperspace

| March 6, 2013 | 58 Replies

One very popular feature request for Windows Phone that keeps coming up is a need for a notification center.  While it can be debated if such feature is actually needed in the first place, the demand for one can’t be denied. Many people absolutely want notification center and Microsoft has admitted of working on one, or at least considering it. While I believe Microsoft will be choosing something simple for their implementation of notification center like adding it in the Me tile or making a new specialized notifications app and a tile for it, it’s still fun to try visualizing possible solutions. WP community has made numerous concepts around this topic so I felt like trying to do one too.

I also wanted to make a user interface design exercise out of this by adding some constraints and special requirements to make it more interesting:


1)      It has to offer a new angle to notifications

Basically just have some new idea for one instead of rehashing something old.

2)      It has to be accessible from any screen without visual interruptions

User should be able to summon notification screen or otherwise access it with minimal navigation. This requirement for example disqualifies anything that involves going back to Start screen first as that involves a transition through black screen (something that I count as an interruption). Users should also be able to return to where they were with a single tap of the back button.

3)      It has to have a complementary function to the Live Tiles instead of parallel

Notification center in WP shouldn’t be something that competes directly against Live Tiles and their purpose. It should not offer just an alternative mean to access notifications but preferably work together with Live Tiles and all the other currently established notification methods like toast notifications and lock screen.

4)      It has to look distinctively Windows Phone

This is a no-brainer but deserves still a point of its own.


I took all of these points in consideration and proceeded to try figure out something and this is what I come up with:

Notification center concept: Hyperspace

In this concept, notification center is placed in the same space where multitasking cards can be found, accessible by long press of the back button. For some reason I’ve always thought this space similar to how hyperspace is described in sci-fi movies, an inter-dimensional space that can be used to fast travel to other parts of the space, in this context to other open applications. Because of this I eventually started calling this concept “Hyperspace” and the name stuck.

Hyperspace Notification Center Concept

The notification center would be positioned right from the application cards (arrow icon placed as a visual cue), accessible by a flick to the left which will reveal all unattended notification items from all installed applications in a scrolling vertical list. Many of the arguments supporting notification center have been about a need for a place to find all the missed toast notifications which has been an inspiration for this concept. When we get a Toast notification, we’ll either tap it for accessing it or swipe it away from the screen. When we do the latter and discard a Toast, it will fly away to the right side of the screen… where the notification screen in this concept is also positioned. Because of this behavior you can think that if you miss a Toast, it will just be automatically discarded to the notification center on the right. (Note: Alternative name for this concept was “Toast Rack”)



While the notification items have some resemblance to the actual Toast notifications, they don’t look exactly like them anymore for two reasons. Firstly, Toast notifications are really designed to work as singular units, to be read one at a time and not as a list. I did try this concept with stock Toast notifications but that did not work out well. The end result was a wall of small text that looked like crap. Secondly, Toast Notification appearance is designed to be subdued and non-intrusive, something that is not a priority number one for notification visuals in a screen especially dedicated to them.

The appearance I end up choosing for notification center and the items comes from my personal preference regarding notifications which is that they should focus on the notifying part instead of trying to give out as much information as possible. In practice this means big icons, large title texts and lots of negative space to make the individual notifications pop up in glance-sized bits, avoiding at all costs that wall of text -feel that plagues notification centers in other operating systems. In my example you can see one way to accomplish that, instead of trying to cram as much info as possible in items, I focus only on the essential information and that’s it.

I decided to use the accent color for the items as the multitasking screen already uses a bit darker shade of the accent color so the items will match the background color by default. Some other color might’ve been more optimal, but this solution is so effortless and works with any accent color I decided to go with it. I also had an idea going that maybe the items could flip in timed intervals revealing more information about the item in the same manner as Live Tiles do but I felt it going too much in territory of the Tiles in the end.

