Product Manager, Reteno
September 6, 2022
One of the ways to stand out among the numerous apps is to enable app icon badges. You’ve probably seen them but just didn’t know their name.
So, let’s take a closer look and answer the following questions:
An app icon badge appears on the upper right-hand corner of the app’s logo and has the form of a small colored circle. It tells the user that there are unread text messages or notifications, urging them to open the app. In reality, a badge can mean many other things – it depends on what designers decide to put in it.
On most phones (iPhone and Android devices), badges are red dots. On some systems, they can be blue. Badges can appear with or without an accompanying push notification. Again, it depends on who designs them.
Inside the badge circle, you generally see a number in white text – this is the notification count. It represents the number of messages for a given user. The count can highlight unread alerts, notifications, updates, content reminders, news feed cards, and other in-app features.
The icon badge of a mail app shows the number of emails – this is simple. But in most applications, the badge number is the sum of all notifications. For example, in the screenshot below, the app badge for Twitter represents the number of notifications for new tweets, replies, retweets, and direct messages.
Icon badges are incredibly intuitive. They make the app appear active and dynamic without saying anything specific. They’re eye-catching, require minimal effort, and serve as a perfect complementary tool for other mobile marketing activities. Moreover, this is the only way to tell people about new messages if they dismiss notifications.
The power of push notifications comes from their ability to dynamically change the way people interact with your app. Yes, they will still use the app on an as-needed basis. But on top of it, notifications and badges artificially create instances when users “need” to use the app. These tools create a channel that you can control, which many other retention tools can’t do. Notification dots on icons are especially useful if you are launching or promoting a messaging app.
There is a good chance that your app will be part of the user’s “inbox cleanup” habit. This is a practice of tidying up one’s apps and reducing the number of messages. So, a red circle on top of a mobile app icon can encourage users to open the app and read the active notification. Otherwise, they will feel that they left something unfinished.
Badges can make users feel that they might be missing out on something good, and they won’t find out what it is until they open the app. It may be discounts, loyalty bonus points, calendar reminders, or new content. You can also take advantage of FOMO to achieve high levels of engagement on social media.
Here is how you can get the total value of notification badges.
Once a badge steers excitement, the app itself needs to pick it up. The number must be clearly tied to something in the app – a message inbox, news feed, or in-app event landing page. Think at the design stage about what it will be.
As we mentioned above, badges can mean different things (new messages, updates, alerts, and so on). Allow people to choose types of notifications, which use icon badges.
However, avoid forcing users into a complex clearing process: if the user no longer needs to be notified, the red dot should not be there.
Without a mobile marketing strategy in place, badging will lack focus and possibly fail to hit your user engagement goals.
Display badges in a way that helps your other marketing efforts. For example, if you are trying to increase your daily active users, schedule your content releases with badges.
Although badges are unobtrusive, keep the badge count low because big numbers may scare people. Of course, it is dependent on the application type. Having numerous unread messages is normal for chats and email clients but it’s strange for banking, budgeting, and some other apps. In this case, double-digit notifications make users think that something is wrong with their expenses.
Thus, our advice is to decide at the developing stage how many notifications can be shown.
These two tools often work in tandem but you should be careful in order to avoid being annoying. Don’t draw users’ attention with both pushes and badges every time: it’s preferable to send a push notification periodically to remind users about unread messages. However, if it’s an important notification, of course, you can utilize several tools simultaneously. Develop a certain strategy and follow it.
As we said above, the use of icon badges highly depends on the kind of application. Let’s take a look at popular solutions.
Users can form psychological connections with your app if they see clear value in it. People want to receive helpful alerts, as evident from Google’s survey (source: Mobile app marketing trends and mobile landscape). The same is true for badges, too. As long as users trust you to be helpful, they’ll be excited to see the red alert and will act on it.
Speaking of concrete examples, we would like to cite several companies.
One of the most common bad practices for icon badges is having too many of them. 27% of users cite this as a reason to abandon an app (source: Mobile app marketing trends and mobile landscape). So, if your badge number is growing into triple digits, you may need to rethink them.
You can also turn users away if they can’t understand what the badge represents. If they haven’t received any messages, there are no updates, but the badge is there, users will see it as an annoying distraction. Badges that don’t go away have the same effect – for users, they seem pointless, frustrating, and misleading.
It’s important for the badge to make sense for the app category, too. For example, app icon badges make little sense for clocks and other alarms, navigation apps, media controls, and digital media processing.
So, we found out that little dots on the user's home screen is a way to force the person to check out the latest updates and complete certain things. But what about users who find this feature annoying, intrusive, and bothersome? The answer is simple: they can just disable app icon badges. It’s quite easy to do.
Let’s consider the instruction for Samsung phones with Android 11 or 12.
If your Samsung is running Android 10 and older, also go to notification settings and toggle off “App icon badges” without opening any additional menu.
Mobile devices feature different launchers, so the place of the switch may vary. The alternative instructions look as follows:
Usually, the icon badge displays the maximum number of received notifications. If you don’t wish to completely disable this feature but want to make icon badges more aesthetic, you can turn them into small circles without digits. An interesting fact: the effect on a person from such a stripped-down badge app icon is fairly similar to the “traditional” one.
To hide the number of unread messages on Samsung with Android 11 or 12, open settings, tap “Notifications”, “Advanced settings”, and then press “App icon badges” (not its toggle). You’ll see several different notification settings – number or dot. Choose the second option. In Android 8 and 9, this item is called “Show without number”.
Smartphones have become a crucial part of our life: an average user interact with his mobile device 2617 times a day. Nevertheless, some people are bothered by multiple notifications. To reduce the number of distractions, such users can mute their phones and turn off pop-up notifications from individual apps. Small dots will inform about new messages.
In order to view notifications in a quick way (on app icons after touching and holding them), Samsung users can activate the feature “Notifications on app icons”. It’s placed in the “App icon badges” section.
Another useful opportunity is to disable badges only for certain apps. Just pinch the necessary app's icon, tap on the “i” (info) button (see the screenshot below), open “Notifications”, and then deactivate the “Icon indicators” toggle. Here, users can also turn off all ongoing notifications of the application.
Apple users also can easily turn off notification dots. If you’re among them, find the settings icon and, after a tap on it, open “Notifications”. In this section, disable badges for each required application. If you wish to deactivate all notifications for certain iPhone apps, toggle off “Allow Notifications”. Moreover, you can choose notifications displayed in different places (Lock Screen, Notification Centre, Banners). It allows users to significantly decrease the level of distraction and chances of impulse interaction with an unnecessary app.
In order to hide all badges at the same time, use the “Do Not Disturb” mode. You won’t receive any notification.
The wish to disable some badges is understandable: if the person doesn’t use a particular app, the red circle, which doesn’t disappear with time, is extremely irritating.
Not many people can comfortably ignore unread notifications. And anyone who has ever felt the urge to instantly click on an unread message notification understands how effective badges can be. As a brand owner, designer, marketer, or anyone else trying to capture value from app users, you can make badges work in your favor.
Consider app badges a part of the larger mobile marketing campaign. You won’t get the results you desire from badges alone, but alongside other promotional efforts, they will draw users in.
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