On iOS badges and information density

June 14, 2015

Invariably, every time I post a screenshot of my iOS homescreen to Twitter, the @replies roll in fast and furious regarding the badges on many of my icons. The comments range from “Wow, how can you stand all those badges?!”, to “Wow, you’re so behind on x, you should just give up!”. Nonsense, all of them.

Justin is 100% correct here, as far as I’m concerned. It’s common in tech circles to routinely publish our iOS homescreens (not sure why), and I too receive my fair share of, “How can you handle all of those notifications?”

My response: how can you not? I turn on all push notifications and all badges by default; in fact, I actively search for alternatives if a certain app doesn’t allow badges (Overcast, I’m looking at you.) For RSS, Pocket, Drafts, etc., badges allow me to always know how much is left in a queue of information consumption. For social networks, they let me know if someone has interacted with me. For productivity apps like Due and Omnifocus/Todoist, they let me know what needs to get done. I even enable badges for whatever calendar app I’m currently using so I can know the date without having to swipe or tap more than necessary. Unlike Justin, I even enable badges and push notifications for email, because my daily influx of email is less overwhelming than his, and I like to stay on top of it all.

It seems weird to a lot of nerds, probably because most nerds are very aesthetics-focused individuals (at least in tech-centric fields.) Their homescreens are designed to be pretty, clean, and organized—something nice to look at. Many turn off all badges by default just to keep their homescreen “clean.” To me, this is a tragic waste of space and resources. As Justin says, “The iPhone is a beautiful tool, but a tool nonetheless.”