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What is a Toast Notification?

What is a Toast Notification?

Design Process
6 min read

The success of any software hinges on user experience, often misunderstood as mere aesthetics. In reality, UX design revolves around enhancing usability and user-friendliness. Toast notifications play a vital role in providing brief and timely updates, alerts, or confirmations without causing significant disruption to the user's workflow.

As a UI/UX design agency with various projects in its portfolio (Shuffle, Voxe, QTalent, to mention a few), Arounda will share answers to the following questions: What are toast notifications? When and where to use them? Also, you will learn about best practices and recommended sizing.

What Is a Toast Notification?

So, what are toast notifications Windows 10? Let's find out.

A toast notification is a user interface element that typically appears as a small popup with text, an image, or a button.

They are suitable for conveying information that doesn't demand much user attention. These messages can be absorbed quickly without disrupting the user's workflow. They appear briefly on the screen and do not necessitate any action unless the user chooses to dismiss them or take the actions they suggest.

When to Use Toast Notifications?

Toast notifications should not be the primary method for all types of notifications. They are generally time-bound and disappear quickly, which makes them less suitable for critical or persistent alerts. For more important notifications, use banners or alerts.

Appropriate Scenarios for Toasts

Toasts are commonly used to notify users for:

  • Incoming messages. This is particularly prevalent in messaging apps, where a brief notification informs users about a new message without disrupting their current activity.
  • Singular status updates. They inform users about the completion of an action or a change in the application's state. Toast notifications are intended to confirm concisely that an action has started (status: good) or concluded, accompanied by the relevant status icon (good, warning, critical). 

As a status update, a toast can signal:

  • Error. Indicates that an action was completed, but system-related issues prevented it from being executed.
  • Warning. Alerts the user that they cannot complete an action due to external factors, like permissions, that may not be immediately fixable.
  • Success. Indicates successful completion or execution of an action.
  • Additional information available after a user completes an action.

Where Toasts Should Not Be Used

Avoid using toast notifications for:

  • Time-sensitive information requiring immediate user awareness or action. Time-critical updates should be communicated through more attention-grabbing mechanisms.
  • Information demanding a user response or input. Instead, opt for notifications that explicitly guide users on the necessary actions.
  • Batch updates or a collection of information. Too many toasts can overwhelm users and lead to notification fatigue.
  • Notifications during a user performing an action or when modal dialogs are open. If a toast attempts to appear during a modal interaction, it will be dropped.
  • Messages signaling an ongoing process. Reserve them for conveying the initiation or completion of a process. 

While toast notifications can be valuable, use them sparingly. Overuse can lead to annoyance and may make your app seem amateurish.

Where to Place Toast Notifications

Let's consider the rules that will help you make toast notifications effective for the user:

  • For optimal visibility and minimal interference, place toast notifications at either the top-center or top-right of the screen. However, consider that top-right placements may negatively impact screen magnifier users.
  • The choice of placement depends on the use case and the type of information. Different platforms may adopt distinct approaches. For example, Windows and Mac follow the Law of Proximity, situating toasts near their status bars.
  • If badging is implemented, position toasts underneath it. This maintains a logical and organized visual hierarchy.
  • Toasts should never obscure critical information or primary action elements. Ensure they appear in non-intrusive areas to prevent hindrance to essential user interactions.
  • As we’ve mentioned, toasts should not be displayed when a user is within a modal or wizard interface. These interfaces typically demand attention, and toasts may distract users from the primary content.

Get the Right Size

The size of a toast notification is influenced by the length of the content and internal padding. It should be prominent without disrupting the user's workflow. A common practice for desktop applications is to limit a toast max-width to around 350-400px to ensure readability and aesthetic balance.

Toasts may include an inline link when appropriate, allowing users to navigate to relevant content directly from the notification. Limit notification text to 1–2 sentences or a maximum of two lines.

Best Practices

Here are the best practices for using toast notifications:

Make Toasts Informative and Valuable

Design toast notifications with clear intent, ensuring users quickly understand the purpose without disrupting their workflow. Align them with user scenarios, tailoring elements to each scenario to provide valuable information or enable efficient task completion.

Choose the Right UI Elements

  • Color coding and the use of icons can enhance the effectiveness of toast notifications. For example, an error message might be displayed in red, while a success message could be in green. Icons can quickly communicate the nature of the message, whether it's an error, information, success, or a warning.
  • Include buttons in a notification to allow users to respond to a message, confirm an action, or dismiss the notification.
  • Images enhance content comprehension and recognition.
  • Add quick reply boxes to a chat notification, allowing users to respond without leaving the current context.
  • Add a context menu button in a group chat notification, providing options like muting the chat for a specific duration.
  • Use a progress bar in a notification for tasks such as file downloads or game updates, indicating the completion status.

Avoid Noise

Notifications should not be noisy or intrusive. Otherwise, users easily get overwhelmed and frustrated with too much information. Consider incorporating a Notification Center where users can access comprehensive information about tasks, asynchronous events, or alerts. This provides a centralized location for users to review notifications at their convenience. Keep the Notification Center tidy by clearing out old notifications. 

Respond to User Intent

Design notification behavior to respond to the user's intent deliberately and consistently. Actions triggered by clicking on the notification or its elements should engage the user in clear tasks or scenarios:

  • Clicking on the notification launches the app in the notification's context.
  • Clicking on a button within the notification launches the app in a context appropriate for the button's action.
  • Background tasks, such as quick replies, should not launch the app.

Simple Close

All toasts should feature a close "x" icon button for manual dismissal even if they auto-dismiss (typically after 3-5 seconds).

Final Word

Toast notification's ability to provide information without disrupting the user's workflow enhances overall user experience and engagement. They are crucial in keeping users informed and connected with the dynamic app activities.

Now you know why your application needs toast notifications and what to consider when placing them. Navigate these solutions solo or partner with Arounda, an experienced UI/UX design agency. It doesn't matter whether you are a promising startup or an established enterprise. Our team of professionals is here to deliver a successful project.


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