Cookie Jar App  Heuristic Evaluation & Push Notifications Research

UI/UX Internship Case Study (2021)

I was a UI/UX design & research intern for the social media platform, Cookie Jar, for 8 weeks in summer 2021. The mission of Cookie Jar is aiming to steer away from curated feeds and staged photos — and move towards a more mindful, personal, and genuine way to share our memories with our loved ones.

During the internship period, I was responsible for evaluationg the heuristics of the uploading interfaces, conducting user A/B testing for push notifications of the app, and participating in the interface design process.

Timeline: July - August 2021

Heuristic Evaluations
For the heuristic evaluations, we evaluated the user flow of the upload section. Some of the points we have covered include:
  • Creating darker colored action buttons since the background is in a lighter shade of gradient color. 
  • Rephrasing the header phrases to make them more clear to the users.
  • For the background color, since the orange shade is quite light and has made the white font harder to see, we discussed about the potential color change. We suggested that a darker shade of orange or purple would be more optimal for the color contrast between the font and background.

Push Notification system

The issue: 
    Users looking to escape the toxicity and addictiveness of social media can be overwhelmed by push notifications, so how can Cookie Jar get users to continue using our app without the addiction or annoyance that comes from social apps' notifications?
Why do we need push notifications?
1. Highlights from the app, like coupons or news
2. Important info
3. Reminders
4. A new activity, like friends sharing a new moment with the users
What we need to watch out:
  • We need users’ permission before you can send them to push notifications
  • A blank default request doesn’t give any info about the value your app provides or why users should give us permission - make them feel good about this decision
  • Need to provide context before asking permission
  • DO NOT ask the first time they open the app
  • Possibly let the user choose when, what, and how often they’ll be notified.
Target audience:
    Our main users range between teenagers and young adults/professionals. These people are working or studying for a majority of the day.

Verbiage & Personalization
  • The character count that fits in a push notification accounts for around 10 words, so there’s little room to get their attention while motivating them to react to your notification
  • Adding a call-to-action like “slide for more info”, “have a look”, “share”, or “read more” helps
  • Personalized push notifications are 4 times more likely to be opened
  • Let users think that the message is just for them - you’re only interested in the individual user
  • Don’t make it general enough that it looks like it was sent to everyone
  • Try to personalize the messages by looking at user journeys, or send transactional push notifications - behaviorally triggered notifications are 9 times more likely to be opened
  • Users responded significantly more to notifications that included an image or an emoji compared to standard notifications 

User Behavior:

  • NOT when users are sleeping - need to take into account that different users are in different time zones
  • Around 8 pm seems to be the peak for the most user activity
  • Utilize the 8 pm to 10 pm slot (peak time for entertainment apps)
  • Also, consider persona-based time determination
How many?
  • Any time there is something shared there should be a notification, since limiting that wouldn’t make sense - users would want to know when a friend interacted with their profile!
  • Although, users may experience stress from receiving notifications all the time
  • If notifications say the same thing, send it sparingly. If they are unique and varied content, the app can send push more frequently.
Where to?
  • When users open the notification, they NEED to be taken to the right page or part of the app
  • Users will be incredibly annoyed if the notification takes them to the main screen or a completely unrelated one
If there is urgent info:
  • If something very important happens during the night, the app can send it out earlier during the day (10 AM - 1 PM)
  • But make sure that the info the app think is urgent would also be considered so by the users

Common mistakes:
  • Asking users to enable notifications in the initial launch
  • Neglecting to tell users what info notifications will contain
  • Sending burst notifications - ie a bunch of our messages at once
  • Sharing irrelevant content
  • Making it difficult to turn off notifications
  • Ignoring time zones
  • No testing and optimization
  • No personalization

  • Duplicate notification in the app if the user forgot to read it or couldn’t see the whole message
  • Clear the red circle (badges) on the corner of the app by having a user simply open it - don’t make them tap around to get rid of it
  • - Test notifications with a user testing group - A/B testing would work as well

Push notification examples: 

The writings on the examples shown on left are straightforward & no emojis. They show the user handles who interact with the owner directly/indirectly. The writings are short and concise, serving as an activity alert/update to the users.

The writings are seem as if the app is chatting directly/ having a conversation with the users. This makes the users feel more related and closer to the app in a personal level.

The writings give users a sense of anticipation towards certain rewards/upcoming events.

The use of emojis in the writing adds a bit of fun to the writing so it doesn’t seem as pushy/wordy.


A/B Testing
In order to gain insight into what notifications our users would be most likely to engage with, we developed a test script to compare several sets of notifications. We tested 15 people in total, 5 people per set of notifications.

User’s choice

What we found:
  • Notifications that are unclear or wishy-washy are less likely to be engaged with
  • Notifications that are forceful or pressure users are less likely to be engaged with
  • Too generic of phrasing does not incentivize users to engage
  • Notifications that were too wordy/cluttered were disliked by users
  • Emojis can help, but they need to fit the context of the notification