I don’t believe there should be any advanced features like notification history or search; the purpose of this center would be just to make sure you don’t miss anything. When you access a notification from the center or the corresponding Live Tile, it will be gone. If user wants to clear all the notifications, there’s a button for that in the bottom.


Now let’s see if I managed to hold my own requirements.

1)      Check. I haven’t seen any other concept exploring this possibility. It’s new to me at least.

2)     Check. When you press and hold the back button, screen zooms out without visual interruptions (long press is kind of an interruption though if not visual one) and with a quick flick you’re in the notification center  Nice perk with this implementation is that you can return to your original application with a single tap of the back button, and once again without visual interruptions.

3)      Check. The concept does not try to eclipse Live Tiles but works in a distinct space with a purpose of its own. 

4)     Check. I think.


Now, if you want to try how this would look in a real device feel free to download some of these pictures and look them using the Photos application. You can also scan the QR code next to a pic to get the image.

800 x 480

800x480 Blue     

800x480 Green    

800x480 Red     


1280 x 768 

1280x768 Blue     

1280x768 Red     

1280x768 Green     


Notification center in action



















Like always, comments and critique are welcomed. I do these to learn.

Category: Concept, Nokia, Windows Phone

About the Author ()

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

Comments (58)

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  1. Derrek says:

    Love the concept. I had gotten so used to the idea of swiping to the left to gain access to the notification center that it never occurred to me that it should always be accessible. Though maybe that can still be implemented with your concept… As in, when you’re at the home screen, swipe to it, but anywhere else you can just enter Hyperspace. Just a thought, though I could see the need for a consistent experience.
    Still though, I feel like holding the back key and swiping to the right is still too much effort to get to the notification center. I know it’s literally just two gestures that’ll probably take 2 seconds, but looking at everything else, a pulldown menu takes one gesture and one second. My only concern is that people (other than myself since I’m fine with this method) will not take too well to it. It’s too “complicated”. In other words it needs to be just as easy (or easier) as the other currently-used methods to get to the notifications.

    Just my two cents =]

    • Peter L says:

      I considered making the notifications screen to be available by swiping from the right edge similar to the swipe gestures in MeeGo, but the navigation pattern of WP (lots of horizontal flicks and pans) does not work very well with them. That would’ve made it VERY fast to access but problematic in other ways.

  2. 00610 says:

    That looks nice. I think one of the best ones what i’ve seen.

  3. Michael Faro-Tusino says:

    This is the best concept I’ve seen for Notifications on WP. It wouldn’t surprise me if MS goes back to the drawing board when they see this (if they hadn’t thought to implement it this way).

  4. Martin says:

    Why not have it to the left of the startscreen?
    Apps on one side. Notifications on the other.
    Or is it anything there already? Dont have my 920 just yet…

    Love the looks of it though!

    • Peter L says:

      I explain that in the description. It interrupts the user experience and in my opinion competes too much with the Live Tiles. It’s also something that has been suggested already many times. I wanted to figure out something new.

    • ampr says:

      that indeed is a good idea pal
      really appreciate!

  5. Silthice says:

    Move the voice command by press & hold the magnifying glass.
    Press & hold the Windows button for notification center.
    Use the button that is under utilized.

    • almar says:

      This. Voice command activation by holding the magnifying glass button makes sense semantically, as the voice search is primarily a tool for searching for contacts/making calls and not for switching windows. On the other hand, using WINDOWS button long press to activate notification center/window switching (peter’s consolidated scheme) makes sense because reading/clearing notifications is a window/tile based task linked closely to window switching.

      As for the back button, I say leave it with only back and no long press. This would simplify use of a function that should be straightforward to begin with. I’d like to hear what you all think though.

      Lastly, I think the left of the start screen (swipe right from the live tiles) would be an ideal place to put the toggles for connectivity, in a sort of live-tile-like scheme that permits the user to rearrange the visual order depending on preference. This should also be the place to put graphs showing data usage. I think the advantages that WP8 has (should have >:() in data usage and connectivity must be easily accessible to the user, especially to those who buy lower end lumias on limited voice/data plans.

