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How to Use In App Notifications in Mobile Application Design

Want to create a seamless user experience? Learn how to use in app notifications in mobile application design

Written by RamotionApr 24, 202316 min read

Last updated: Feb 21, 2024

Defining in-app notiofications

Let’s talk about what in app notifications are and how they differ from mobile push notifications

It is an essential feature for app creators as they allow them to keep their users engaged and informed about important updates within the app. They are designed to keep users engaged with the app by providing personalized notifications based on their actions within the app.

In app notifications can be customized to appear in different ways, such as pop-ups, and can be timed to appear at specific moments during the user’s interaction with the app.

Mobile in app messages are notifications that are delivered within a mobile app, inform users of important updates. These notifications appear within the app itself and are designed to capture the user’s attention. And messages encourage them to engage with the app more frequently.

When using the application, the modals/pop-ups presented to the user within the application are in app messages. After the in app message is displayed, the in app targets must take action. In this case, the user cannot continue with the in app messaging flow without interacting with the in app message. They cannot simply close the in app message. Sometimes, it is even impossible to use the application without interacting with the in app messaging. For example, when the application requires a system update, it is impossible to proceed without it. Moreover, in app notifications will only appear when the user has an open app.

It is one of the most useful actions in terms of directing and assisting target users. However, in app notifications can be disruptive when used frequently and may not only fail to engage but also potentially drive away and fail to retain users.

For example, a mobile banking app might use in app notifications to alert users to suspicious account activity, non transactional messages or transactional messages while a social media app might use them to new friend requests or messages.

The purpose of mobile in app messages is to provide users with timely and relevant information about the application, encourage them to take specific actions, or prompt them to engage with the app more frequently. They can also help improve user experience by providing important information or updates directly within the app.

Mobile in app notifications can be valuable for engaging users and improving their overall experience with the app. The user experience should be at the highest level at every point of the mobile application. That’s why good mobile app designers should pay attention to this.

Comparison of in app notifications to push notifications

While both types of notifications can be effective in keeping users engaged with the app, in app messages are often preferred because they provide a seamless user experience.

In app and push notifications are both ways for mobile apps to communicate with app users, but there are some key differences.

In app notifications are messages that appear within the app itself. In app notifications are used to provide information or updates about the app, such as new features, or promotions while they are actively using the app.

Push notification is a more recognizable alert for inactive users. It is the retain push notifications that users receive on their mobile devices when they are not using the application. Unlike app launches, in app notifications require users to access the application to view the details of the notification. Push notifications can also be used to remind users to come back to the app, such as by sending a notification about such messages as a limited-time promotion or a new feature.

  • Timing: In app notifications are delivered while the user is actively using the app, while push notifications can be delivered at any time, even when the user is not using the app.
  • Attention: In app messaging are more likely to capture the user’s attention since they appear while the user is already engaged with the app. Push notifications may be less noticeable, especially if the user is not actively using their device rather than in app messaging. However, most users tend to reopen the app on their mobile devices less frequently after downloading it. Considering this, the push notification is effective in app marketing tool.
  • Frequency: In app messaging is used for more frequent updates and alerts, while push notifications may be used more sparingly to avoid overwhelming the user with too many notifications. It can be annoying to display ads using in app messaging in mobile apps where revenue comes from displaying ads. Push notifications are aimed at users who are not actively using the application, while in app notifications are aimed at the active users. The frequent use of push notifications can make users lose interest. After a while, notifications can be perceived as spam.

In app notifications may be more effective for delivering updates while the user is using the app, while push notifications may be better for reminding users to return to the app or providing time-sensitive information.

Types of In App Notifications

In app notifications can be classified into different categories in mobile design. However, in general, they can be classified as follows:

  • Modals
  • Tooltips
  • Notifications

What’s important is being able to guide users inside to take the right action using a strong design. In app notifications can be used based on design decisions, without necessarily adhering to a specific category or classification.

Examples of each in app notifications type

1. Gather NPS (Net Promoter Score)

These are notifications used to query customer loyalty and obtain information on this subject. NPS can be used to understand customers’ opinions about a product or service and to improve the quality of the product.

For example, if an application sends a notification about new feature announcements, NPS can be used to measure whether this notification improves the customer experience or not. If the notification increases customer satisfaction, the NPS will also be high. Alternatively, asking the user if they are satisfied with the application can also provide an NPS metric.

