It’s Not You; It’s Me

Is saying goodbye really that hard? Apparently, yes: yes it is. Instead of following through and cutting ties properly, I have to admit, I’ve been taking the easy way out.

For longer than I feel comfortable discussing, I’ve been relying on Apple Mail’s Junk filter to be the bad guy. Instead of taking the few extra seconds to unsubscribe from unwanted email newsletters, I’ve trained Junk to inauspiciously hide mail I’m too lazy to deal with myself.

I’m well aware of Training Mode and respect Mail’s ability to learn. But no matter. The Flavorpill newsletter I signed up for in hopes of being the first to know? The Daily Candy list I subscribed to in hopes of being first at the sample sale? The Threadless announcements I subscribed to hoping to never have to deal with Women’s Medium being sold out again? No slight against these fine texts (and they really are), but I just lost interest. They’re all junk to me now.

At one point or another, these newsletters seemed important enough. But now, they’re junk to me.

In an overwhelming Inbox that, on any given morning, holds upwards of 100 emails, anything extraneous must go. So instead of hunting for the inconsistent Unsubscribe link, I coolly click the Junk button to remedy repeating newsletters, and Mail takes care of the rest.

Coming to Junk Terms
Recently though, in an effort to get organized as I take on additional responsibilities, I did the right thing and officially unsubscribed from most lists. And what I found was surprising: even after the CAN-SPAM Act five years ago, we’re still a far way off from a consistent user experience in experience of unsubscribing. Language, number of clicks, interaction, and data input differ wildly.

Here are just a handful of the differences:

Approach #1: Enviable Etiquette

The iTunes unsubscribe process is Emily-Post perfect: polite, concise, and mindful. While there is plenty of comforting text kindly describing the process, the calls to action are clear and simple. (If pressed, I would suggest that “change my email address” belongs with the actual email address, but I won’t hold it against them.)
Unsubscribe requirements: One click; optional radio button selection

Approach #2: Hands-off

Unsubscribers to the Very Short List, otherwise a perfectly delightful publication, are required to remember which email address they used to subscribe, then decide whether comments are required to get through the process. Nothing is pre-populated, and the cognitive wherewithal required to simply decipher what’s required may drive users back to simply clicking Junk next time.
Unsubscribe requirements: One click; email address; patience to read instructions

Very Short List

Approach #3: Anonymity

This example from a sports-supply store, Jack Rabbit Sports, demonstrates how some brands choose to wipe their hands of the whole process. After clicking Unsubscribe, users have no indication of which newsletter they unsubscribed from, which email address was used, and where they are now. In my process of mass-unsubscribing, I repeated the process three times.
Unsubscribe requirements: None, but lack of feedback is a barrier itself


Approach #4: Research-Minded

Because Flavorpill kindly unsubscribes users on click without requiring additional steps, the site can get away with asking users to give feedback on why they might be unsubscribing. It would be useful, however, to see an unsubscribe confirmation.
Unsubscribe requirements: None

Approach #5: Intrigue

Lastfm keeps your current subscriptions a secret by suggesting that you might be subscribed to something interesting, but to see what it is before you opt out of it, you have to visit another page, warmly called the “notifications page.” The super-long form button is an especially nice touch as it achieves intimidation, the next strategy, as well.
Unsubscribe requirements: One click; no text entry

Approach #6: Intimidation

Thrillist uses tough love to intimidate users into changing their minds. With playful language though, they may have a good chance of doing so. Because the field’s already pre-populated, users need only press a button to unsubscribe, and the experience remains consistently on brand throughout.
Unsubscribe requirements: One click; optional text entry

Remember the Last Impression
Like the forgotten error message, the unsubscribe process serves as a pretty critical part of the experience users have with a product or service. Quite possibly serving as the last memory a user will have with a brand, unsubscribes’s job is not inconsequential; it’s potentially full of creating lasting meaning. Last impressions are important too.