We began2002年时事通讯研究。从那时起，我们对通讯和营销电子邮件可用性进行了六项大规模研究。我们最近的研究涉及一个日记研究with 9 participants in 2 countries (U.S. and Spain), andusability testingwith 28 participants from 2 countries (U.S. and Canada). We focused on the subscribe and unsubscribe processes, as well as on receiving, opening, and reading commercial email messages.
Changes in Newsletter Usability over Time
Fewer formal subscriptions -消息letter-subscription processes of the past were often very involved — perhaps because inboxes and newsletters were quite different in many ways. People had to deal with email-management issues, spam, and slow internet speeds, so subscribing to a newsletter used to be a substantial commitment and reflected a deliberate choice to create a dedicated relationship with organizations. Subscription forms were often lengthy and the detail regarding the content and delivery schedule of a newsletter was robust. Users expected this level of information to understand the commitment made by agreeing to receive messages from an organization.
Because several of these constraints have been remedied over the years, many of the concerns that users had about subscribing have disappeared. In addition, the user’s mindset has changed over time. The increase in sheer email volume over the years has created a scenario where people can’t possibly give all messages their full attention, so they care less about what they receive because they know they can easily ignore the noise or choose what they invest their time in. For these reasons, users now value low-effort and efficient signup over detailed explanations and processes. Subscription forms on websites have become shorter and are often embedded into the footer or into other transactions. This is not to say that users do not appreciate some critical details about newsletters before subscribing to them. It is still good practice to communicate the basics about the subscription at the time of sign up, to set expectations and help customers feel informed.
垃圾邮件的演变-Spam used to be a huge concern for users and newsletter publishers alike. Users wanted to avoid spam and were cautious about signing up for newsletters for fear that their email address would be shared, resulting in unsolicited messages. Publishers were working to ensure their legitimate newsletters would not be flagged as spam in recipients’ inboxes. Now, users don’t worry about spam in the same way they used to. Spam-blocking tools have become much better at identifying and filtering spam appropriately and prioritized email inboxes help organize messages for users. In fact, the meaning behind the word “spam” has changed over time as well. It’s no longer used strictly to describe unsolicited email messages. Participants in our study used the word “spam” to describe solicited marketing emails that they considered random, impersonal, irrelevant, with too much promotional hype, or coming in high volume.
One user in our diary study received a newsletter from AT&T with a subject line that read, “A message for STEVEN”. When he opened the email, the only thing offered was an animated image of a gift bag with a message that said,Mystery Flash Sale，加上专用优惠为DirectTV客户。Hint: It’s a really big deal along with a link labeled Learn More.收件人说:“标题吸引了我的等等e, but inside turned out to be just spam. It’s just a huge shaking bag that says, ‘mystery flash sale’. It comes off so spammy and unappealing. Why would I click through? There was nothing compelling about a ‘mystery surprise’. They’re just trying to sell me something and dress it up like a benefit to me. I’d rather they just tell me what they’re selling and what the deal is instead of playing games.”
Another user who received a message from a restaurant-group supper club about an upcoming event said, “So I signed up for this newsletter but I feel this isn't relevant to me and slightly spammy. I mean, I guess I should have expected this but I don't know who this chef is or have any relation to this random event. It feels impersonal, that’s what annoying. It’s not relevant and [is] therefore spam to me.”
“It’s spam to me”is the operative term in this user quote. Spam is in the eye of the beholder (i.e., recipient).
In our research, many users disliked information that was not tailored or specific to their interests. Many times, these types of messages were considered spam and this attitude illustrates the increasing importance of personalization in marketing emails and newsletters.
Emotional connections and demand for personalization -In our first several rounds of research, one of the most significant findings was that users had emotional reactions to newsletters. The effort and commitment involved in subscribing to a newsletter created an emotional connection to that newsletter that also formed a bond between the user and the company. The messages felt personal because they arrived in users’ inboxes, and users had an ongoing relationship with them. The negative aspect to this connection was that newsletter-related problems had a strong impact on the organization’sbrand。
In recent research, we’ve seen that the emotional connection to newsletters has lessened — in fact users seem to have grown numb to the content that shows up in their inbox. People receive so much email that they can’t care strongly about all of it.
Although there may be select newsletters that users feel strongly about, the overall feeling of attachment to newsletters has faded. Organizations must work hard to stick out from the crowd, and the challenge becomes standing out without sacrificing usability.
消息letters that delivered highly personalized and relevant content at the right time received the most positive emotional responses from recipients. Digital capabilities forpersonalized content and experiences在最近几年里变得强大，用户已经习惯于期望从营销信息中获得高水平的相关性。接受者希望组织利用他们的已知信息在他们的时事通讯和营销信息中提供有价值的相关内容。如前所述，许多没有这样做的邮件被视为垃圾邮件。
Most users’ reasons for liking a newsletter or finding it valuable were related to its relevance and their level of interest in the content. One user said, “I like this one because it is personalized for me; it includes courses and learning modules according to my interests.” Another user who received information about do-it-yourself projects and craft ideas reported liking the email because “it is something that I am interested in; it helps me feel creative and productive.”
