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Can you build a complete notification system without breaking a sweat?

Hana Mohan

User notifications significantly increase engagement in social apps and productivity in business apps. Today, email notifications, web notifications, and cross-platform mobile push notifications have become the standard in user expectations. While some savvy customers want notifications sent to their Slack channels, others might want SMS notifications. Keeping customers in the loop through all the channels is a monumental task--and not one your development team’s core competency or interest.

Before Mailgun and Postmark were on the map, companies struggled with reliably delivering emails. Before Facebook Connect or Google Auth, everyone built their own authentication systems.

Not anymore. With MagicBell, nobody has to worry about building a bespoke notification system ever again.

The Complexity of Notifications

Let’s consider the most basic, cross-platform notifications setup. A system event requires a user notification(for example, if they were tagged in a comment). If you provide a web app, you’ll first need to verify the user is online before you can send them a notification in-app. If they are offline, you’ll need to push the notification via email. (You can push the notification through both channels, but we believe this practice to be less effective).

If you also offer a mobile app, you may send them a push notification, but then you should remember to remove it if your user sees it on another channel. To get an idea of just how complex notification systems can get, take a look at this flow chart that Slack, which offers a visual of heir notifications logic:

Slack’s notifications logic, thanks to Slack

And that’s just the very basic notifications. What if you would like your users to act on notifications, send them a digest version, or offer other channels like Slack or SMS? Then things get even more complex. And you want to split test your notification, or analytics on the effectiveness of your notifications on user engagement, you’re going to have to build out even more pathways.

The Secret World of Notification Mismanagement

A lot of companies build a notification system but barely have time to maintain or improve it. Notifications are not just fired and forgotten. You need to worry about deliverability and giving your users subscription options and troubleshooting help.  An additional concern is the management of notification preferences; you’ll need to build a screen where they can select how and when they want to be notified and about what. Finally, there’s security. Most don’t have any debugging or customer support infrastructure around notifications and end up just hoping for the best.

Introducing MagicBell

There’s a silver lining. These implementation patterns are highly similar across products and companies and render themselves well to a SaaS service.

We have been thinking about this problem for many years in SupportBee and finally decided we were the ones to solve it.

We introduce our solution: MagicBell.

Your Email Notifications, Supercharged!

One more thing. Apps and services almost always offer email notifications. MagicBell re-uses your email notifications to give your users a notification center, automagically. All you have to do is BCC: your email notifications to a project-specific magic email address, and we do the rest! MagicBell sorts emails and understands who the notification is for, what the title of the notification is, and where it should direct the user.

All of this behavior is customizable in under than 5 mins: BCC emails in postfix with just one line of config change, and embed our widget in your site. To customize the notifications, simply send us some custom email headers.

For more intelligent delivery, send us the email notifications via SMTP and let us worry about notification preferences, and smart delivery to the right channels, including email.

MagicBell is currently delivering over a million notifications a month for some great products. I invite you to give it a try for your app or service. Please signup for an account or book a demo.

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