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Enewsletter usability – 5 subscriber behaviours to consider

Author's avatar By Dave Chaffey 08 Dec, 2010
Essential Essential topic

New report advises on Enewsletter best practice

Value: [rating=3]

Our commentary : An enewsletter is still a key customer communication for many companies. Given this, it's always struck me as curious that usability advice for Emails and enewsletters doesn't get as much attention as that for websites.

You may not now that Jakob Nielsen, well-known for his usability advice has produced an enewsletter usability report for many years - I've downloaded them in the past. If you're not aware, you could find the tips on increasing subscription and engagement with the enewsletter useful.

Alternatively, learn through our Enewsletter examples or 24 point enewsletter best practice list.

Marketing implications Here are some of the key findings I took from this report.

  • 1. Make your email signup slick. I'm surprised the signup period took around 3 miniutes on average - but this is an improvement from over 5 minutes on previous studies.
  • 2. Remember the increasingly cluttered inbox. The study found that the number of new or unread messages in inboxes is now 300% higher than it was just four years ago. The implications for having valuable content and compelling offers is obvious.
  • 3. Scannability rules!.
  • Nielsen suggests "Scannability is important for websites as well, but it's about 50% more important for newsletters. This implies the need for layouts that let users quickly grasp each issue's content and zero in on specifics. Content and writing styles must support users who read only part of the material.

    Newsletters must be designed to facilitate scanning. In our first study, 23% of the newsletters were read thoroughly. In our third study, four years later, only 19% of the newsletters were read thoroughly. The drop in percentage of thoroughly read newsletters is a good indication of the increased volume of email that users have to process.

    The dominant mode of dealing with email newsletters is to skim them: that's what happened to 69% of the newsletters in our most recent study. Of the remaining newsletters, users only glanced at them or at most read a few items."

  • 4. Keep it brief. Following on from the previous point, according to the research, users spent an average of 51 seconds on each of the newsletters they read from their own inbox. Users spent an additional 33 seconds on information found by pursuing newsletter links to websites.
  • 5. Consider mobile email newsletter usability. With many expressing a preference for reading enewsletters when mobile, he report advises: 'Thus, some newsletters should be even more quick and to-the-point for mobile use, while others can afford to present more leisurely content. It might be better to do one or the other rather than aim for a middle-of-the-road approach that will satisfy neither usage scenario. So decide on whether you're targeting Quick Reads or Slow Reads.
  • .

Recommended links: View Nielsen's alert or Tips in Exec summary.

Author's avatar

By Dave Chaffey

Digital strategist Dr Dave Chaffey is co-founder and Content Director of online marketing training platform and publisher Smart Insights. 'Dr Dave' is known for his strategic, but practical, data-driven advice. He has trained and consulted with many business of all sizes in most sectors. These include large international B2B and B2C brands including 3M, BP, Barclaycard, Dell, Confused.com, HSBC, Mercedes-Benz, Microsoft, M&G Investment, Rentokil Initial, O2, Royal Canin (Mars Group) plus many smaller businesses. Dave is editor of the templates, guides and courses in our digital marketing resource library used by our Business members to plan, manage and optimize their marketing. Free members can access our free sample templates here. Dave is also keynote speaker, trainer and consultant who is author of 5 bestselling books on digital marketing including Digital Marketing Excellence and Digital Marketing: Strategy, Implementation and Practice. In 2004 he was recognised by the Chartered Institute of Marketing as one of 50 marketing ‘gurus’ worldwide who have helped shape the future of marketing. My personal site, DaveChaffey.com, lists my latest Digital marketing and E-commerce books and support materials including a digital marketing glossary. Please connect on LinkedIn to receive updates or ask me a question.

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