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How Often?

UX Writers like to talk about how to say something, but how often is just as important.

The first email address I ever set up was Yahoo, and now the account basically functions as a junk mail repository. I rarely log in, but when I do, I always see the same email on the top of the pile:

We noticed you haven't switched to the latest version of Yahoo! Mail.

Actually, I have. And I hated it. The new layout wasn't intuitive for me, and I had to tap multiple buttons to even start drafting an email. The default swipes were set to "move to archive," which I didn't use, and the ads were shown as emails--which took away the happy state of an empty inbox.

I made the switch about a year ago, and defaulted back to the classic version within a week. But since then, Yahoo has sent me at least fifty emails encouraging me to "give it a try."

I'm picking on Yahoo a lot here, but many products follow the same model: pester the user until they do the desired action. You can see this pattern in onboarding messages that never disappear, notifications that can't be switched off, and banner announcements that pop up like clockwork.

Yahoo takes several faulty steps here. First, the content isn't dynamic; their emails are telling me to try the latest version, without acknowledging that I have before. Their system should be set up so that these emails don't go to users who've already tried it out. Or, if there's a date where I have to switch over, it should inform me rather than aggressively nudge me to make the change myself.

Second, it's sending the emails so often that I now delete everything from them without more than a two-second glance. They've trained me to recognise that their communication model is one of bombardment, so I've learned to not even open them.

Third, and most importantly, it's obvious that they want me to switch for their own benefit rather than my own. There's likely a team or PM who wants to see the conversion rate at a higher percentage; maybe the company doesn't want to put resources towards supporting multiple versions. Either way, the fact that they're sending so many prompts gives off a feeling of desperation: the focus is we want you to do this, rather than this is how the new version can benefit you. Users don't like change, so the incentives need to be clear.

Let's assume I'm not the only person who feels this way. In a perfect world, there'd be several options open to users, especially the ability to unsubscribe from their feature-related emails. And if Yahoo realises many people haven't made the switch, they could reach out to conduct research into what isn't working.

But: this is a content design blog, after all, and not a product management one. Some product decisions are out of a content designer's control. Still, we need to acknowledge that the cadence and timing of our content matter just as much as the content itself. If an email is going to be sent out daily, I'll write that differently than one sent out monthly. Same goes for messages within the application.

If you're working on notifications, emails, or banner messages, think about how often the user will see that copy. Heck: think about how often they'll see any copy you write. How often we see something influences how we feel about it, and being bombarded with communications will leave a bad taste in the user's mouth.

UX copy should be concise, clear, and consistent. It should be purposeful and timely. As we say all the time, get rid of fluff and don't say what isn't necessary. That includes repetitive messages, too.

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