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12 Steps to Mastering iOS Push Notifications

12 Steps to Mastering iOS Push Notifications

There are a range of features in iOS around push notifications, but choosing what to use with your particular app can be hard. While good documentation exists for each individual feature, it can be daunting to try to get a handle on all that is accessible and useful. Take into account each of these characteristics and how they could fit into your app.

All here refers to both remote and local alerts, although it could be very different in some situations how you execute them between the two.

Alert Title, Subtitle, and Body

Alerts can also be viewed as words which are synonymous. Notifications can take many forms, technically speaking: sounds, badges, and attachments, to name a few. Alerts are the text form of the message which one can display for few seconds at top of the screen on the lock screen, in the Notification Center, and if the system is activated.

Alerts initially consisted of a single area of “body”. Apple has however, incorporated title and subtitle fields in the last few years. Such additions allow you to construct an information hierarchy that makes warnings more digestible. Throughout the day, most users receive several warnings. You not only set yourself apart by enhancing the structure of your warnings, but also make it easy for the user to grasp the information quickly rather than miss it.

If you sell an Android app, only the title and text areas, but no subtitles, are shown. A subText field exists, technically speaking, but its location is too inconsistent to rely on between Android versions. We suggest that you map your iOS title and subtitle fields to the Android title and text fields, respectively.

It is important to remember that while the body field can wrap up several lines, if they reach a single line of text, the title and subtitle will be clipped. Not only does the body field wrap into several lines, but if by long pressing, the user extends the alert, he or she sees even more text. This makes it OK to add as much text as you want from your body.

Bear in mind, too that the body region is still needed. An warning that contains only a title and a subtitle can not be moved. Subtitles are not authorized without names either. Categorizing warnings into three categories of content makes sense


The moment a notification arrives, audio signals can also be used. iOS has one built-in notification sound. Set your sound to “default” to use it. Bundle your own unique notification tone with your software to spice things up. Bear in mind that when you submit to the App Store, they must be included in your app bundle. After the fact, no additional sounds can be added. If a device is silent when you submit to the App Store.

Create a unique sound that subtly links to your brand for your product. If your app is a budgeting app, it may make sense to ring a cash register. Use a bird chirp if you are supplying a Twitter customer. Even if there is no particular sound that links to your brand, it is always a good idea to add a unique sound, both so that the user can detect it without opening his or her smartphone


These are also referred to as “unread counts,” as the numbers on the home screen on the app icon. They draw users in by visually reminding them of something new awaits. They may have missed an alert, or it makes sense to increase the number of badges instead of issuing an alert so that the user can explore it at his or her convenience in some cases.

With your badges, be conservative. Although some users are programmed not to see the red counters on their phone, others tend to frequently clear them (if your app continuously adds to its unread count, but the user doesn’t care about it, he or she will eventually disable your app alerts or more likely, completely uninstall your app.

Make it simple and clear to find unread content and how to clear it If the app is opened by a user and unread content is not instantly apparent, add breadcrumbs to the content. There is also built-in support for badges in the device tab bar, so if unread content is a few layers deep, include a badge at each stage. Of course, if content is relevant enough to be included in the main app badge, do not make it possible to include content in the main app badge

Note that on other devices users will also read content. This is particularly important if your app has a companion web app that your users can access from a computer. Submit a silent push notification to refresh your badge count in this situation.


Alerts may contain attachments, new in recent years. This is most usually a photo, but audio and video are also supported. These appear next to an alert as thumbnails. Users can see the full-size photo or be able to play audio or video files when you extend the alert.

This is a powerful way to ensure that the messages stand out by helping people to interpret the message even quicker. For example, with their delivery notifications, Amazon uses product images. This is a great feature if you receive notifications for products you have completely forgotten that you have ordered

Custom Content Extensions

When long pressed or force touched, notifications use a default device content view. In this view, more body text is shown and attachments are displayed at full size. Apps can include a personalized content view extension. In a cleaner interface, you can choose to display the same information or show even more information that is not in the original alert. For example, the weekly Screen Time update includes

In content extensions, you have quite a bit of flexibility. Have extra information downloaded and added to what’s in the payload of the notification. With your extension, also use background fetch to pre-cache content (more on that in a moment).

Deep Linking and Custom Actions

The app opens when a user clicks on a notification. Apps get a callback during this activity and an opportunity to respond. Make sure you’re deeply linked to the content of the notification. Don’t leave the user wondering where they should go next, just as with badges. If the content is already available, consider refreshing it as it is likely to show new data.

Additional actions can be applied to the alerts. Opening the app is known to be the default action, but you may add buttons leading to an action in the background or opening the app at a particular position or action.

