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How to improve your newsletters (usability) – and why they’re more important than Twitter or Facebook

December 4, 2010

This week, Jakob Nielsen, one of the leading voices in usability, published an interesting alert on email newsletters that certainly has applicability in the corporate library space as we all are endeavoring to increase utility and value to our organizations.

(Keep in mind that we as info pros aren’t the only ones sending out newsletters, so usability is a great way to ensure yours gets favorable status.)

Some key findings and applications for librarians:

  • The average user’s email queue is 300% higher than 4 years ago – thus newsletters need to be more well crafted in subject lines (“needing a stronger information scent”
  • Users now pay more attention to message previews – focus on high-value content at the beginning of the newsletter.
  • 90% of users preferred newsletter email updates to Twitter updates – Email newsletters are a better way to keep in touch with clients than Twitter or Facebook.
  • Killing time is a killer app for mobile devices – newsletters should either be geared towards reading on mobile devices (quick and to the point) or geared towards desktop reading/printing (more leisurely) – NOT BOTH.
  • The average rating of newsletter readability  on a 7 point scale (7 best) was 3.3 – Keep in mind the mobile reader when formatting newsletters.
  • Newsletters should be seen as a long-term investment – these often serve to grow/retain your reputation or to maintain a reputation during dry spells.

Jakob makes a full 586-page report with 199 design guidelines available for download as well – good reading, especially for those who may be re-designing a newsletter in the near future (or now!)

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