With the rise of social networking, email has taken a back seat to tweets and wall posts as the hip message format. But email is still a huge channel for messaging, and serious business messaging has not yet mingled much with pokes, favorites, or other social message types.
There are many places in the UX Lifecycle where email has a place. Of course, each of these things can be done directly in the interface of your application. However, since not every app is an everyday app, you can’t be sure when people will be using it. It makes sense to supplement in-app communications with outside communications as well.
Here are some of the common ways that email is used:
- Confirmation: Emails have always been used to confirm some action taken, such as a purchase or a registration. In this way they act as a receipt of action taken, often prompting you to print them out for your records.
- Reminders: Email serves as a simple reminding tool to let people know where to go and what to do. The money management app Mint, for example, emails you to remind you when to pay your credit card bill.
- Learning: Email newsletters are a real source of learning for application users. As applications get more sophisticated and similar, they will be differentiated not only on function or ease-of-use but also in how well they can teach you about the activity they support. Take, for example, the rise in learning materials in email newsletter applications…now competing on how good they can make you as an emailer, not just on how easy they make the act itself.
- Alerts: Email is excellent at alerting people to something important. Again, Mint is helpful in this way. First, it emails me when my bank account gets low on funds, which protects me from over-drafting. Second, it lets me know when I’ve been charged a bank fee, which often means that I have to go figure out why. While the news it delivers isn’t good, Mint provides a better user experience because it helps me become better at managing my accounts.
- Updates: When you update your software or service, you want your customers to know immediately. Instead of waiting for them to log into the service, it makes sense to send them a message. This allows you to let them know faster but also allows you get feedback faster, thus shortening your iteration cycle time.
These are just the basic ways that email is useful in providing a positive user experience. And despite the rise of social networking email is still the primary way for out-of-app communications.