      • almar says:

        As a small point, the shrunken windows in the task switcher should not only carry buttons in the upper right/middle of each to enable quick termination of the app/window, but I think it would also be advantageous to make a corresponding button (perhaps in the bottom left/middle or as some sort of an overlay) on each window that shows the number of notifications associated with each window/task. This is something that could be done in accordance with the existing design language, with a minimum of clutter.

        Another idea that i’d like to float, what about changing the WINDOWS key short press to task switch/notification “Hyperspace”? The short press task-switching/notification center would allow a faster workflow and management of multitasking, while still avoiding competition with the basic rhythm of . Under the short-press task switching paradigm, writing an email or text which requires referring to information in other tasks/windows would be much faster without the necessity of long press, and the long press to return to home screen would be used upon completion of that series of tasks, as a sort of mark of completion.

        I think users want the speed and convenience of one-touch-swipe multitasking, and adding a long touch makes the process that much more cumbersome. The long press should be reserved for interface actions implying a completion or finality of a series of tasks, not for actions taken in the process of referencing information between tasks!

  6. et3rnal says:

    I always want it something with swipe BUT I love this concept as it suits WP more, and I don’t think MS could do any better idea than that.

    Also this idea doesn’t copy any other

    Lastly, If MS going to implements swipe at any stage this wont be efected as its inside the multitasking view

    Finally, lets spam MS WP team about it :D, who knows they might listen to us!

  7. Janne says:

    Great concept.

    Personally I think the notification screen would be best to come down by swiping from the top down. It could replace the current “show top icons” swipe by showing a full-screen notifications interface in addition to those icons. Swipe from bottom up to close notifications and return to content… Of course this would be quite a bit like how Android, Symbian and iOS have done it.

    Interesting to see how this will eventually play out. Personally I haven’t missed a notification center thanks to the tiles, but I welcome the addition for all those who have – and clearly many have and are missing a notification center. Come it must.

    • Harangue says:

      Exactly what I always have thought. Why invent something new when there are already examples out there that work well in Android and iOS?

      I do like the idea Peter is presenting here though but I also feel the long press needed to get to it is just that, too long. It makes the notification center feel too distant, I already have that feel with multitasking.

      What MS should do is take a leaf out of Windows 8 book with th charms and all. Both WP and W8 are panoramically orientated so it should be possible to have side activated gestures in both.

      • Peter L says:

        Gestures don’t really work because of the navigation pattern used in WP8. Lots of horizontal flicks and panning. While it probably would not be problem to you and me, I’m very sure it would be that for way too many people.

        To put those same gestures that W8 has is almost 100% no go unless WP goes through a massive UI overhaul.

        That said, I would argue that swipe from the top is the most cumbersome gesture that you can have when your using a big-screen device like Lumia 920 one-handed. Android does use that one, but they are stuck with that since they put it in there before screens got as big as they are now. It really is a sub-par choice even if it is an established one.

        • almar says:

          I agree, swipe from the top is not a scheme suited to the WP8 interface design, nor is it convenient physically with screens as big as they are. The options are either to make the notification array on a screen left of the live-tiles or put them next to the task switcher (a la Peter’s design), which I favor. The WP8 designers should seriously consider simply making this consolidated screen accessible through a Single Press of the windows button.

        • Harangue says:

          That is what I thought before using Windows 8 as well. That the whole panoramic approach of WP would make it impossible to use gestures.

          Have you used Windows 8 on a touchscreen by any chance? After doing so (and using various Metro UI W8 apps) it would seem possible. Even Windows 8 uses almost only panoramic side scrolling apps and it uses the side gestures used for the charms bar and multitasking as well.

          The downside is that a tablet is easier to use with side gestures because of the larger bezels, but both BB10 and Harmattan have done it before so it would be possible even WP IMHO.

