IoT Notifications: Beep Beep, Blink Blink

While working on a Smart Device IoT project at Fat Cat Labs I had an interesting conversation with another Interaction Designer/Engineer. The Designer had worked on several large-scale hardware and electronics products in the past; the products ranged from electronic music interfaces to security devices. In our conversation we discussed the difference between helpful and delightful notifications and the annoying and ineffective ones.

We agreed that it’s essential for notifications to prevent errors and avoid delivering redundant information. As soon as devices start shooting off false positives & negatives, we become desensitized to the notification, and lose faith in the device. Furthermore, we’re typically much more critical of devices than we are even of fellow humans. For example, despite the fact that weather forecasters only get the weather right around 20% of the time on 10-day forecasts, it doesn’t bother us to have them try to predict it; we enjoy other elements of their presentation so much that it outweighs frustrations about inaccurate forecasts.

It’s a tough challenge and I’ve been thinking about it in the context of my Umbrella Light project… Do I make a notification that goes off from #1 From motion detection, #2 From the pressure switch, or #3 Always On- notify whenever it’s recommended to take an umbrella? You know what, it’s easy enough to just test them all out and that’s what I plan to do.

At the end of the day, we need to create notifications that “just work”. Timing, sounds, context, these things all matter when it comes to figuring this out- it’s actually a very human-centered endeavor. After all, if I’m expecting someone to interact with an electronic device over interacting with actual people, it better be a more enjoyable experience!