While we’re talking about email newsletters – Nielsen Normal Group have done some interesting research (found via an email from Ken – again) that finds that readers of email newsletters have ‘highly emotional reactions to them’ in contrast to the reactions that readers of websites have (where they are more more ‘oriented toward functionality’ and ‘want to get in and get out as quickly as possible rather than “connect” with the site’.
The results are quite long but here are a few snippets (quotes with a few of my own comments).
On the overall findings:
‘Users tend to glance at websites when they need to accomplish something or to find the answer to a specific question. In contrast, newsletters feel personal because they arrive in users’ inboxes, and users have an ongoing relationship with them. Newsletters also have a social aspect, as users often forward them to colleagues and friends.
The positive aspect of this emotional relationship is that newsletters can create much more of a bond between users and a company than a website can. The negative aspect is that newsletter usability problems have a much stronger impact on the customer relationship than website usability problems….’
I’d be interested to see a similar study on different type of websites (especially blogs). I think many blogs would have a more relational feeling for readers than more static types of websites.
On How to do Email Newsletters:
The most frequent complaint in our study was about newsletters that arrived too often. And, when we let them vent, the most frequent advice our study participants had for newsletter creators was to “keep it brief.”
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.
It’s actually quite similar to how research find people read websites/blog.
On News Feeds (RSS):
The first, and strongest, guideline about news feeds is to stop calling them RSS. In our most recent study, 82% of users had no idea what this term referred to.
News feeds are definitely not for everybody, and they’re not a replacement for email newsletters. Feeds can supplement newsletters for sites that cater to users who prefer a centralized view of headlines.
Feeds are a cold medium in comparison with email newsletters. Feeds don’t form the same relationship between company and customers that a good newsletter can build.
I’d never considered the advice on not calling feeds RSS but calling them ‘news feeds’. It actually makes good sense and is something I might take a little more notice of, especially on my blogs which are not on bloggy topics where I find most of my readers don’t follow the blog via RSS News Feeds.
It makes sense to me that feeds would be seen as a colder medium – especially because they don’t have comments sections built in and are read out of the context of the rest of the blog, especially it’s design which plays a part in setting the scene for content.