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Back to list of entriesWriting an e-mail on a computer
Ux Writer

Marta Mońko

Ux Writer

11.5.2022
-
5
reading min.

How to design good email correspondence

Before you start reading, do a quick examination of conscience: how many resources do you invest in your website, and how much in correspondence with your customers? Surprisingly often, even the biggest companies send customers emails that are just... plain wrong. A "no-reply" instead of the sender's name, a mess of content or - even worse - mistakes. How to avoid them?

A well crafted email can do more than you think. It reaches your customer directly when you need it. Whether it's a newsletter or a transactional message, it gives you access straight into your customer's personal inbox. You don't have to wait for the customer to come to you on their own. 

The Central Statistical Office reports that for 65.9 % of Polish internet users, checking their email is the most important purpose when using the internet. Therefore, treat each message like a user interface. Design it like you do it with other elements of the service, and you will see how much you can gain!

In this text, we mainly focus on messages related to the sales process (confirmations, transactional emails, automation emails, etc.), but most of them can and should also be applied to newsletters.

Four key principles

A 2018 study by Redlink found that as many as 46% of users receive more than 10 marketing emails per day. According to other data, the average office worker apparently receives 121 emails. That is, we get a lot of messages and we spend a lot of time on them. How do you get through so you don't end up in the trash right away?

1. send only what is necessary

Keep it short on the Internet and even shorter on e-mail. Let the content of the message be prepared by someone who knows what and how to write and will do it correctly. It is also best to research your e-mails so that they contain what the user really needs. 

2. Let email be a model of best customer service

E-mail builds the image of the company and increases the confidence of users in it. It should respect users' time and inform them quickly and factually about what they need to know. A well-designed email can do wonders for a company's reputation. At the same time, a poorly designed email can undermine the credibility of the sender.

3. ensure that the message contains all the necessary information

The right content will ensure that the customer does not have to ask for details by email or phone. More and more films remove contact details from emails, but this is not the way to go. The lack of easily accessible data can be very irritating for the user. It is better to ensure that the e-mail answers all frequently asked questions in an understandable way.

4. polish your messages

Let an e-mail from you be not only pretty, well-designed, factually written, but also perfectly refined in terms of correctness. A spelling mistake, a triple space, a misplaced comma or an incorrect grammar form can all negatively affect the reception of your message. If there are many errors, the recipient may think that your message is a scam or phishing. Of course, some users won't notice anything, but some will quickly spot the smallest mistakes and may even laugh at them on social media.

25 characters for the sender

The first element that determines whether your message will end up in the trash, so it's worth optimising. Ideally, the 'From' field should include a recognisable name for your brand. You might consider adding a feature that differentiates a transactional email from an advertising email, such as "Mobee Dick Orders". The name in the sender field should be short, as most inboxes just cut them off.

Recommended numbers vary depending on which email client the recipient uses, but the Nielsen Norman Group's recommended number of characters is 20 to 25. 

Subject: short and specific

The second element that determines whether your message goes in the bin. A good message subject line is gold. Make it concise and include keywords so that the recipient quickly knows what to expect from the content. If the message requires the recipient to take action, let them know in the subject line. And what to avoid?

Above all, don't waste space in the subject line on the company name if you already put it in the sender field. Do not use capital letters and avoid exclamation marks. If you are considering using emoji in the subject line, remember that this should be aligned with your company's tone of voice guidelines.

There's a lot of research showing that the right emoticons in the subject line improve some important metrics (e.g. read rate), but since we're bombarded with them from all over the place, it's a good idea to keep things light. If you're sending out a lot of transactional emails, it's a good idea to keep your subject lines consistent (e.g. each email related to a particular order could include the order number at the beginning or end of the subject line, plus what the email is about).

Intitulation for six

First of all, the addressative phrase (e.g. "Dear Sirs") is followed by a comma and the body of the e-mail starts on a new line with a lower case letter. Alternatively, you can greet the recipient with an exclamation mark (e.g. "Good morning!"), in which case you use a capital letter on the new line. If you are addressing the customer directly and informally, remember to use vocatives and separate them with commas (e.g. "Hi, Tom,").

As far as possible, avoid forms with the verb 'hello', which are considered inappropriate or even rude by many users, and there are good reasons for this. While "hello" is relatively neutral, "hello" or "welcome" is much more nuanced and may be perceived as exalting the sender.

Worth recommending is the form "Good morning", which is very neutral, natural and polite. It can be used at any time of the day, including in automated correspondence, which sometimes goes out in the middle of the night. In fact, you never know when the recipient will open the message, and "good evening" is reserved for closer acquaintances

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Re the substance

Whether you're writing a newsletter, order confirmation email or sending a password reset link, take care with style. The text should fit the nature of your business (it's wonderful if you have a tone of voice and are aware of the style your brand speaks in). Always use simple language and as few words as possible. What else is worth remembering?

