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How to make customers read your emails

Email is a powerful tool for connecting a website with its customers. But according to Jakob Nielsen, transactional email has appallingly low usability.

He gives a few tips on how to avoid your email being mistaken for spam and survive users' hectic approach to reading email:

- The From field should contain a recognizable and descriptive sender name such as "JetBlue Reservations" or "BestBuy Online Store"

- Provide a meaningful subject line that's relevant to the recipient such as "Order has shipped", rather than meaningless subjects such as "Important information"

- In the message, start with the facts that are important to users, rather marketing fluff or other seemingly irrelevant information

- To avoid inbox overload when sending order confirmations, settle for an order and a shipping confirmation


  • Transactional Email and Confirmation Messages Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - October 22, 2008

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See also: Research (130) 



Usability of newsletters and news feeds

In a study, Jakob Nielsen and NN/g have found that the usability of newsletters has increased since their last study in 2004.

Some of their findings:
- The ease of subscribing and unsubscribing newsletters has increased considerably
- Users are extremely fast at processing their inboxes
- In average the participants used 51 seconds reading a newsletter
- 19% of the newsletters where fully read
- 35% of the time, the participants only skimmed a small part of the newsletter
- 67% of the participants had zero eye fixations within the "introductory blah-blah text"
- Participants subscribed to the wrong newsletter format when they had to choose between "HTML" and "Text"
- 82% of the studied users didn't understand the term RSS (Jakob suggest we call them "news feeds").
- Users scan news feeds even more ruthlessly than newsletters

In Jakob Nielsen's opinion e-mail newsletters are still the best way to maintain customer relationships.


  • Email Newsletters: Surviving Inbox Congestion Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - June 13, 2006

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See also: Text (24)  Research (130) 



Making Unsubscription Easy

According to Kristoffer Bohmann all subscription notifications should include two design elements to make unsubscription easy:

- The e-mail that the user subscribed with
- A link to a permanent web page where the user can unsubscribe through a form

Including the e-mail makes it easy for people with more e-mails to remember which one they used to subscribe. Including a link to a web page makes it easy for less experienced users to unsubscribe and makes it possible to unsubscribe without having access to the e-mail the user subscribed with.


  • The article Making Unsubscription Easy Open link in new window
  • Kristoffer Bohmann Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - January 30, 2002

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See also: Tips and guidelines (95) 


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