How to evaluate an ESP based on their UX skills

If you have a full service ESP that is designing your emails, ensure they are serving up a fantastic User Experience. They need to provide the guidelines and framework that is both functional and designed to maximize response.

But how do you evaluate an Email service provider based on their UX skills?

User Experience in email marketing

First a note on User Experience (UX). User Experience is not a design, or how the design is laid out, or even the color pallet used. It is neither content nor interactivity.

UX is a marriage of all these aspects in such a manner that translates into positive email marketing engagement – giving the user a positive experience with your messages. Are your emails functional and designed to maximize response?

A team effort

Great User Experience will always require a collaborative team effort to achieve, so that means the full service ESP or agency together with your own team. Luckily we are ALL UX professionals. We all have a perception of what looks good, what feels good, what works for us as individuals and what we would like to improve in our day-to-day lives.

4 Important UX techniques your ESP should employ

But how to evaluate an ESP or agency based on their UX skills and what to look for specifically? These 4 areas should always be on your list of “things to check”.

1. Content flow should…. Flow
How many times have you received an email that has a very confusing flow to it? Not just because of too many elements or too much copy, but also in the way that you are being guided through it. If there is navigation within the email, it should be intuitive and easy to interact with. If the content of the mail has multiple sections, each section should ideally have supporting headings so that the audience can easily identify them.

2. Avoid design clutter
Many emails are victims of ‘overdesign’ with a myriad of big images, content dividers, sidebars and other colorful distractions within. While the email design itself might look good inside Photoshop, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will look good in an email client. Various email clients are cluttered and busy, so a minimalistic approach to the design is best – highlighting the goals of the email and making it easy for the user to act on.

3. Prevent content clutter
An email saturated with text poses much the same problem as one that is overdesigned. If your email is lengthy and very text-heavy, think about giving each paragraph and section room to breathe. This can be done by leaving relatively large spaces between copy and sections, which helps split the email into easy to read chunks and avoids overwhelming your audience with text.

4. Call to arms… or an action! Make it clear
“If I can’t see it, I’ll never know that I wanted it!” A rather basic, yet very often over looked element of your email is the call to action. Why are you sending this email out? Do you want your audience to sign up for new services? Buy products? Perhaps you want them to know about a great new service that you’re offering? Whatever the aim, let your recipients take action in an easy way! People generally won’t scroll down a long email before seeing a call to action. Highlight your call to action – make it stand out and make it easy to take action.

Evaluating your ESP based on their UX skills: Functionality trumps all

It is very important to make sure your ESP or agency knows User Experience and covers these 4 important areas before you sign up with them. As it will help ensure your emails are functional and designed for a good User Experience right from the start. That way you are also maximizing response from the start. But how to do it?

Want to know if your (future) ESP provides a good UX service? Put them to the test:
[ ] The design does not interfere with your desired message
[ ] All key messages and call to action references are clear and easy to act on
[ ] The designs have mobile device compatibility in mind

If your ESP is already designing your emails, ensure they understand that when it comes to emails, functionality is king. If they are not yet your ESP, look at some of their previous work and talk to them to get an impression.

Your ESP should also be making open and tracking statistics available to you per email campaign sent out, for review, so that you can track performance. If you aren’t getting the desired response from your emails, and need further advice from an email marketing specialist, then that could be a sign you need to look for a new ESP or agency that values UX as much as you – and your recipients – do.

Image via Flickr

James Cacchioni

About James Cacchioni

James is the Global User Experience and Creative Designer at Striata. He is passionate about usability and creating easy to look at, easy to use interfaces. When not designing, James is pushing the limits of responsive emails.

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