To email or not to email. That is the question
- Popping up messages from within the application: Instead of the application sending an email, it can popup a message for you, on your desktop. That way, you will be instantly informed of important updates as long as you are logged on to the application. Of course, some would see this as a drawback – why do I have to be logged in the application to see the notifications that I’m supposed to? That way, I will probably lose some important update that requires immediate action exactly because I was not logged in. On the other hand, how often is there an automated email that requires your immediate attention? How often is it just a derail from what you’ve already been doing? Popup messages are a good alternative because you receive notification if you are already working in the same context and that notification will probably not be undesired. For example, if you are working on your accounting, it is not out of context to be asked to provide an approval for an invoice payment. If you are reviewing staff records on your HR, it is not a derailment to be asked to review one more applications for leave of absence and so on.
- I am ready to admit that there is no golden rule to decide for each process whether email or popups are the best solution for each case and that’s why I’d like to see each user having the option to select between “email” and “popup” for each kind of notification that his/her applications support. Imagine a kind of control center where the user would see all the available notifications that the application has to offer and beside each, a selection between “email” and “popup”.
- Ability to “mute” notifications: Regardless of the debate of email vs popup message, I would find it very useful if users could set themselves “unavailable” for automated notifications, email or any other kind. That way, one could temporarily isolate oneself, when there is some important work to be done and does not wish any interruptions. Notifications of any kind can be set on hold and released to the users when they make themselves available again. Emails will come pouring in and popups will fill their desktops; only this time the user will have allocated the time to read through and process each of them, without being pushed to act immediately, without experiencing that annoying every-ten-minute notification and consequently without raising his/her anxiety levels. Because that is what it is all about: repeated interruptions prevent you from devoting yourself to the task at hand and therefore making your work more difficult, making you less productive and, at the end of the day, raising anxiety levels.