The notification system is one of the key components to Google and Google+, as it not only keeps you informed of social signals and activity on your Google+ profile and posts, but it’s also pervasive throughout the Google world. Whether you’re on Google Maps, Google Play or even YouTube, if you’re signed in, somewhere in the upper right corner you’ll see your name, a button to share to Google+, and your notification icon. On Google+ and on most Google products, it now looks like this:
The most obvious change is that instead of a simple numeric indication of notifications, there’s now a bell icon with a superimposed numeric indicator. Long-time plussers may not think this is a big deal, but it’s part of a larger effort by Google to standardize iconification. As you adjust settings for Circles or Communities, you’ll notice that the notifications settings are indicated by the same bell icon. This should help new Google+ users as they get acclimated to the system.
I do find it somewhat ironic that we continue to see the same skeuomorphic design that Apple has been so criticized for. When was the last time a teacher rang a handbell to notify students it was time to return to class?
Once you click on the notification icon, the notification window pops up like we’re used to, but that’s been tweaked as well. Each notification now has it’s own card, and new cards have a kind of fly in effect when you first open the window.
The first thing I noticed was a new icon in the upper right of the notification window. It’s a “Mark all as read” button and it clued me in to some additional changes. Clicking it will mark all your notifications as read and they will appear somewhat dimmed.
And now, your notifications are grouped into New and Previously Read. If you view them all or mark them all as read, all of your notifications will appear below Previously Read and a cute All Caught Up smiley face appears.
One incredibly critical improvement is that we’re no longer limited to a set number of notifications. You can continue to scroll through your notifications, read or otherwise. Previously, after just a few notifications, you’d have to click the View All Notifications button which took you to a new page that showed you all of the posts for which there were notifications – not the notifications themselves. So you’d have to scroll through the posts and try to guess which ones needed your attention and which ones, perhaps, were just +1’s.
If you view your notifications window, the notifications numeric indicator will reset. Even if you don’t act on any of the new notifications, the numeric indicator will not count again until you get another notification. Those notifications that you saw in your window but didn’t act on will remain listed there among your new notifications until you click on them or mark them all as read. This, too, is a great change because I know that I’m not the only one who felt like once I looked at a notification, I would need to act on it right away, or risk “losing” it. Perhaps someone mentioned me and I would normally thank them for that. Even if I’m in the middle of something and was just glancing at my notifications, I would need to take the time to thank them right then, because an hour later that notification would have been buried. Not any more. Now, we can leave key notifications alone until we’re ready to address them, and rest assured they’ll still be there waiting for us.
One final note is that when you’re looking at Google+ notifications, you’ll see thumbnail profile pics for any people involved to the left, their name(s) along the top, followed by the action that was taken (+1’s, mentions, shares, comments, invitations). Along the bottom of each notification is space for some text. This is where the first line of text that you wrote on a particular post will be displayed. If you want to have any hope of understanding what you’re getting notifications for, take my advice and title your posts. Of course there will be times when you’re just passing something along and for whatever reason, you aren’t interested in taking the time to write any thoughts of your own. And that’s perfectly OK once in a while. But please get away from doing that habitually. Take the time to put your own commentary onto posts. And if you’re sharing your own blog posts or content, this is a critical and non-negotiable step. You must add your own comments and introduction to your shares to get readers interested, and I recommend putting an actual title on it and using the * symbols around the title to make it *bold*. That way, when you look at your notifications, you’ll know what they’re for! (And your followers will enjoy your posts even more.)
If you look at the screenshot above, you’ll see my first notification is that someone +1’d one of my posts, and you can tell just by looking at it that it was a post I titled, “Google+ Powers the First 24-hour Virtual Conference.”
The new Google+ Notifications work for all browsers and should be active now for all people and pages. Check them out, and let me know what you think! And if you’d like further help with Google+, including coaching on how and what to post, please contact me.