35 weeks ago I started the UX Essentials newsletter.
After steadily building the subscriber list and the content it’s time to share my experiences about why I started a newsletter and my learnings from it.
People learn from other people. Spreading knowledge amongst the community.
Save and share my favourite links from the week.
A newsletter. 5 links curated every week that cover my favourite reading material of the past week in UX, UI and Product design.
The idea behind the newsletter was to collect and share the things I’d read in the past week. Along with blogging (on my personal site) and writing on Medium, I decided that as part of my personal brand, I was someone who shared knowledge amongst the community and be more open about the things I was reading and enjoying.
A lot of people already do this, however I was overwhelmed with the amount of information around. It’s a common thing where cognitive overload exists, mainly because there’s so much news all of the time.
For that reason, I decided to make UX Essentials a 5 item email, hand picked links from things I’d read that previous week.
In Week 1, I decided to promote via my Twitter and on Facebook, along with emailing a link to the list to a few friends.
I started with 95 subscribers, which I didn’t think was bad at all.
By Week 2 I had 468 subscribers as the promotion on social channels had helped.
By Week 3, I now had 742 subscribers and I carried on spending a couple of hours on a Saturday or a Sunday compiling the 5 links for that week.
In just 3 weeks I had seen over a 600% increase in the amount of subscribers to the list, so I definitely thought there was something in this.
As time went on, I got faster at deciding what went into the newsletter and I continued to see the list grow steadily.
To me, it’s not the numbers that are important, and by that I mean the total number of subscribers. It’s the engagement from the people who read and subscribe.
As it stands, the average open rate is 50.2% and the average CTR (click through rate) is 15.2%. I am chuffed to say the least!
Below is the design of a the newsletter that I was sending out.
One the left hand side, we have the very first issue, which was quite basic, using a default MailChimp template, so I could quickly test the MVP version of the first issue. It made everything much quicker.
The middle sees week #15 and I decided to change the design slightly. This time, I coded my own template and again used MailChimp tags to populate the content.
On the far right hand side is the latest iteration. After some feedback from a reader, who explained that the 2-column view was slightly broken in some browsers, I opted for the single row, full width content block.
This made it simpler to add images and also made the images larger.
I also added in a “READ ARTICLE” or “READ MORE” link as an extra touch target. This didn’t have a profound effect, but it signposted where to go next. (The image, the title and CTA are all tappable/clickable).
Design wise, there’s not been a huge change and there’s been some iteration based around reader feedback. I try to keep copy to a minimum, explaining what the article is about in the sub copy and that should hopefully be enough for someone to click/tap on any of the links.
You can’t please EVERYONE. It’s a fact.
A list will grow and shrink in total subscribers over time.
However, people like to give feedback, and feedback is always appreciated:
Thoroughly recommend subscribing to @uxessentials – never fails to be worth a read
— Matt Sutton (@mattsutt0n) November 15, 2015
I’ve seen a steady increase in awareness as people started sharing articles and including the Twitter handle when they did so.
— Triple Double (@Triple_Double_) October 5, 2015
Some people unsubscribed because my ‘tone’ was too friendly or too try hard. Luckily, because I edit the content I decided to settle for a much more subtle introduction and ditched the idea of talking about the weather. People wanted to find out links, not hear what I thought about the weather 🙂
It started off by researching articles to put in the newsletter every week. Over time, I stopped this and started using a variety of tools (inc. Pocket and Twitter) to simply save to a list which I would then use as a marker for the content in that week’s email.
I haven’t spent a long time umming and aahhing about what should be included in that week. If there was an article that had stuck in my mind that week, it was an obvious inclusion.
As long as the content sticks to the UX, UI or Product Design strands then it can be included.
The newsletter originally out around 4pm GMT on a Sunday. Over the period of a few weeks, I decided that sending closer to 9pm GMT was better…
WHY? You may ask.
It was an easy decision. I had a think about the problem in a different way. Reframe the problem if you will.
Sunday evenings are a time in which some people will NOT be looking forward to the following day – the beginning of the week, the first day back at work.
Sunday evening also sees a huge increase in usage of mobile apps (Twitter, Facebook, Email) and so people are likely doing anything to ignore/forget that they are going back to work tomorrow.
Over time, the CTR % went up and then stayed at a steady 12–15% over time.
This was a really obvious win!
I believe it’s good to be open and honest about the things I’m working on. I have no problem sharing these stats with the wider audience.
As you can see, it’s been a pretty steady line across all of the KPI’s, apart from the Open Rate, which has slightly declined over time.
Overall Open Rate, Click rate and Industry avg. open rate
Week #1 Stats
Week #15 stats
Week #21 stats — The best week of the year!
There’s plans to expand the website in the new year, to include links to each and every article I feature in the weekly. This will act as a content hub and also a way of enticing more sign ups. (hopefully!)
I am not actively looking for sponsors and this week was the first time I had one. This came off the back of a subscriber contacting me and we sorted out a quick sponsorship with imgIX very quickly. The aim of the newsletter is NOT to make money, but simply add to and build around my personal brand.
It might sound simple, but I love learning new things and I love passing on any relevant links to articles that I think may be useful to others, just ask my friend Adam Silver.
On top of this, I’ve been looking at building a Chrome Extension for UX Essentials. More on this soon…
I’d like to thank all of the subscribers, readers, sharers, content writers, providers and most of all, the people who have influenced me to not only start, write and continue to share. It’s been a great year of content sharing – here’s to 2016!
If you haven’t signed up yet, give it a go — www.uxessentials.co.uk
I’m a UX Consultant in London – get in touch about your next big idea.