I originally thought of user experience as a pet project. Or a side passion. Something I could get interested in and invest my extra time in while I was working on email marketing. As time goes on, though, that line between "user experience" and "literally any other tech job" is disappearing. In fact, what I'm finding out instead is that everything in marketing and design has to do with user experience in some way or another.
I recall this conversation with my manager:
"I don't think 'call us' buttons make a good CTA and we need to figure out a different strategy for our customers," I said. OK it probably wasn't that well-stated. But we're a company that creates email campaigns (as well as social media content) for small businesses. And my job is to constantly consider strategy and how it's working for our customers, who are not experts.
"Why is that?" My manager asked, rhetorically, because I think she knew what I was getting at before I got there.
"Because people, especially in this era, don't like making phone calls. They want to find the information they need online without having to interact. They don't want to talk to a stranger."
This came from my own experience as a user. "Don't make me think" was working, in action. In this case, it was "don't make me think about what I'm going to say to someone, because I have no idea what it is I really need". I just didn't connect the dots at first. Calling someone on the phone didn't appeal to my millennial sensibilities, in a similar way that snail mail might seem too much of a task (lookin' at you, grandma).
Call-to-action buttons were the first aspect of email marketing that got me thinking about email usability. If the button copy is vague, people won't click on it. Doesn't matter how cute and clever it is. People want to know what they're clicking on, they want to know where they're going.
As it turns out, in our day-to-day, we're not all down for Willy Wonka's spooky cave theatrics. We really want to know what's at the other end of that tunnel.
Interaction design in action -- "Call us" buttons have a significantly lower click rate than a "View our specials" button or a "RSVP on Facebook" button, even. "Let's go" is cute copy, but it gets zero clicks. Let's go where? How can we create user interest without totally obscuring their end goal? If this button is gray rather than red, will they click on it? If this button is at the very end of the email, will they get to it before they get bored and click away?
I haven't answered these questions fully. But the data gathering has begun.
This began translating into other aspects of an email campaign, like the subject line. I started to really consider strategy as a marriage of great visuals and interesting, but clear, copy. Open rates are arguably the most important indication of the success of an email campaign, and they depend on the customer's feelings about the sender-- and also, what they think the email is going to be about. You can use a subject line to pique curiosity, but if you get too deep into that, then you're just causing confusion and disinterest.
There's a reason Old Navy and other big box stores have defaulted to urgency and percentages like "50% OFF TODAY ONLY!" They have a great grasp of the human psyche.
A big strategy hurdle for our customers is giving their subscribers some type of action. Promotions, product highlights, announcements about business changes. These are all great things. But we're serving these emails into someone's inbox, which is highly personal. We are constantly needing to prove value. So we need these emails to give our subscribers (the users) a clear action.
I could go on about this forever. But trying to figure out how to provide a great user experience for our customer's subscribers, while also bridging the desires of our customers, is a puzzle that I'm still solving for. And this was the original domino that started a chain reaction. My interest in GOOD user experience was facilitated by my desire to create really good emails. Coming soon!