About 9 months ago I stopped using Windows Live Mail completely. I switched to gmail. I actually liked WLM a lot better at the time. Having been a lifetime outlook/OWA user the swanky new interface they had rolled out was comfortable and worked great. Kudos to their development team. Why did I switch?
I switched because the Windows Live Marketing team stopped respecting me as a customer and started abusing their power to grab my attention. They send "Important Updates" at least once a month that can’t be blocked despite my junk mail settings.
I loved WLM because of the ability to set mail filters so that only people that new me got to my inbox. Sort of like facebook messages before app-spam went crazy. My settings were as follows:
This meant that only people I wanted to could grab my valuable personal attention. Regularly scan your junk mail and add someone you may have missed. I could also use the address to sign up for things online without worry. Life was great.
Then I started getting dancing Lepricons in my inbox…
I can tell you now that firstname.lastname@example.org is not on my safe list and can’t actually be blocked or added to a junk mail list. So I looked for the option to remove myself from these urgent updates. If you do you’ll find this note at the bottom:
There are so many things wrong with this text. Lets start with the first sentence
"As a Windows Live member you have received this e-mail to inform you of updates, changes to the service, or special news and information vital to the service."
Now let’s scan this particular newsletter for information that is vital.
As shown above the top of the mail is an ad for Window Live One Care… what if I’m on a MAC? You also see tips and tricks that include "Inform Others"… otherwise known as let us help you spam your friends so that they will join WLM. I don’t consider tips vital
Get WLM and MSN on your phone! It’s another ad!
"Use Windows Live Mail to Stay up to date"… aren’t I already doing that? It’s basically an ad to use WLM!
I had lots of hope for the "Tell us what you think" section. Maybe they wanted my feedback on Hotmail. Maybe they wanted to improve the service… no, I get asked to vote in a ridiculous poll and shown that everyone’s favorite game is "Chicktionary" – How did I live without this vital knowledge before?
At the bottom there is a touch of human to the newsletter. This part probably should have been first as it’s actually the most useful (still not vital ) content.
The final insult from the text above is how I, as a formerly loyal customer, could remove myself from getting this junk mail.
If you do not wish to receive these letters you may discontinue your participation in the service and close your account.
I love it… if you don’t like it… leave. Thanks. I’ve done that.
I guess what’s infuriating about all this is that there are hundreds of better ways and designs that could be used to inform me with tips, new service announcements, and polls like this without disrespecting my explicitly set chosen user settings. Lets look at the same messages on google that don’t ignore my settings or force me to delete mail I didn’t ask for.
Get gmail on my phone! Its the same ad from the WLM newsletter, but in text and not in my way. Plus they could rotate this and it’s shown every time I log in. Naysayers will say that now I’m forced to see an ad, but it’s always there and consistent. So I could choose to not look at it.
Gmail uses webclips, and this space above my inbox for news, ads, and stories that are interesting to me based on my mail. Creepy… maybe, but I’ve actually clicked on them. No messages about "Chicktionary", but if the WLM team wanted to they could put the silly polls there.
Here is Google’s way of pulling me into new features. A link clearly labeled "New Features" and a "New" icon next to one of the new features. All very visible, in context, but not in the way. Great design IMO. Plus, they have a dedicated product blog to let me know about their new features.
Not that anything in the WLM newsletter was what I would call "Vital", but what if there was a vital notification. Lets pretend, in a really bad case, that my private account information leaked on the service. Would an e-mail I delete really be the best way to tell me? I’ve now been trained by the WLM team that this mail is junk. Please don’t put anything vital in it. If there is something I really need to know put it in my face when I log in with a pop-up. Of course I shudder to suggest this becuase of what else it might be used for.
The point is that I can’t trust that mail to be vital, I didn’t ask for it, the information is not relavant to me, it actually ignores my settings, and there are really better ways to give me this information in this day in age.
Respect your customers, give them information they want, and only interrupt their workflow with truly vital information.
Disclaimer: The above statements are my opinions and do not in any way reflect the plans, thoughts, intentions or strategies of my employer.