          I do have to agree with what you say about the pulldown menu. It sucks for larger screens and one handed use. However, I thought about your idea(s) and they feel distant and unconnected to the OS, as I think multitasking is. Maybe it is because I’ve been usign W8 a lot lately where it is all more integral part of the OS with the gestures, but the multitasking implementation and subsequently your notification idea feels off.

          The good part is that it is accesible from anywhere in the OS. Have you thought of integrating shortcuts for WiFi/BT and the lot in this idea?

          • almar says:

            Exactly, the notification center and multitasking are disconnected from the experience because they require a long press. Make them accessible with a short press, and this problem goes away. Make the home/live-tile screen accessible with the long press, or even double tap (windows or back key, either way)….a reasonable compromise??

            • Peter L says:

              I like the reasoning behind your suggestion, but it would be very very VERY problematic to change already established main behavior of a HW button to something else.

              It would both infuriate and frustrate people that aren’t that savvy with their phones.

              • almar says:

                I think it is the best design decision in the long run. Three reasons:
                1. A single-tap scheme is the prerequisite to your notification pane design’s viability! As you put it, “It has to be accessible from any screen without visual interruptions.” What remains, though, is a TIME interruption; the user has to wait for a long-press before accessing the pane. With the time delay, even a swipe-down menu might be preferable to the average user. I do think, of course, that your design is otherwise the most elegant I have seen!
                2. This would not represent a overly disruptive change to current user habits. If a double tap or long-press-to-home could be implemented, I think the typical user would get used to it in a matter of days or hours. Besides, the long-press for multitasking is pretty infuriating and frustrating as-is. And let’s be honest, voice recognition should not be the long-press function anyway.
                3. There is nothing “established” about Windows Phone. It has a market share of less than 5% at present, with the preponderance still Pre-8 devices and the demographic targets for WP8 first time smartphone users and those switching from android. Those moving from 7.8 already had to cope with the shock of Microsoft abandoning their platform. So, a big update changing this function later this year wouldnt necessarily disrupt the growth/retention of the platform, _especially_ if it improved usability.

                • Peter L says:

                  No need to pull your punches, I love that there’s a conversation around this topic. :)

                  1. I do mention that I do count the long-press a s an interruption but it’s still not a visual interruption which I hold as the most important one to avoid. It’s a compromise, but as I said to Viipottaja, when you have to build a notification center to an OS that did not have one in the beginning, it’s always a compromise. I feel that this compromise might be the best one.

                  2. As I said, I do understand the reasoning in your argument and it would be very interesting to try that implementation, but Start button can’t be changed to do something else than what’s expected of it. Tapping ‘Start’ can’t send you to multitasking. It would have to involve a completely new HW key.

                  • Amit Silvadasan says:

                    How about double tap on the Windows logo – Home button, to open the notification centre without the ‘black’ delay of course and tapping the ‘back’ to return to where you were. I guess that’s ergonomically perfect too when dealing with big screen phones when compared to Android where you have to slide down from top of the screen.

                    • Seth says:

                      Almost all Windows Phones use capacitive hardware buttons, and double tapping on a capacitive button isn’t even remotely intuitive.

          • Peter L says:

            “The downside is that a tablet is easier to use with side gestures because of the larger bezels, but both BB10 and Harmattan have done it before so it would be possible even WP IMHO.”

            Neither of those don’t use pivot or panorama screens as their major navigation pattern. WP revolves completely around those which makes it very tricky.

            What comes to the unconnected feeling of the multitasking, I think we’ll have to agree to disagree here. I absolutely love how it keeps the visual connection open to where you were alive by zooming out instead of jumping to a dedicated screen. My feelings are almost opposite regarding multitasking screen. I do feel that it is not particularly functional though as a task switcher but that’s a different conversation.

            I have also thought about integrating shortcuts in this idea and made some stuff around that one too but I wanted to keep this concept as simple as I can.

            • Harangue says:

              I didn’t mean that BB and Harmattan used panoramic UI, but that they used gestures from the side even with small bezels. Kind a lost in translation there.

