Proceedings: GI 2018

Control and Personalization:Younger versus Older Users’ Experience of Notifications

Izabelle Janzen (University of British Columbia), Francesco Vitale (University of British Columbia), Joanna McGrenere (University of British Columbia)

Proceedings of Graphics Interface 2018: Toronto, Ontario, 8-11 May 2018, 138 - 145

DOI 10.20380/GI2018.19

  • BibTex

    author = {Janzen, Izabelle and Vitale, Francesco and McGrenere, Joanna},
    title = {Control and Personalization:Younger versus Older Users’ Experience of Notifications},
    booktitle = {Proceedings of Graphics Interface 2018},
    series = {GI 2018},
    year = {2018},
    isbn = {978-0-9947868-3-8},
    location = {Toronto, Ontario},
    pages = {138 -- 145},
    numpages = {8},
    doi = {10.20380/GI2018.19},
    publisher = {Canadian Human-Computer Communications Society / Soci{\'e}t{\'e} canadienne du dialogue humain-machine},
    keywords = {Notifications, Universal Usability, Older Adults, Personalization},


With the increasing ubiquity of mobile technology, users are more connected than ever. Notifications facilitate prompt connections to friends, family and work, but also distract us from what we're doing. We investigated how older and younger users thought about, interacted with, and personalized their notifications. We took a qualitative approach, conducting semi-structured interviews primed through a notification categorization activity. We interviewed 20 participants with equal numbers of younger (19-30 years old) and older (48-74) adults. We extend and refine previous qualitative work and show that while enjoyment plays a minor role in the experience of notifications, urgency, directness and social closeness are far more important factors, though context remains a nuanced issue. We found that older users especially desired a sense of control over their notifications that was difficult to achieve with current technology. Lastly, we provide information about what “categories” of notifications users perceive and expand how that can be used in new personalization systems. These results lead us to advocate a number of fundamental changes to how notifications are personalized.