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What are Push Notifications?

 , May 14, 2018
Push notifications are messages that are sent from a service to a user without the user making a request.


A website sends a user a notification in their browser each time they publish a new article.
An ecommerce app sends mobile phone users coupons on a daily basis.
A stock trading app sends a user a notification of price changes in stocks the user is following.
An instant messaging app pushes new messages to your phone so that you receive messages right away.

Push vs Pull

A push originates from a service such that a user or client doesn't request anything. For example, a sports app might inform you of sports scores all day as they become available.
A pull is a user or client request for information. For example, opening a sports app to view sports scores.

Functionality vs Engagement

Some push notifications are useful to the functionality of an app or service. For example, people expect that an instant messaging app will deliver messages right away.
Other push notifications are designed to increase user engagement or to promote products and services. In other words, many push notifications do not improve the functionality of an app but are intended to entice you to open the app and/or buy something.

Push Notifications vs In-app Notifications

A push notification can be sent when the sending app is not open. An in-app notification is a message to a user inside an open app.

Opt-in vs Opt-out

Notifications heavily impact user experience. They also may contain marketing messages. As such, platforms may require that each user opt-in to push notifications before they can be sent from a particular app or website.
Platforms such as a web browser or mobile phone also typically allow users to turn off notifications. Platforms greatly benefit from notifications as it keeps users engaged. As such, they don't necessarily make this easy. For example, many platforms don't allow you to turn off all notifications for all apps with a single click. Similarly, web browsers may prompt you about notifications for every site you visit with no easy-to-find option to turn this behavior off.

Notification Filters

Mobile devices may offer notification filters that allow users to select the types of notifications they want to receive. For example, a notification filter may allow you to turn off marketing offers such as coupons.

Information Diet

Push notifications can greatly influence an individual's information diet and productivity. For example, a student sits down to study but checks social media first. They remain on social media for 10 minutes but then close the app to study. Five minutes later, they receive a push notification that a friend commented on their post and they return to the app for 10 minutes.
Overview: Push Notifications
DefinitionInformation that is sent from a service to a client without the client making a request.
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