A UX Guide: Growing your Mailing List after GDPR

Now that websites can't resort to cheap tricks like prechecked opt-in boxes, it becomes more important than ever for every growth marketer to put their best foot forward. What are the UX best practices to help grow your mailing list? And, in case you missed it, what is GDPR?

GDPR: Consumer Rights First

GDPR marks a modern shift in the way that business can interact with consumers' data. It gives consumers much greater control over their data and when they will be contacted. There is extensive writing on GDPR compliance elsewhere, but a few highlights are that 

  • Pre-ticked opt-in boxes are no longer valid; users must actively give consent by ticking the opt-in box themselves.
  • There should be granular options to consent separately for different types of outreach. Websites can no longer add people to their long-term mailing lists just for requesting a product demo, for instance. There should be separate, unticked options for each.
  • Consent requests must be separate from other terms and conditions. Consent should not be a precondition of signing up to a service unless necessary for that service.
  • It should be clear who is handling users' data. Websites must clearly communicate the names of any third parties who will be relying on consent.
  • Users should be able to have their data removed at their request, and that process should be as easy for the user as it was to sign up in the first place.

How does this affect UX?

Granular consent potentially means lots and lots of options to opt-in to. Active consent means more clicks (i.e., work) for the user. Additional details about data handling mean more blocks of text. These changes could easily spell UX disaster. But there's no need for that. Here, are several ways to make your marketing-opt-in better and better (with examples!). Assuming that cheap tricks for opt-in no longer apply (i.e., pre-ticked boxes), your user experience can make or break your funnel.

Use Fewer Fields

More fields mean more work, and more work means fewer sign-ups. You should cut fields whenever possible. However, removing fields will be at odds with GDPR's requirement of granular consent, which requires separate permissions for different kinds of marketing efforts. You should use this as an opportunity to tailor your goals. Do you really need to send them snail mail? Must you have their telephone number? If no, cut it. Throw out the nice-to-haves so that you can have a buttoned-up user experience. 

Oracle does an awful job of this, in this pre-GDPR example where they ask for lots and lots of information.

 Too many form fields add friction to the user experience.

Too many form fields add friction to the user experience.

You know that this is not a GDPR-compliant form, because they also bundle consent in with the download, a real no-no. But they should cut this down to no more than 3-5 fields (perhaps email, company name, and industry?). This is where your individual goals will impact how you make your decisions.

Meta on the other hand, reduces this to just 5 fields:

 Meta has fewer form fields (although still a lot!) and breaks out separate permissions to receive updates (or not!) when users download the white paper.

Meta has fewer form fields (although still a lot!) and breaks out separate permissions to receive updates (or not!) when users download the white paper.

Not only is this half the work, it dramatically decreases the "oh God, this looks like a lot of work"-factor. Plus, some aspects of this are closer to GDPR-compliance. Namely, Meta doesn't automatically force users onto their mailing list when they download the white paper; instead, users are able to give permission to be contacted for a demo and/or to subscribe to their email list separately. Well done, Meta!

Opt-in Should be Easy to Understand

Not every UI is easy to follow. Make sure that yours is. The classic UI for opt-in is the checked (or unchecked) box. But the Data Protection Network has this even stronger version:

 The Data Protection Network uses these visually strong red-to-green slider boxes to get affirmative consent.

The Data Protection Network uses these visually strong red-to-green slider boxes to get affirmative consent.

Whereas unchecked boxes are easy to overlook, the red X's here grab the user's attention. They also wisely leave both boxes unselected, requiring the user to effectively "practice" the right behavior (i.e., signing up for updates) when agreeing to the privacy policy. Nicely done! To make this even stronger, I'd like to see them change the last field from "Data Protection Network" to something like "I'd like updates from Data Protection Network."

Use a signup form, not a signup link.

If you can't force people onto your mailing list anymore, the best thing you can do is make it easy to sign up for those who do want to hear from you. One way product managers can achieve this is by ditching the signup link and instead swapping it for an on-page sign-up form. Love And Lemons makes this mistake by asking their visitors to click through to sign up:

 This is bad. Don't do this.

This is bad. Don't do this.

 

People are resistant to clicking through. Who knows how much work will be required once you click that link! Plus, it's one more step. Having the form fully available makes sign-up easier and more appealing. Oh She Glows is a great example of this:

 Oh She Glows includes a one-field, embedded mailing list signup form directly on their homepage.

Oh She Glows includes a one-field, embedded mailing list signup form directly on their homepage.

This embedded form is featured right at the top of the page, and visitors can anticipate how easy it will be to sign up. Plus, the in-line CTA (Please enter your email address) ensures that the visitor will know exactly what to do.

Call your updates something more interesting than "newsletter."

The word “newsletter” has associations with being out-of-date and tedious. It belongs with TPS reports, dental cleanings, and tax reform. Make this a mini call-to-action that's in line with the real value you'll provide to subscribers. In a GDPR-world, it's all about demonstrating the legitimate value you'll provide at every turn. Tim Ferriss does this well:

 Call your updates something interesting that accurately portray the value you'll provide your audience.

Call your updates something interesting that accurately portray the value you'll provide your audience.

There is no ambiguity about what to expect: you'll be getting five morning rituals! Vox, an online newspaper, is another good example of setting clear expectations for their Vox Sentences updates:

vox-sentences-user-experience.png

The news, but shorter! Within the context of visiting this news website, this makes total sense. They could make this even stronger by clarifying how often to expect updates (Daily? Weekly? Whenever breaking news happens?) without making the copy overwhelming.

A good user experience is key to growing your mailing list. Although GDPR has the potential to clutter that experience and reduce sign-ups, these UX examples should ease that transition. In the long run, protecting users' rights is worth the effort. 

The success of your mailing list relies on a great UX. At PhD Insights, we help companies make better user experiences. Learn more by viewing our services page. Did you enjoy these examples? We hope you'll share them.

Legal Disclaimer: The information in this guide does not constitute legal advice. This is for informational purposes only, and we strongly encourage you to seek independent legal counsel to understand how your organization needs to comply with the GDPR.