Lock Screen Notifications Redesign

Reimagining lock screen notification interactions for Samsung phones
ProblemHighlightsResearchDesign goalIdeationSolutionUse casesEvaluation
About the case study

Background: This case study was a part of Samsung-IUB Design Jam organized at my school by Raymond Liang and the Samsung UX team. We were asked to reimagine the Home/App/Lock screen of our smartphones. While we were all involved in all aspects, I took the lead on managing the team, conducting user research, assessing Samsung's and Android's latest UI, and developing the new feature and designs.

Client: UX Design team @Samsung

Duration: 3 weeks

Team: Kevin Vu, Utkarsha Joshi, Shriyash Shete

My Role: Lead Designer & Project Manager


As a designer working on the operating system, challenge the current state of Home/App/Lock screens and come up with concepts that show your vision on how our native digital citizens will interact with our mobile devices differently.

Samsung Lock Screen Notifications
— Priority-based curation

With the "Prioritize" feature in the Notification Settings, the operating system organizes lock screen notifications based on users' priority and provides more control to users. This allows users to read and digest information more easily.

No more distractions and clutter —

Users can see the notifications as they arrive with the category they belong to. By default, they won't see any badges for unread notifications. This mitigates the unnecessary urge to clear off every badge and also, keeps the lock screen clean.

— Pin what matters the most

Priority option allows users to decide and pin the notifications within each category that are most important to them.

Change the priority for each app easily —

Users can quickly decide which notifications should be alerting and which should be silent. With just a swipe, they can move notifications between these two categories.

Notifications and digital wellbeing
We receive push notifications from all apps. Notifications on the lock screen are powerful triggers to evoke user engagement. With notifications, the users can scan the information quickly and decide whether to interact with it or not without unlocking the phone. Users want up to date information and every app wants to provide it to them. Win-win model! However, if notifications are not managed appropriately, users experience unnecessary distractions and sometimes information overload, which leads to mental health issues and becomes detrimental to their wellbeing.

With the sense of empathy, we took this opportunity to dive deeper into the world of digital wellbeing and decided to improve the lock screen notification experience for our native digital citizens.
Understanding the users
To validate our assumptions about the notifications, we conducted 6 quick interviews of Samsung users. We asked them some questions about their notification experience to learn:

1. Which notifications are the most valuable to users?
2. What do they like about the notifications?
3. What do they not like about the notifications?
4. What changes have they made to the phone to improve their digital well-being?
5. What additional changes would make the notification system valuable to users?

Our goal was to understand how users interact with the current notifications system and how they digest information communicated with notifications.
Key Findings
Users struggle to manage notifications on the lock screen. They often feel overwhelmed, distracted and helpless by the number of notifications received each day. As users continue to add new apps, they keep getting additional notifications.
Pain point #1: Ambiguity with the notifications options

‘Icons only’ option in settings does not allow users to see any information without unlocking the phone. ‘Details’ option provides detailed information only for the few latest notifications.

“I feel like I’m missing out on the important information. So I keep notifications on but I can’t view them on the lock screen like the iPhone...”
Icons only view
Details view
Pain point #2: Tedious notification settings

Controlling every app’s notifications individually through the settings panel is a very tedious process.

“That’s way too many options...I wish I could control them easily”
Too many options leads to indecision. (Hick's law)
Pain point #3: Dilemma with information consumption

Users get overwhelmed with notifications. But, on the other hand, they have a fear of missing out after turning them off completely.