              What does remain is that Windows 8 also uses pivot and panorama and also uses gestures from the side. The only problem in bringing it to phones is the small bezel area of phones making it harder for both a user and a touchscreen controller to determine if it is a gesture or just a scroll to the side.

              Regarding the current multitasking view. I partly agree with what you say, I do like the zooming out, but for some reason I feel the long press disconnects you from the flow. Although I must say that I only have that feeling after I started using Windows 8 more extensively.

              All in all, I’m looking forward to seeing more concepts and what MS will eventually bring.

  8. Edgar Mkrtchyan says:

    Luv this !!! i got my lumia 920 in 2 hours

  9. tris says:

    Brilliant concept, personally though id prefer not to have to press a hardware button to get to the notification centre, maybe just a swipe to the left of the home screen

  10. Viipottaja says:

    I too feel the required long press and swipe would make it too cumbersome. The upsides are it being always accessible , making people use and be more aware of the task switcher, and being able to return back to an app. Given the prominence of the home screen view, and its visual and information richness. As well as of glancability, I think swipe to left in the home and/or lock screen would be better. Getting tobit would be in most cases faster/smoother, the main downside being having to leave the current app.

    • Peter L says:

      When OS is designed without a notification center, trying to implement one later is always a compromise.

      Everyone views these things differently, but the math really does speaks against third home screen for notifications. It does that even if we disregard the fact that it would diminish the purpose of the Live Tiles, which is no doubt something that Microsoft will not like.

      For one, tapping start and swiping right is not almost at all faster than long press combined with a flick to left. Tapping Start will always play the animation sequence of Tiles flowing in their place to screen before screen responds that takes about equal amount of time as a long press of the back button does.

      Two, that implementation would involve two transitions through black screen (tap start + tap back when finished)interrupting the UX flow twice versus zero interruptions in my concept.

      There’s a third point as well but that will have to wait until my next concept.

      • Viipottaja says:

        I know and agree. For me personally, still, the long press interruption is much bigger flow/UI/UX interruption. :)

        See also my follow up comment.

      • Viipottaja says:

        And to be clear – your concept has VERY clear merits as well.

      • Tomi says:

        Then the os is a failure. People need/want it and it is not there. Implementing it after might not work at all.

        Notifications in Sailfish is the best there is.

      • nabkawe says:

        I know the swipe to the left concept has been intensivly suggested.

        but instead of that swipe leading to a notification center page

        what if its like a drawer where if you took off your fingers you’ll be back to your live tile screen , and it only shows notifications for apps that aren’t pinned . which doesn’t interfere with live tiles.

    • Viipottaja says:

      To add, the main use scenario for me at least would be to look at the notification center after having not used the phone for a little while and/or when its e.g. on the table/pocket in a meeting in a closed state. Thus the main consideration for me would be it being fairly quickly and easily accessible from the closed state (come to think of it, a long press in the volume rocker opening to it directly could be sorta neat.. ). Therefore, swipe left in the lock screen could work well. When I am actively using and looking at the phone/app, toast notifications and tones/vibrations are a reasonable already available way of staying abreast of notifications, with less of a need for the notification center being accessible at all times from everywhere/every view very quickly.

  11. Amit Silvadasan says:

    How about double tap on the Windows logo – Home button, to open the notification centre without the ‘black’ delay of course and tapping the ‘back’ to return to where you were. I guess that’s ergonomically perfect too when dealing with big screen phones when compared to Android where you have to slide down from top of the screen. :)

    • Viipottaja says:

      Could work – the problem is though introducing a new interaction paradigm/gesture that is not there anywhere else in the UI/UX paradigm. I suspect they will not go with that.

      • almar says:

        I suppose you are right…ok, how about long press on the “search” button jumps straight to the notifications? Fits the existing UI/UX paradigm, only one long press (no swipe) and doesn’t require switching previous key mappings?

