In January 2020, PJ McLachlan, a Product Manager at Google, announced that Chrome would be getting a quieter permissions UI for notifications. If you’re not familiar with notifications, they are the dialogue boxes that slide down from the top of a page that ask you if you want to get site notifications. To make them disappear, you must accept or reject it.
While notifications can be useful for web apps like messaging, calendars, and email clients, they are often used on publisher sites which typically have a very low notification acceptance rate. Google sees this as a problem and they want to fix it.
Unfortunately, notifications are also a common complaint as many websites request the notification permission on the first visit rather than at contextually relevant moments in the user’s journey. Unsolicited permission requests interrupt the user’s workflow and result in a bad user experience.
The quieter permissions UI is now available in Chrome 80, but Google is taking the initiative a step further. As of Feb 11, 2020, Google is adding the notification choices that visitors make to the Chrome User Experience Report (CrUX), and making it accessible to site owners via its BigQuery tool.
The notification permission data that CrUX is storing in its dataset includes Allow, Block, Dismiss, and Ignore.
- The user explicitly allows the website to show them notifications.
- The user has explicitly disallowed the website from showing them notifications.
- The user closes the permission prompt without any explicit response. Tab close counts as a dismiss. On mobile, tab switch also counts as a dismiss action, and the quiet UI has an explicit user dismiss option.
- The user does not interact with the prompt at all. Navigation events also count as an ignore, such as the back button or navigation using the omnibox.
The goal is to bring awareness to sites that have a low acceptance rate. Google wants these sites to rectify the problem by following their recommended patterns for notifications. Those patterns include:
- not prompting the user, avoiding modal overlays, and not interrupting the browsing experience
- giving the user an option on the page, like a toggle or button
- only providing the option when it would be useful to the user
Since most publishers still use techniques that interrupt the browsing experience and are unlikely to stop, Google will be using the CrUX data to automatically suppress notification requests if a site has a high block rate. McLachlan explained that
when a user clicks Block, the user has sent a clear message that they are not interested in receiving the site’s notification, not just at that moment, but at any time.
Publishers should take note that the developer article stated that
Block rate is also a strong signal. As I noted my Google Webmaster Conference recap,
CrUX is a bigger deal than you think. It’s possible that Google Search may use this signal as a ranking factor. Although, at this point that’s just conjecture.