With the growing level of mental health disorder being linked to the addiction of mobile devices in the world and our environment and the total level of distraction, anxiety, depression and impulsivity that comes with it, even when we seek and want peace of mind, we still can’t find it because of how we are connected to the social media world. This project is targeted at finding a solution to pop-up notifications on mobile devices to give users the freedom to choose.
In this section is information gathered over the stipulated period of my project phase, this simply show’s how I go about my research on the subject matter of notifications on mental health, depression and anxiety.
I am most passionate about this project because it was born out of a problem I encountered and I know a lot of people encounter it too, the problem was the ability to focus on a particular subject matter for a specific period of time, the problem was the incessant popping up of notifications on devices which are sometimes unwarranted and also affects our level of focus at that particular point in time.
It would be argued that even after turning off notifications on devices, we tend to forget that it has been done and it might make a person lose important information’s / notification in the process but at the same time, we could also argue that continuous notification might have an adverse effect on the mental health of a person.
My research is to prove how much effect incessant pop-up notifications have on an individual, how it has been solved by big corporations and how I can solve it.
Notifications are an awesome invention that reminds us of the important things of life and sometimes, what isn’t, it makes us aware of the latest happenings, gist, and friends — family or relatives chats, it gives us a continuous loop of awareness, makes us become informed of the latest trend and with the adverse in technology, we get instant pop-up notifications based on where we have been, our interests on social media, what we recently viewed, what we tried viewing but couldn’t because of network failure in the case of Google Chrome on mobile, It is one of the most wondrous things invented, we are never left without the latest update.
What do notifications really do?
A notification is a message that a device displays outside your app’s UI to provide the user with reminders, communication from other people, or other timely information from your app. Users can tap the notification to open the app or take an action directly from the notification.
Effects of notifications on mental health
A study on smartphone addiction in 2017 found that notifications can alter your brain chemistry, creating an imbalance in your brain, the study also showed a link between smartphone use and anxiety, depression and impulsivity. In addition, your notifications constantly being on can cause a pattern called ‘switch cost’ which is when an interruption such as a notification distracts our attention from a task. By HABIBA KATSHA from her article ‘In defence of turning off all your notifications’
According to an article by Dr Sonal, a psychiatrist with Wockhardt Hospitals, he noted that
Addiction to a phone is what most people and parents fear and for good reasons. This constant bombardment of information makes the brain less focused on the task at hand and makes us prone to a variety of mental health issues. Anxiety and depression, being stress-prone are known effects of prolonged use of the phone.
Dr Sonal further explains, “Suicidal behaviour due to prolonged and continuous phone usage has also been observed. Being anxious about phone notifications is a worrying trend. Fear of missing out (FOMO) can really keep you on edge and make you constantly keep an eye on notifications. Phantom vibrations are experienced by many people. These mysterious tricks that the brain plays make us check our phones unnecessarily and find mistaken sensations from the phone.”
According to Dr Sonal, the best way to solve this problem is by turning off our phone notifications, he stated that ‘turning off phone notifications makes us focus on what is important
The researchers opined that Push notifications for incoming messages were strongly linked to smartphone addiction, lack of concentration, distraction and task performance. Smartphone notification exerts a negative influence on cognitive function and concentration.
Kims’ investigated the effects of push notifications on the formation of habits for mobile app use and found that increasing the number of push notifications produced a greater frequency of app visits. These results suggest an effect of push notifications on media habit formation.
In this case study, it has been established that push / Pop-up notifications have an adverse effect on the user’s mental health, concentration and cognitive function.
One of the new things I have currently learnt while working on this case study is the fact that Pop up notifications also lead to phone addiction and the way we perform at work.
In further studies, it might be possible to identify other problems that come up with pop-up notifications and some of those problems might be
Does it change the way we think and react to situations?
Does it change the chemicals in our brain to react instantly?
Does it alter the way we have been brought up over time?
Does it change the way we make friends and influence people?
Does it change the way we add value to the community?
I believe there is a long list of the Negative and Positives’ of the pop-up notifications.
User Story Creation
Desktop (website, tab & mobile view)
It is unbearable when we are 100% fixated on a problem that we are about solving and then this pop up comes with that irritating sound that says, ‘Hey I am here again to bug you, kindly reply to the pending messages’ and then we don’t even have a choice than to reply to the notifications, this cuts productivity by a lot and science has proven that it affects the length of our concentration, the worst part is that by the time we come back to solving the initial problem, we won’t be as motivated as we were when we started. Notifications are not bad, in my research, I found out how good it is but the long-term effect is what is dangerous.
Loctify is here to solve that problem, help users concentrate and bring back the beauty of reaching an exceptional level of focus and concentration. Loctify gives the users the ability to regain their mental health and sanity by cutting pop-up notification to the barest minimum and the most important things.
About Project Loctify
Loctify helps keep the distraction that comes with pop-up notifications at bay, it helps the user lock away notification for a period of time and when the time elapses, the notifications come up. It is a timer for notifications, a lock for notifications, and a silencer for notifications.
Going into the project
Going into the project, I have had an instance of major distractions but I still wanted to find out if it’s a general problem or a problem that is only peculiar to me. This inspired me to read multiple published articles by psychologist and doctors who also have an idea or two about notification adding to the addictiveness of the users of mobile gadgets.
