author Marlee Hirson, Wednesday November 25, 2015

Customization is one of our main principles for designing custom mobile safety apps for different institutions. As part of this, schools control how to execute the features of their mobile safety app including how frequently they want to use their push notification capabilities. While AppArmor offers unlimited push notifications, many schools vary in how they use this feature; some use them more often than others. One of our best practices is finding the middle ground for how often your school should send out push notifications.

Push Notification Frequency

There are pros and cons on either side of the spectrum for how frequently a school chooses to send push notifications. Choosing to use push notifications on a regular basis will ensure students are connected to what’s going on around campus. It also makes them aware of the capabilities of your custom mobile safety app, as they otherwise may not be aware of push capabilities.

However, frequent usage of pushes carry some important disadvantages. For instance, students may become annoyed with receiving these notifications on a regular basis. This may deter students from using the app, may cause them to disable the notifications from the app, or may uninstall the app entirely.

Nevertheless, if schools don’t make use of push notifications, they won’t be using its capability of alerting students of threats or emergencies on campus. The push notification feature is a powerful tool that our current partner schools have used with great effectiveness during emergency situations.

An Example of Ideal Push Usage

A recent example is a lockdown that occurred this past October at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario. Students and staff were sent notifications about the lockdown through the SAFEHawk app and were updated when the lockdown was cleared – see our blog post on the topic here. This demonstrates the effectiveness of having such a capability, and why an academic institution should utilize push notifications.

Our Suggestions around Ideal Usage

It’s important to determine how often your safety team should be sending out mass notifications. Obviously if there’s a frequent outbreak of safety threats (which hopefully won’t happen), then mass notifications should be sent out. That said though, we would suggest that discretion is the better part of valor. Sending out messages with text saying “test” or otherwise providing perceived low-value information (the weather today is nice and warm!) will cause users to unsubscribe, thereby negatively affecting your ability to warn users in a real emergency.

By the same token, never using the feature is also a disservice to your users. If they don’t know that this mass notification technology exists, then they are missing a key value piece of the app. Simply put: if they don’t know this capability exists, they are less likely to download the app.

The line of too many messages versus too few is certainly a tricky one to navigate. Nevertheless, we urge you to take our advice in determining the policy around mass notifications at your institution. Talk it out, ask users, and find out what the right balance is for you. That way you’ll be in the best shape possible when a mass notification is required.

Quick Takeaway

  • Never include the word “test” when testing your push notifications
  • Don’t send push notifications too frequently
  • Don’t NOT USE your push notifications

Have you discussed the use of push notifications with your staff? Do you have a protocol for using push notifications? Have you ever used push notifications on your campus? Comment below!

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