        • Viipottaja says:

          Perhaps. It has the benefits you mention. What they might be (and hopefully are) is to make the long press take you to a universal search function. Also note that the long press in the lock screen currently takes you to Bing, which would need to be changed (no biggie as I suspect most people never use it or even know of it). The downside compared to Peter’s idea, I guess, is introducing a new UI view/dialogue. For me the main downside though is yet again the long press which I for some reason really dislike. Also, like I said in my comment above, for me the main use for a notification view would be checking notifications starting from a closed state. As such, swiping to the left in the lock screen would be for me, personally, the best/fastest/most useful solution (toasts and live tile updates would probably suffice in other use scenarios, for me).

  12. Weirdfisher says:

    This is an awesome concept, but if it is on the homescreen just like harmattan, it would be much more direct

  13. Doug says:

    No. Plain and simple, no. It’s a novel concept, but the fact that you have to hit the back button and then swipe over (2 things) make it less intuitive than what you all seem to hate (the swipe down).

    The swipe down is the best solution, regardless of whether or not you think it meshes with the rest of the WP8 UI. It’s simple (swipe down to see, swipe up to remove) and its accessible from ANY screen. That is THE solution.

    • Viipottaja says:

      Yeah… Only problem is the status bar, but I guess they could make it a part of the notifications view. What they should and will not do is make it permanently visible.

    • Peter L says:

      The point of this exercise was to think something new, not something that has been already suggested.

      • jrtorrents says:

        If you’re going to think of something new then it should be better or at least functional as the existing solution. Your solution is inefficient.

  14. Ham says:

    What if long press of the back button took you to the same “hyperspace” area, but instead of having to swipe to get to notifications, the screen was centred on the notification section, with the background apps still to the left of course.

  15. jrtorrents says:

    Horrible Idea!! Notification center should be accessible with just one press.. any more than that , then you’re defeating the purpose

  16. @leossoliveira says:

    Do not know yet if I would love this in Windows Phone, the impression of being if very to the concept of delivering Android doing a workaround.

    Hopefully Microsoft will not make bullshit and think very well before making a.

    What is more important than the notifications is actually the quick access buttons as exist on Android to enable/disable WiFi, data connection, screen cylinder etc. ..

    A concept for what I thought would be to pull the Live tiles for about 2 seconds down (know when it ends the tiles up there? we pull and is a black part and the tiles are half mashed) and after those 2 seconds there appeared the quick access buttons to some functions that we need.

  17. zhoulhas says:

    this is great! i want it to become real. =D

  18. Chad Richey says:

    How about a “Swipe” from the left of the screen to reveal the “Last Notification” and the a “Swipe Left and Up” for “All Notifications”

  19. Chad Richey says:

    How about a “Swipe” from the left of the screen to reveal the “Last Notification” and the a “Swipe Left and Up” for “All Notifications”…..all in an Overlay on top of the “Home Screen”.

  20. Choco22 says:

    How if long-pressing the start button will reveal the notification screen, and swipe to the left will show the task switcher. The same is applied when user long-pressing the back button, when it will trigger the task switcher, but swipe to the right will reveal the notification screen again. In the other case, while in the start screen, tapping the start button will quickly reveal the notification screen (no need for long-pressing) and another tap on the start button will show the start screen again. It can have the same UI like what is shown here. Tell-me shortcut need to be relocated to long-pressing search button though, but it maybe more suitable there according to its purpose.

  21. grs_dev says:

    Here’s a novel idea. Microsoft should just allow users to pin their Notification page on the “Me” tile to their home screen and make it resizable to large medium or small.

    Apps using the toast notification technique, then should be allowed to do 1 of 3 things, today they do 2.

    a. Swiping the toast to right = send it to notification center, an extension of how it actually works today.

    b. Swiping it to the left, would dismiss it as in, I don’t need it to hang around in the notification center just to clear it.

    c. And tapping on it would open the item as it does today.

    Voila, that should solve the problem.

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