When users complained about the relevance of the email, half said they intended to unsubscribe, while the other half said they would continue to receive the messages, but ignore them or delete them. In reality, most people choose to ignore the emails in the future, rather than making the effort to unsubscribe.
Personalization and providing relevant experiences are already on the horizon as the next big competitive requirement for UX and customer experience. Organizations must invest in learning how to identify customers and use the data they have about them to predict their information needs. The result will be better customer experiences, engagement, and loyalty — due in part to personal, targeted, and timely newsletters and marketing messages.
Fewer concerns about unsubscribing -消息letter recipients used to have difficulty when trying to leave a mailing list. Every organization had its own unsubscribe process and it was often a time-consuming task. Now that organizations are required to include an取消订阅link in their newsletters, this task has become easier.
Although there is less concern about the effort required to unsubscribe from unwanted newsletters, users don’t always do so. Users have created systems to filter their messages across accounts and across folders to limit the impact on their inboxes, so many messages will never even be seen. People also find it easy to simply ignore or delete unwanted messages. Whatever the reason, it’s clear that mailing-list owners shouldn’t assume that all subscribers actually want to receive their newsletters. Many users might have simply neglected to unsubscribe.
Fewer formatting issues, broken links, and broken images -过去，电子邮件客户端充满挑战，以适当地呈现图像和各种格式。HTML技术有所改进，使电子邮件渲染相当可预测和稳定。电子邮件客户端也提高了它们的功能，并且在这些功能中横跨景观中的一致性更加一致性，使格式化问题和破碎的图像少对通讯发布者的关注，以及收件人的罕见问题。
更改布局-When we began studying newsletters, everything was designed for the desktop screen. Newsletter layouts were built for large screens, with limited scrolling in mind. Multicolumn layouts were common, which meant that content was horizontally dense and the messages were short. When modern mobile devices came along, these layouts became problematic. In 2012, we still foundsignificant mobile-usability issuescaused by these multicolumn layouts.
有趣的是,许多多列通讯在large monitors now seemed overly complex to users (even if the template appropriately rescales on mobile). Single-column webpages and email designs with full-width imagery, lower-content density, and more scrolling have become commonplace in recent years, and it seems that users have become accustomed to seeing these designs. Single-column layouts show fewer items in the viewport at one time, making the emails feel clean and streamlined. Multicolumn layouts result in smaller images and narrower columns of text. Users often perceived multicolumn newsletter designs as overwhelming and cluttered.
（用户是在小型手机上阅读困难内容时慢screens, but we wouldn’t recommend publishing super-complicated material in an email in the first place.)
Growth of Visual Communication -新闻通讯和营销电子邮件中最值得注意的变化之一是转向更可观的通信。
近年来，图像在网络上的使用发生了很大的变化，许多网站将图像作为设计的一个关键组成部分，而不是次要元素。例如，站点可以在页面顶部使用一张大的高分辨率照片，或者在整个站点中使用全幅图像。（然而，这种趋势并不总是导致usable designs。) The same is true for email newsletters. Although imagery has always had its place in email communication, today’s marketing emails use graphics and imagery as a major fixture.
One user who received a restaurant newsletter from The Infatuation said, “I thought this email was very well designed because the pictures were large, well organized and easy to understand. There were not a lot of words or clutter in the email.”
Although not new to the web, animated gifs have reemerged as a useful tool to make our digital communications more expressive. It’s no surprise that organizations have begun using animated gifs in thoughtful ways in their newsletters, to add to the value delivered through a traditionally static channel. These animated images not only provide an emotive element, but they can also show products in use and provide supplemental information.
更大的文件和更快的下载 -这些高度可视化的时事通讯设计趋势的一个缺点是，时事通讯的尺寸较大，收件人下载时事通讯所需的数据量也较大。当拨号上网仍然是上网的主要手段时，网速和文件大小是互联网用户和时事通讯订户的一大担忧。组织在限制文件大小方面做得更好了，网络速度也提高了，因此这些问题在最近几年中不太受关注。然而，随着移动连接的增长，一个新的重点放在文件大小上：许多用户必须支付他们消耗的数据量, plus download speeds can suffer in areas with poor connections. So we must still be aware of the download time of our newsletters and the amount of data being transferred over mobile networks.
电子邮件Rules for Customer Relationship Maintenance
电子邮件is the oldest media form on the internet, being invented in 1972 before many of our readers were even born. But email is holding up swimmingly in competition with toddler-aged internet media forms like Snapchat. Our research participants still appreciate good emails and read them. So if your brand can deliver relevant and interesting emails, this aging media form is still a superb way to stay in touch with your customers.
The full report onemail marketing and newsletter usabilitywith 199 design guidelines for email user experience design is available for download.