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Website Push Notifications in 2018

Wednesday 17 January 2018
Users are becoming increasingly used to receiving push notifications on their mobile device. For instance they might ask their weather app to let them know if bad weather is on the way. One of my favourite uses for such a notification is the Rain Today app which monitors rain radars and alerts me if it is going to rain in the next hour. Such notifications are popular with users because they benefit from the alert and they are extremely popular with the company providing the service because it increases user engagement by makes their app more "sticky".

Although push notifications have been around for a long time on many platforms they have not been native to the web. Until now that is. Chrome 50 and Firefox 44 now both have push notification functionality built. This means that 2018 should see many more sites using this technology as developers use push and notification APIs to allow their sites to re-engage with users that opt into receiving customised content.

One of the appeals to both users and developers of this feature is that a user will receive a notification even if they are not currently viewing the website that will notify them.

A major challenge that push notifications will bring is that they may be used irresponsibly by companies. We all hate email spam and I am sure we will detest push spam at least as much. The balance will need to be stuck by only providing users with timely, concise and relevant notifications. Developers need to ask themselves if the user's need is important enough to warrant interrupting them. They should also ensure that they only send notifications to users that have subscribed to them.

A good example might be notifying a user if they have abandoned their basket on an eCommerce site. When the African company Jumia did this they saw a nine times increase in checking out abandoned baskets. That works for the customer and for the company. Other good examples of using push notifications would be alerting the user that their flight is delayed or that their self driving car has arrived.

The first self driving cars might not be arriving at your door in 2018 but push notifications will be.