1. Hierarchy of information

Research conducted by Nielsen Norman Group shows that ideally, a message should start with information that is relevant to the transaction (e.g. the tracking number should be at the top of the message). If the message contains information about some action that is to be or has been performed, this should also rank high. Lower on the priority lists was information about what to do if something goes wrong. If the message starts with marketing information, there is a high risk that... it will quickly end up in the trash.

2 Structure of the message

The longer the message, the more important it is to give it the right structure. Exactly the same rules apply here as when creating other content. The email should be easy to scan, e.g. dividing it into sections with appropriate headings, using lists and bullets, or bolding important information.

3. you or you?

It is up to you to decide whether to address the recipient formally or informally. You know your customers and you know which form suits the tone of voice of your company. For example, you could write "You" on the website and in newsletters, and "Sir/Madam" after a transaction or in direct contact. Or maybe you have the option to ask in the customer panel or at the registration stage how the person would like to be addressed? Choose a solution to suit your needs and remember to be consistent.

4 Linguistic correctness

Did you know that the form "mail" is colloquial, and that the correct form is "e-mail", necessarily with a diva in the middle? Or that "e-mail" is conjugated like "chop", so it is correct to "send an e-mail", not "send an e-mail"? These are details that text professionals are sensitive to, so you should rely on their support. It's great if you can work with a UX writer, they will know what to do to make the email perfect. A copywriter or an experienced editor can also help you. If you don't have such people in your company, the bare minimum is to paste the text into a word processor that has a spell check function. If you have any doubts, use PWN's Guidebook, where for years the best linguists have been answering every possible question related to Polish language. Type for example "e-mail" into the search engine and you will see how many doubts can be raised by a seemingly obvious word!

5. details where the devil lies

Anyone can write, but... Not everyone is aware of certain nuances on which sometimes a lot depends. Here are a few that are worth bearing in mind:

  • Any text in an email should be gender neutral.
  • Each of your emails should be consistent with the rest of your customer correspondence and your website.
  • Certain phrases such as "offer" or too many message links will cause your email to be classed as spam.
  • If you are replying to an email, always include the sender's original message.
  • Use short, easy-to-read URLs.
  • Avoid using transactional messages as marketing tools.
  • Use illustrations and photos sparingly and make sure they are never the only source of important information. 
  • Use special characters with care as they may not display correctly in email clients. 
  • Don't use tabs, just spaces. It is good practice to link conjunctions to the words following them in your content with an unbroken space.
  • Make sure you include links to FAQs, instructions or other resources that the recipient can use.
  • If you are referring to a page because there is additional information on it, explain to the recipient why it is worthwhile for them to follow the link.

Say goodbye nice and classy

A very important element of the message, as the personal signature builds a relationship with the customer. Don't leave it out, even if you are sending an automated message. Instead of the first name, you can then use a team form e.g. "The Mobee Dick Team". Just remember that the goodbye formula (e.g. "Greetings", "Thank you") is not followed by a comma or full stop, and the first and last name is written on a new line and not followed by any punctuation marks. There is also no need for an extra line of space between the salutation and the first name and surname, but it is a good idea to put it after the first name and surname to separate the closing formula from the footer.

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Footer as information bank

A well-designed footer can be your power tool. Give it a lot of attention, test it, study it until you find the variant that best meets your needs. You can include not only the sender's details but also a lot of important information. E.g. links to your social media, FAQ or other places that may be useful for the user. Note that the footer is the business card of the sender. If the email is sent by a specific person, it requires repeating their name. Therefore, the footer must be visually distinct, separated by a line, maybe even written in a different font type. It is worth remembering that many programmes hide the footer, which means that often the recipient will see it only when asked. This makes it all the more important to separate the footer from the signature greeting and not to combine the two elements. Corporations often combine these elements in order to optimize their time, but from the point of view of netiquette this is simply rude. 

An investment that will pay off

Treat the time spent refining your emails as an investment. A customer who gets everything they need in an email won't come back with questions and won't call the hotline. After a good e-mail, your company will be well associated with him and he will be more likely to use your services again. E-mail has enormous potential.

We believe that with our advice, you will make good use of it. And if you feel you need support in doing so, we will be happy to help you redesign your email communication or design it for you from scratch. 


Sources

  • "E-Commerce User Experience Vol. 12: Usability of Transactional Email and Confirmation Messages. 144 Guidelines for Creating Usable Confirmations, Updates, Notifications, and Notices, 3rd Edition", Janelle Estes, Susan Farrell, Amy Schade and Jakob Nielsen, Nielsen Norman Group, USA.
  • PWN Language Guide, https://sjp.pwn.pl/poradnia.


CONTACT US

Want to learn more about how to create compelling, consistent and useful content on your website? Let's talk

Questions? Get in touch with us!

Let's talkLet's talk