The target audience for this project is separated into 3 categories, to maximise my finding and break it down to the barest minimum so anyone can digest what the information means.
The social media junkie
The private person
The older person
Segmenting the target users into 3 (Three) would give me a broader scope into what each user factors into their day-to-day activity and the type of content they consume.
Users would rather leave the notifications than schedule them for later.
Users are social media savvy, they can silence notifications directly from their phones.
Users are not so technologically advanced to solve this problem on their own.
Users are overwhelmed, frustrated and distracted by the myriad of information they get on a daily.
To the social media savvy person, it’s what keeps me going, it doesn’t get exhausting.
Insights from the interview
I used Google form to collect data from participants and also, I had a one-on-one interview with a few friends to get insight into what they think about pop-up notifications.
Below is the breakdown of what my research uncovered.
I had a total of 9 responders.
Responders use more of the smartphone as their primary gadget
Responders use their smartphone regularly
The average number of social platforms responders visit daily is 4
The frequency at which users get notifications on their phone is almost every second because of their frequent activities on social media platforms.
What majority of the responders think about notifications is that it is ‘Annoying’ some of the responders were indifferent about it and a little set of the data collected are Ok with notifications
55.6% of our responders selected NO that they don’t prefer the incessant notifications they get while 44.4% responded to MAYBE
Responders were asked a repeated question on why they don’t like notification and they maintained that it was
Some of the responders even went further to say that ‘It reduces battery life’ which is something the research has just uncovered.
66.7% of responders confirmed that they have been distracted by pop-up notifications on their phones while 22.2% of responders haven’t been distracted by a pop-up notification
From the data above, approving one of our hypotheses which states that ‘Users are overwhelmed, frustrated and distracted by the myriad of information they get on a daily.
One responder admitted that the distraction caused a lack of concentration.
According to the feedback, a larger number of the responders have never deactivated their notifications, while some of the responders only deactivate notifications when it is time to focus, while others when it’s disturbing / distracting from their primary task for the day.
87.5% of responders have never used a third-party app to control notifications
77.8% of responders believe that pop-up notification has a way of distracting, this goes against the 22.2% of users who believe that they don’t get distracted. Just a fraction of 11.1% of the responders believes that notifications are not a distraction.
I was watchful to quickly identify what users think and what they do so we don’t compromise our research, this made me realise that we might not have enough data to understand the adverse effect of pop-up notifications on user’s mental health.
44.4% of the responders believe that pop-up notification has an adverse effect on their mental health while 55.6% of responders believe that it doesn’t
77.8% of responders would like to try out an application that can help them keep notifications in control.
During this phase of the project, I explored different style just to come up with an amazing feel and look of the product, it was exciting knowing that I can create concepts from scratch to a real product.
Deactivate app notification
Deactivate app notification from the top bar
View details of the notification
Create a group of application e.g. (Social, Finance) etc
Deactivate group notification (High priority notification)
Schedule notification time
What I learnt
This project was started with a problem I encountered while I was working on a project where I was continuously distracted by my pop-up notifications, it got me thinking that if I cannot control myself from being distracted by the notifications from my gadgets, is there a way to build a tool that can effectively and efficiently help me tackle that problem for a long period.
One school of thought is confident that pop-up notifications are a necessity and it helps them keep up to date of the recent happenings, recent sales, keep track of customers’ needs and wants and so much more especially for small and medium scale enterprises, even though they are sometimes overwhelmed by the actions that come with the frequent update but are willing to risk it.
While another school of thought finds it un-interesting with the level of details they have to consume at a single go, even when they visit websites like youtube, or notifications from chrome and applications that are recently installed, telling them one or two things happening with the application ‘I still get bombarded with unnecessary notifications that are not even of help’ said one participant. It is important to note that some of the information gathered specify how truly some users find notification / pop-up notifications dissatisfactory to their mental health.
Understanding the psychological and mental effect pop-up notifications and mobile gadgets have on people was really an eye-opener, in general, the effect it has on people needs to be looked into immediately, it has gotten so deep that most users are not even aware that it is directly affecting them. It goes to clarify that users need to take more conscious effort to tackle the level of information they consume and also the level of notification they receive.
What I didn’t know venturing into the project
What I didn’t know venturing into the project was the scope of the problem statement and how it has made me even more aware and conscious of my immediate environment, my gadget and the information I consume daily that directly affects my pattern of thinking and also the effect of pop-up notifications on my mental health.
This project was very exciting to work on as it helped me understand better what details I need to focus on and also pushed my product design skills, it also helped Improve and tested my UX Skills, UX Research skills, Interface design skills, presentations skills, wireframing skills and my user interaction skills.
I hope this project interesting and enlighten enough to understand the effect of pop-up notifications and also how you can find ways or patterns to challenge your addiction.
Hi, I am Chinedu and I believe that Good design shouldn’t lose the human feel, good design should be accessible, good design should be human-centred, good design is simple in nature but yet powerful. I make awesome pixels that make life easier for the average human, follow me on Twitter to continue the conversation. You can also check out more of my work on my portfolio.