According to the report “Email Newsletter Usability: 165 Design Guidelines for Newsletter Subscription, Content, Account Maintenance, and RSS News Feeds Based on Usability Studies” by the Nielsen Norman Group, a firm that helps companies develop customer-centered strategies and processes, individuals have stronger reactions to e-mail newsletters than they do to Web sites.
For one thing, e-newsletters are more personal than Web sites because they arrive in recipients’ inboxes. They also have a social aspect in that they can be forwarded to friends and colleagues, according to the report. Because of this, e-newsletters present an opportunity to create a greater bond between recipients and a company or organization than a Web site can. On the flip side, problems with your e-newsletter can have a greater impact on your relationship with the recipient than Web problems.
The report is based on three rounds of studies of a total of 93 Web users, most from the United States. Its findings offer advice for both for-profit and nonprofit e-newsletter senders.
For example, the study found the e-newsletter subscribe process to be an average of four minutes, and cited a direct correlation between the time it takes to subscribe to an e-newsletter and the users’ overall satisfaction with the newsletter. The report recommends e-newsletter senders aim for new subscriptions to take less than a minute when the subscription requires just the user’s e-mail address. If more information is needed to subscribe, the report advises that the process should take no more than two minutes.
While the Web is a pretty consistent environment, with most people using Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox or Safari, e-newsletters are delivered to a multitude of e-mail service providers, all with differing platforms. How your e-newsletter is displayed by each service provider may differ. Therefore, the report recommends testing the e-newsletter to ensure delivery and proper display, that the “From” and “Subject” lines appear as you want, and that the subscribe and unsubscribe processes work correctly.