Email newsletters maintain their popularity, even in a mobile age. That is one of the messages from Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox, which I received, naturally, by email recently.
Nielsen conducts useability studies of all thing digital and produces some of the most interesting and useful insights around.
Here is what Nielsen says about email newsletters and why we still love them:
- They are informative. They remind us of what we forgot, and bring us up to date about things we wouldn't take the time to look up.
- They are "effortless." Once subscribed, the newsletter just shows up.
- They have options. You can ignore them, read them later, or file them away.
- They are timely. They arrive immediately.
- They send us to the website to find out more.
- They help us do our jobs better.
- They are easy to share and talk about.
Nielsen says that reading an email newsletter on a mobile device actually reinforces all of those attributes and adds one more -- it's always available no matter where we are. Reading a newsletter on mobile may even be easier since newsletters on a phone, if designed properly, are very easy to scan and scroll through.
Nielsen, has also found that newsletters are rarely only read on mobile. They are often read on a computer screen or followed up with a visit on a computer. Quite often people see something that they will explore more fully later on their desktop or laptop computers where they might take an action. The platforms may actually reinforce one another. Thus the importance of designing for cross-platform use.
Nielsen, consequently, recommends that you not produce two versions of a newsletter or give a choice between desktop and mobile versions of email newsletters.
He suggests using "responsive design" so that readers can switch platforms easily. A well designed email newsletter might open in three columns on a desktop and in one column in its mobile version. Similarly, it's best to have links in the mobile version lead to mobile-friendly pages, but to a full site when users are on a computer.
Nielsen is referring particularly to business-to-business newsletters, but his points work well for newsletters from nonprofits as well, especially if they carry genuine value for the recipient.
Mobile readers told Nielsen that they often use their spare time when they are out and about to check their email newsletters. Make sure that your content is worth their time.
Do you read email newsletters on your mobile phone? How is your nonprofit adapting to mobile readers?
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