2. A/B Test Marketing Messages

Message delivery can be compared through A/B testing, which is a technique utilized to evaluate the effectiveness of distinct marketing messages. It is possible to conduct A/B tests using in app messaging. In app notifications can be used to increase the effectiveness of A/B testing. A/B testing can be used to determine which titles, body texts, CTA buttons, and designs have a higher click-through rate.

3. Onboard new users

Onboarding users can be very advantageous. Through in app notifications, users can complete the necessary steps in the app when they start using it. Onboarding will guide users.

4. Suggest additional features

Additional feature announcements stand out when users like the application. To show that there is more in the application, additional features can be presented along with notifications.

5. Prompt users to update the app

Your applications may require updates sometimes. Even if you have updated the application in the store, users continue to use the version on their devices. Staying up to date is the preferred option. Therefore, users are encouraged to update their applications and install the new version.

6. Prompt new users to enable push notifications

In addition to in app notifications, push notifications are also important because they are necessary to reach new users again when they exit the application. Otherwise, there is a high chance that the new user will not return.

7. Product tours for onboarding new users

Some applications that involve complex processes provide users with some training after onboarding. They train users with a “do-it-yourself” concept. The in app tour is also included in the in app notification list for the new user. Providing a checklist or task list to new users is also an effective method that can be used with in app notifications.

8. Smart tips for highlighting new or popular features

Applications can offer smart tips based on user actions. For example, a food delivery app can offer a discount on the second item. After the user adds the first item to the cart, an in app notification can show the discount to the user. Special promotions are features that users like.

When to use each type

To choose between in app notifications and push notifications, factors such as the purpose of the targeted message and the target audience’s app usage habits should be taken into consideration.

If you have an important notification for users, you can prefer an in app notification. Make sure that this notification is really important, as it will be shown as a full message on the user’s screen. Because the user cannot ignore this and move on without taking any action.

If you want to grab users’ attention when they are not actively using your app, you can use push notifications. If you notice that a user is not frequently accessing your app, it makes sense to send a push notification as a reminder. However, use both methods carefully, as excessive use can cause discomfort and lead to app abandonment by users.

To summarize, in app notifications are used to grab the user’s attention, prompt action, or provide information within the application, while push notifications are used to instantly communicate relevant information.

Benefits of In App Notifications

Advantages of using in app notifications

1. Higher engagement

In app notifications can help increase user engagement with your app by providing timely and relevant information. By providing notifications that are specific to the user’s actions within the app, you can increase their interest in using the app more frequently.

2. Improved user experience

In app notifications can provide a seamless experience for users by keeping them within the app while still delivering important information. This can help prevent users from becoming frustrated with having to leave the app to receive notifications.

3. Personalization

In app notifications can be tailored to the user’s preferences and the user’s behavior within the app. This can help make the notifications more relevant to the user, and increase their engagement with the app.

4. Flexibility

In app notifications can be customized to appear in different ways, such as banners or pop-ups, and can be timed to appear at specific moments during the user’s interaction with the app. This flexibility can help ensure that the notifications are not disruptive to the user’s experience.

5. Increased user retention

By using in app notifications to deliver valuable content, you can help increase user retention and encourage them to continue using the app.

How in app notifications can improve user engagement and retention

In app notifications can be a powerful tool for increasing user engagement. By delivering relevant and timely information to users, in app notifications can encourage users to interact with your app more frequently and for longer periods.

Here are a few ways that in app notifications can help increase engagement, but to truly maximize their impact, consider using an in app message combined with personalized content to engaging user experience:

Timely and relevant information

In app notifications can deliver timely and relevant information to users based on their actions. For example, if a user adds an item to their shopping cart but does not complete the purchase, a notification can be sent to remind them to finish the transaction. By providing this type of personalized information, in app notifications can help users feel more engaged with the app and more likely to complete desired actions.

Provides opportunities for user interaction

In app notifications can provide opportunities for users to interact with the app in new ways. For example, a fitness app can show an in app notification to remind users to complete their daily workouts or to congratulate them on meeting their goals with a card modal. These types of notifications provide users with a sense of accomplishment and encourage them to continue using the app.

Overall, in app notifications can help increase engagement with your app by providing timely and relevant information and providing opportunities for interaction. By using in app notifications effectively, you can create a more engaging experience for users, leading to increased usage and retention.

