Email Newsletter Usability
and DiscoverNLCS.org Launches
If you're sending out email newsletters, it
can be hard to tell what folks are taking away from your missives. By
tracking message opens and click-thrus you can get a sense for how many
people are at least taking a look and being affected by the text.
But are you doing what you can to make email newsletters user friendly?
Usability expert Jakob Nielsen recently released an updated version of
the Nielsen Norman Group's report on email newsletter
usability. What are the basics of a well-built newsletter? Is there a
future for email newsletters in the Spam era?
Also, Eagle River Partners is pleased to announce the recent launch of
DiscoverNLCS.org - a new site profiling many of the greatest lands of the
Email Newsletter Usability Report
In 2002, the Nielsen Norman Group released one of the first and most
thorough reports on email newsletters. At the time, Jakob Nielsen
predicted that legitimate email newsletters may have no future after
being increasingly undercut by spam.
In February, Nielsen released the findings of an updated study on email
newsletter usability. And the conclusion is that in spite of spam, email
newsletters are used and appreciated by subscribers. View Nielsen's executive summary here.
Make it Easy to Subscribe
As many as one in four users still find it too difficult to subscribe
to the average email newsletter. The usual culprit is a form with too
many fields or a complicated subscription process.
The average subscribe process took five minutes. How many people want to
spend five minutes subscribing to an email newsletter? Not having seen
the newsletter before, subscribers are reluctant to invest an unknown
amount of time to get a newsletter of unknown value.
Test on Different Email Programs
Despite the pervasiveness of Microsoft Outlook, there are at four
other email programs getting at least ten percent of the market: Yahoo!
Mail, Hotmail, AOL and Outlook Express. These and other programs all
have different methods of displaying From and Subject lines as well as
The moral of the story is to test on different email programs.
Make it Easy to Scan and Use Newsletter Text
Nielsen reports that just 11% of subscribers thoroughly read email
newsletters. We thought it would be fewer, actually.
Many recipients scan headlines and may not spend much more time with
your newsletter. It is important that you create headlines and
highlighted content that is easy to find and digest. Even your
'scanners' can still take enough with them when they move on to be some
of your most loyal readers and best informed advocates.
Write Timely Content
This may seem obvious but most newsletter recipients will be thinking
"what have you done for me lately" when deciding to open and review your
most recent edition. It's important to keep in mind the immediate needs
of subscribers as individuals.
But how do you remain 'timely'? A product or company related email
newsletter can report on sale prices and new products. Likewise, a
non-profit advocacy group should ensure that their content is as current
as possible. Draw on events that readers are hearing about in the media.
Tie content and subjects to the seasons and events in the calendar.
Our experience indicates that email newsletters often strive to be
timely but can be undercut by an organization's inability to maintain
timely content on their web site. An email newsletter isn't a good place
for details and it is often best to link to web pages providing greater
detail and opportunities for engagement. But when organizations struggle
to create and maintain current web content they often balk at putting
timely, relevant content in email newsletters that usually have a
tighter and more frequent publishing schedule than their print
-- Be brief and make your text easy to read;
-- Think about your audience and be informative to
-- A principle strength of email is
speed; ensure that your content is timely.
Email Newsletter Usability
New Site Launch: DiscoverNLCS.org
Stories and Generally Good News
Compare Yahoo and Google Results Side-by-Side
For years, Yahoo paid Google to
power its search engine. Until last month, that is. This site lets you search both at the
same time and compare results. Great for seeing how your site ranks in the two search
So you have a site and want to run a forum where folks can
chat with each other, ask questions and build relationships. There are
some great tools out there for this and the lot of them are worthy
of their own thorough comparison. But we like what we see in PunBB.
It's lightweight, creates valid code and doesn't come pre-built with
design elements that will clash with your site.
Bush in 30 Seconds
this out if you haven't already. The MoveOn.org Education
Fund sponsored a competition to create a 30 second commercial
about the problems of the Bush Administration. We would like
to say that these are remarkably well-done regardless of your
political leanings but that's probably not so true. But we
New Site Launch: DiscoverNLCS.org
We are proud to announce the recent launch of DiscoverNLCS.org. This
site was built for The Wilderness Society on behalf of the National
Landscape Conservation System Coalition - a confederation of about 80
local, state, regional and national non-profit organizations.
Just to be clear, we're not talking about how to install water-efficient
sprinkler systems or choosing plants for your next flowerbox. The
National Landscape Conservation System was created in 2000 to tie
together public lands overseen by the federal Bureau of Land Management.
These are crown jewels of the American west but often overlooked (and
poorly managed) by the BLM, which isn't often considered to be in the
same league as the National Park Service or Forest Service when it comes
to having and managing stunning natural places.
Ah, but how mistaken this premise is. The Coalition behind this site is
building the public recognition of and support for (we could say the
'brand image') the lands of the National Landscape Conservation System.
These lands include Wilderness areas, wilderness study areas, Wild and
Scenic Rivers, National Monuments, National Conservation Areas and vast
expanses of still wild yet threatened natural places.
This site was put together by a few folks, none of whom were dedicated
to it full-time. Eagle River Partners was responsible for overall
project management, design, information architecture and developing the
content management tools that power the site. We used CommonSpot, a
content management tool built in Cold Fusion. This tool also powers the
main site of The Wilderness Society: Wilderness.org.
In addition to a unique and consistent look and feel that integrates
well with content and site structure, we developed tools using
CommonSpot that enable a widely dispersed group of content authors to
maintain timely content - including news releases and action items.
Take a visit to the National Landscape Conservation System now.