Issue 6 \\ Call + Response

Issue 6 \\ Call + Response

Sometimes you reach out to someone to engage, to connect, to share. And sometimes you reach out just to notify. Each of these types of communication is important, but also highly contextual.

In this issue, UX Designer Fabio Carneiro discusses the UX of transactional emails, and UX Researcher Gregg Bernstein shares an insight on connecting from a recent trip to San Francisco. We conclude with some links of interest and a response to one of our subscribers.
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The UX of Transactional Email

by Fabio Carneiro
We send out a variety of account-related emails: billing updates, campaign status, password resets—everything you’re used to seeing from any other service. With MailChimp’s upcoming redesign, the company’s transactional emails went under the microscope with the aim of making them work better for our users.

To that end, I strove to have each email meet four criteria: focused, short but comprehensive, appropriate, and practical.

Make it Focused

Transactional email should be about nothing more than the expectation of the recipient; if you make a purchase, you expect a receipt. If you forget your password, you expect a way to reset it. If you open an account, you expect a confirmation email. That email should be all about getting a new user to activate their account:
Make Space
The email has a very clear call to action. It’s just a big button and some text that screams “you should click the big button.” There’s nothing in there about “Getting Started” or new features. Good transactional email fulfills expectations and lets you get back to what you were doing.

Make it Short but Comprehensive

Transactional email works best when it’s short and sweet, but not so short that you skimp on information. It’s a fine balance that takes work and constant tweaking to achieve. On the one hand, providing too much information can overwhelm; on the other, too little information can be frustrating. Our list update summary isn’t excessively wordy, but it’s not sparse either:
The email covers who subscribed and unsubscribed to your list, and how big your list is. That’s the short-and-sweet part. Below that, we provide a list of who subscribed and, perhaps more importantly, who unsubscribed and why. That’s the comprehensive part.

Make it Appropriate

Transactional email should befit a situation, whether it’s positive or negative. There’s room for language that’s more playful in a welcome email, but a notice that your credit card’s been declined should be serious and on-point. It’s an inconvenient email for anyone to receive, and it should be about three things: what’s happened, why it happened, and what to do about it:
What happened? A charge to the credit card you provided was declined. Why did it happen? We may not know exactly, but it’s likely because of a typo. What can you do about it? Sign in, check on your information, and update it if you need to. That’s all. No jokes, no smiling chimp.

Make it Practical

Transactional email should be eminently usable. Mobile readership has skyrocketed, so it should work on small screens. If an action is required, there should be a big, bright button to encourage follow-through. Emailed invoices sometimes get printed and filed, so they should be readable and printable. Our order confirmation does all of that:

You made a purchase, so here are the details in nice, clear detail. If you’re checking it on your phone on the way to work, it’s just as clear on your small screen as it would be on your desktop. Finally, if you’re printing it, there’s not a lot of color because, jeez, ink is expensive.

Transactional email is a totally different beast compared to one-to-many email. You can make them different and better by giving starting with a good foundation; keep them focused, short and comprehensive, appropriate, and practical.

Software Sends, Humans Respond

by Gregg Bernstein
Last week, fellow UX Researcher Jenn Downs and I traveled to San Francisco to meet with customers. While there, we attended a design research panel discussion at Facebook: Social Interfaces at Work. Moderated by Facebook Design Research Manager Nate Bolt, the panel included Stanford HCI professor Scott Klemmer, Yammer UX Researcher Vanessa Pfafflin, and Facebook UX Researcher Shivani Mohan.

Things became interesting when the topic turned to engagement. Nate and Vanessa raised the point that a user is more likely to post again if their first post is “liked.” It seems like common sense, but it also sheds some light on the complexity of building communication tools. A platform that’s easy and enjoyable to use is only part of the equation; it’s the call and response that hooks us.

If I send a personal message to you, or share pictures of a life-altering trip, I do so because I want to engage with you. I want you to validate my feelings or provide your perspective on the experience I went through. All it takes is a “like” or a reply. Or in MailChimp’s case, it’s opening my campaign and clicking on my links.

UX is more than considering the experience of using a product; it’s considering the basics of the human experience.

UX Around The Web

  • The folks at Evernote ran a story about how MailChimp manages data on their blog.
  • UX Researchers Gregg and Fernando learned a lot from the Jobs to be Done framework. Check out the #JTBD podcast.
  • When something is working well, it becomes too easy to let things run themselves. Jason Fried writes about Letting Go.

Ask Us Anything

One of our readers is interested in UX as a career:
How does one get started in (or make a career transition to) UX? Is it possible to make it in the UX world without a related degree?  Do entry-level jobs or paid internships exist?

This is a question we hear a lot. Because UX is still a young and growing field, most practitioners studied and practiced something else before ending up in UX.

For instance, our UX Director Aarron and Researcher Gregg have MFA degrees (painting and graphic design, respectively) and came to UX via teaching positions. Researcher Jenn came to UX from MailChimp tech support, where she uncovered a knack for problem-solving and user testing. Developer Mardav has an MS in Electrical Engineering, and developer Federico studied both Industrial and Interface design.

On the other hand, designer Caleb is mostly self-taught; through practice, research, and an open-mind, he learned enough to design for the user experience.

Though all of our backgrounds are different, we share some common traits: we listen, we empathize, we consider, and then we recommend. Our toolboxes differ, but our skills allow us to collaborate on and design experiences for others.

So the degree doesn't matter so much as your ability to translate your experience and skills into a contributing role on a UX team. And getting onto a UX team takes communication skills: find a way to parlay your passion for UX into a project that opens some eyes and minds. Maybe it's a blog, or participating in a community, or a redesign of something you feel you can improve.

Let's open this question up to our readers: how did you end up in UX, and what's your advice for those interested in this field?
We want this newsletter to be a dialogue. If you have any questions for our team about design, data, usability testing, mobile, movies, font sizing, or even Mardav's Netflix prowess, send them in. Seriously: hit reply and ask us anything. We'll try to answer every email and maybe even share our conversation in future newsletters.
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