In App Notification Best Practices


1. Personalized notifications

Users are more likely to engage with notifications that are relevant to their usage history. By addressing users by their name and including specific information, such as their purchase history, user’s current location, or preferences, you can personalize the notification and make it more meaningful. For example, platforms like Spotify and YouTube provide more specific information about the user. It is more sensible to act accordingly.

2. Provide value

The notification should provide value to the user. This can be in the form of promotions, useful information, or features that are relevant to the user’s interests. The notification should make the user’s experience with the app more enjoyable or productive.

3. Keep it short and simple

Notifications should be concise and easy to read. Lengthy notifications may distract the user. A clear, concise message is more likely to be read.

4. Be timely

Notifications should be sent at a time that is appropriate for the user. Sending a notification at a time when the user is most active in the app, or when they are most likely to need the information, can increase engagement and value. For example, it is not logical to send a “rate the app” notification to a user who has just downloaded the app.

5. Provide clear calls to action

The notification should indicate what the user needs to do to take advantage of the information or feature launches presented. This can be a link to a specific screen or a call to action that prompts the user to take an action within the app.


1. Overwhelm users with notifications

Too many notifications can be overwhelming and reduce the user’s engagement with the app. Users may disable notifications or even uninstall the app if they receive too many notifications.

2. Be intrusive

Notifications should not interrupt the user during critical moments, such as when they are on a phone call or using another app. This can be frustrating to the user and negatively impact their experience with the app.

3. Use vague or misleading notifications

The notification’s title and content should accurately reflect the information or feature that the user will see when they click on it. Vague or misleading notifications can lead to confusion and frustration.

4. Be insensitive

Notifications that are related to sensitive personal information or triggering events can be insensitive. Notifications should be sensitive to the user’s needs and feelings.

5. Lack of personalization

Generic notifications that do not take into account the user’s interests or usage history can reduce engagement and result in users ignoring future notifications. Personalization is key to making the notification relevant and valuable.

Best practices for creating effective in app notifications

Define clear objectives

Define clear objectives and goals before creating in app notifications. What action do you want the user to take? What information or feature do you want to promote? How does the notification fit into the user journey? Defining clear objectives will help you create a focused and effective notification.

Personalize the notification

Use data on the user behavior, preferences, and usage history to tailor the notification to their needs and interests. Address the user by their name, use relevant information, and provide content or promotions that are specific to them. By personalizing the notification, you can make it more relevant and valuable to the user.

Use a clear and concise message

Notifications should be short, simple, and easy to understand. Use clear and concise language to communicate the information or feature presented. Avoid using jargon or technical terms that may be unfamiliar to the user. Use bullet points or other formatting techniques to make the message scannable and easy to read.

Provide value

Notifications should provide value to the user by offering useful information, features, or promotions. Consider what will be most valuable to the user and tailor the notification accordingly. If the notification doesn’t offer any value, it’s better not to send it at all. By providing value, you can increase the user’s engagement with the app and create a positive experience.

Use appropriate timing

Timing is crucial for effective notifications. Consider when the user is most likely to engage with the notification and send it at the appropriate time. For example, if the notification is related to a time-sensitive promotion, send it when the user is most likely to make a purchase. Avoid sending notifications during critical moments, such as when the user is on a phone call or using another app.

Use clear calls to action

The notification should include a clear call to action that prompts the user to take action. This could be a button to a specific screen within the app, or a prompt to take a specific action. The call to action should be easy to understand and follow. Make it clear what the user needs to do to take advantage of the information or feature presented. Resources such as the Human Interface Guidelines and Material Design touch on this topic.

Test and iterate

Test different in app messages, formats, and timing to see what works best. Use data to evaluate the effectiveness of your notifications and make improvements as needed. By testing and iterating, you can create notifications that engaging for your users.


The use of in app notifications in mobile app designs provides a user-friendly design. After understanding what in app notifications are and their examples, you can use them in your designs. It is important to note that the use of in app notifications is critical because careless use can even lead to the user leaving the mobile application.

Look at it from the user’s perspective and empathize. Take inspiration from the mobile applications you frequently use. Small details will take your application one step further.

In this article, you learned what in app notification is and how it can effectively engage users. When designing mobile applications, there are numerous opportunities to grab the user’s attention, and one effective method is through in-app notifications. These notifications can be used as a mobile app messaging idea to convey important information or prompt user action. You may want to use the knowledge gained here to integrate in app notifications into your new or existing mobile app.

To sum up, send personalized notifications, only provide important information, make sure your notifications are timely, understandable, and most importantly, provide value to the user.