Voicemail alerts, for example, involve ‘callback’ behavior that open the phone app and initiate a call. “Delete message” functions without the app being opened and is perfect for messages being processed quickly. If the voicemail message is tapped, the voicemail tab opens with the phone app and that particular voicemail is played.

Text input is one especially special action. A text area above the keyboard is applied to this. This enables users of the chat app to respond to a message straight from the notification.

Notification Threads

By default, in the Notification Core, iOS combines all the alerts for an app into a single line. This helps to keep things organized for users who have loads of alerts. You also have the option, however to build more threads for your alerts. For example, a thread for each conversation is generated by the Messages app. They are grouped by conversation rather than having messages from two separate group chats mixed together. Users can extend each one to see each notification, or if, say, they are in an excessively loud group chat that they are not involved in they can clear the whole thread at once.

Hidden Preview Placeholder

By hiding notification information when a device is closed, iOS provides an extra level of privacy for users. This function is optional, but for Face ID phones it is on by default. “X Notifications” will be displayed by secret alerts by default. We can make this nicer and add more specifics without revealing private information. For example, “X Messages” may be displayed by a messaging app. Other apps can have several types of alerts and display “X Comments” or “X Posts” instead Such summaries do not reveal the notification material, but tell a user more context.

Updating Alerts

A notification is often sent, but before a user has a chance to read it, it becomes stale. It could be a quick typo fix or a real-time update of a game score. You can refresh the Notification Center alerts after they have been sent by re-sending them with the same identifier. The message will not be shown again but the Notification Center and the lock screen will be quietly changed. This means that you still feel new and up to date with your app.

Using this identifier for any notification is good practice, even if you don’t expect it to be modified. There is no drawback, and it prevents you when there is, say, a bug in your push notification server from unintended duplicate alerts.

Notifications can be totally deleted, too. This is most frequently activated when before receiving a notification, the user is already viewing the content. When the notification ceases to be important, it also comes in handy. For example, a ride-sharing app might remove the notification of the driver arriving once the ride starts. The Focus app prompts users to get back to work after a break, but the reminder is disabled as soon as a new focus session is opened, also from another device.

Show Notifications When Your App Is Open

By default, the user is not shown anything if an app is open when a notification arrives. The presumption is that the message itself will be handled by your app and assess how to better inform the user that something has happened. You can use your own custom UI for this but if the app was locked, a convenient alternative is to make iOS display the usual device warning it would have displayed.

Regardless of your UI option, display the notification only if the user is not actively looking at the notification’s linked content. For example if the user is talking back and forth with someone in a conversation, instead of enabling a warning to pop up new messages should appear in the chat view. It’s still a good idea to play a sound, but you might suggest something more subtle. On the other side, if it’s linked to another discussion that’s not currently available, a warning can popup

Background Fetch

Imagine that you get a notification with important content that is well formatted and draws your attention. You decide that you’ll open it. The app handles the default action and explicitly connects you to the content with deep links. All you see, however is a spinner for loading. You actually see the content you just previewed in the update after a couple of seconds.

Wouldn’t it be much easier if the content could be instantly seen by a user? That kind of magic is not possible most of the time. But with notifications, when the notification first arrives, it is possible to retrieve and cache information. When the app is opened by a user, either through the notification itself or directly, it can be made instantly accessible to him or her. At that point, you may also have the content refreshed to make sure that everything is up to date.

Requesting Permission

You need to seek permission from the user before you can do something about notifications. Don’t automatically make this appeal. Users do not want to be prompted immediately after installing an app for notification authorization. They are likely to test your app and are not yet sure if value will be given by your alerts. This is important since iOS only makes it possible to make this request once. The only way to turn them on if the user refuses is for the user to go to the settings and activate it manually. For this purpose, when alerts have been shut off (either from the permission prompt or later in the settings), you can include a fallback state, including a link and instructions to allow them again.

Fortunately, there are also different approvals for push alerts and user notifications. So while without user permission, you can’t display an alarm, play a sound, or add a badge, you can send silent alerts, which can be helpful while your app is open or in the background to fetch content.

Even better, you can request what’s called “provisional authorization” from iOS 12. The user would not be asked for approval in this situation. Sounds will not play, but badges will appear in the Notification Center and the lock screen, and warnings will be shown. At that point, iOS will ask if your users interact with those quiet notifications if they want to continue receiving them and allow full notification permissions. This is a perfect way of making it easier for users to receive updates while they are new to your app.

Author Bio:

Eric has helped start-ups and small businesses sell, unique concepts with best-of-breed HTML/CSS, JS, Python, and C# bits, most recently as a technical consultant for software creation.He currently works with mobile app development company dubai.

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