I designed a notification center that is going to be releasing next week on our community. I looked across several social networks (including Dribbble) for reference, and was able to create a notification system I think best serves our needs.
One of the challenges: To avoid 4 icons in the main bar, I put our private messaging system into the notification drop down. So if you get a private message you will get a notification that "Someone just messaged you...". Then we will also maintain a number count of "Unread messages" and a link to the inbox in the top right where it says "Inbox (5)".
The fuzzy area is that when you get any notification, the orange number appears (Facebook style) over the icon. Once you click it the number goes away. But we keep a persistent number of Unread Messages next to the inbox link. So a scenario could be: Since you last visited, Jake followed you, Brian mentioned you, and James sent you a message. The orange number would be 3, then the number would disappear on click, and James' message would be added to the total count of unread messages - Inbox(5). That number would only go down if you clicked through and read the message. So, not sure its a perfect system, but private messages are rarely used in our community, so we will test it and evaluate the performance. What you think?
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