“That day I got so frustrated and turned off all WhatsApp notifications. But it didn’t help. Because it couldn’t turn off my anticipation for the messages for too long...”
Too much information
No information
Considering new Samsung and Android features
We explored a wide range of valuable digital wellbeing features that Samsung currently offers to make sure that we are not repeating them with our designs. However, we couldn’t find any solution addressing the experience with notifications.
Some of the adjacent features we found are:
Bixby Routines
According to Samsung, "Bixby Routines is a feature bolstered by machine learning to adapt to your life, suggesting ways to make your phone time more streamlined. The automated actions are triggered by context clues: location, time, or event. You also have the option to create a custom routine that meets your individual needs."
Sorted notifications with Android 11
Android 11 has recently revealed categorized notifications in the notifications panel. However, they are not connected with the notifications on the lock screen. We thought that leveraging this feature for Samsung phone's lock screen along with Bixby routines notifications could be an interesting opportunity.
Thus, there’s potential to improve the lock screen notification system to accommodate new features and supplement the existing ones.
Also, we anticipated that Bixby Routines will bring an additional set of notifications to communicate the reminders, phone status and suggestions to users. And we assumed that these notifications will have highest priority because users are setting it up manually for their personal goals and wellbeing.
Reframing the problem
How might we reorganize lock screen notifications to help users quickly prioritize, control and consume information without losing their sanity?
Exemplar curation
I analyzed and took inspiration from Google's post box experiment, Gmail's categorization, Android 11 notification update, SooHo Choi’s concept of iOS notifications.

Also, to familiarize ourselves with the space, we first studied Samsung's notification system. We found that the Android OS implementation changes with the smartphone brand. Hence, we specifically reviewed Samsung’s One UI design patterns and evaluated the mobile UI. We learned about the swipe, long press and touch interactions with notifications. Also, we discovered some existing features for notifications such as instant reply, clear, manage, stack, history, silent and snooze. After that, we probed the lock screen settings menu and quick settings (notification panel) menu.

Exploring different concepts

Concept 1
Notifications Grid

• Innovative layout
• larger box size = more no. of notifications
• Cannot read the actual content
• Does not help with prioritization and control

Concept 2
AI/ML based reminders

• Assistance with decluttering
• Provides different options to select from
• Remedial solution
• Does not address the information overload problem

Concept 3
Priority-based categorization

• More control to users
• Better prioritization
• More organized information
• Seamless integration with new features
• More time-consuming to build

Let's meet Emily.
Now let's see how Emily interacts with lock screen notifications
Emily updates her phone and discovers some changes to her lock screen notifications. She now sees a clear break down of the notifications with four categories based on her priorities.
High-fidelity designs
Reorganized notifications
Emily is used to the ‘icons only’ view on her lock screen. So, she feels comfortable looking at these new priority-based categories with a familiar visual style. There are no badges or numbers, so she doesn’t feel overwhelmed or distracted.
1. Bixby Routines
The first thing she sees is her tasks set for the day. She likes to follow her plan, and since work-life balance is her highest priority, she can quickly get to what’s most important to her.
2. Conversations
She struggles to manage her conversations with people across multiple platforms. Emily doesn’t want important messages to go unnoticed. The Conversations tab helps her avoid unnecessary delays in communication.
3. Alerting notifications
In her free time, Emily likes to review the notifications that are important but did not require immediate attention. Alerting notifications are grouped together based on apps. She can prioritize when and what to read first within the long scrollable list.
4. Silent notifications
The lowest priority notifications are the silent notifications which are system generated or promotional. She can quickly scan them at her leisure and clear them by swiping left or right individually or by pressing ‘clear all’.
Emily is happy because this is tailored to her goals and reduces mental effort.
Interaction Use Cases
1. How would Emily know which category the latest notification went into?
Design decision: The latest notification appears with a small black dot below the icons, indicating the category it belongs to. After a few seconds, it goes back to default.
2. How would it be displayed if there are no notifications in all four categories?
Design decision: Clear all option for each category. No icons when there are no notifications. Icon appears with the first notification to minimize clutter. So icon indicates that there are notifications inside.
3. How would Emily prioritize and control a notification  within a category?
Design decision: Users can prioritize their conversations by pinning them to the top of the category.
4. How would Emily prioritize and control notifications  between  the categories?
Design decision: Users can change alerting notifications to silent without having to go through the settings menu.
How could we measure success?
Though it was out of the project scope and measuring success for all micro-interactions would be difficult, I used Google's HEART Framework and suggested below metrics to understand the impact of this feature.

Thank you for reading!

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