21
Aug
07

The pitfalls of sending out newsletters

Jakob Nielsen has published the results of new eye-tracking studies along with a component based on people’s use of newsletters. Some of the results, such as the fact that newsletters have such a positive emotional aspect that they can create much more of a bond between user and company than a website can, are good news if you happen to have a website with a large subscriber base. The rider to this result is that a poorly presented newsletter can have a more damaging impact on a company’s relationship with a consumer than a bad Web site.

Other statistics such as users spending 51 seconds reading the average newsletter, are less helpful. 51 Seconds basically means that if your newsletter is going to survive to inbox wars then you are going to need world class layouts and writing. Averaged across the study, newsletters lost 19% of potential subscribers due to usability difficulties in their subscription processes and designs. People often stay subscribed to newsletters they don’t want, so the unsubscribe process is also worth improving.

To my mind, newsletters have to be slick, easy to navigate and grab my attention straight away. Even if they happen to be free, at 400+ emails a day, a newsletter is easily lost in the clutter. The solution? A short subject line, pointing out the benefits of my reading the newsletter and it better be relevant to me.

In essence newsletters should be designed as time savers by pinpointing specific content or providing shortcuts to larger amounts of information. Therefore, newsletters should be conducive to scanning. In the study, 23% of the newsletters were read thoroughly, 50% were skimmed or partly read, and the remaining 27% were never opened.

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