Friday, December 14, 2007

Are Your Automated Web Processes Working For You?

By Heather Fignar

Recently, I've been inundated with mail from a now defunct email box. In addition to all the email newsletters and feeds that I subscribe to, I have had my inbox cluttered with someone else's subscription choices.

In an ideal world, the former owner of the box would have changed all the subscription to a new email address. However, this exercise gave me an in-depth look into hundreds of subscription processes. It wasn't pretty. Here are some general observations on the good, bad and ugly -- not necessarily in that order.

  • In more than 90 percent of cases, the landing pages were so non-descript that the organizational affiliation was unclear.
  • In particular, Lyris applications displayed a page that says: "Your email address will be removed" and then asks, "Are you sure?" But the page, question, font and Yes button were so bland that I missed them the first couple times and had to repeat the process.
  • Some unsubscribe pages were also non-descript, non-personalized forms that required me to enter the email address. Lance Armstrong Foundation was one of the few organizations that had personalized the page with a header. Others had no identifying copy at all.
  • Several groups require an account login before allowing me to unsubscribe.
  • Some landed me on a page with the organizations header that simply said, "You have been unsubscribed. Thank you." Some provided a more in-depth customized form that allows the subscriber to differentiate between the topic and all organizational emails.
  • One of Howard Dean's emails had a sentence that read, "Click here to unsubscribe from this mailing list." But, it wasn't linked.
  • FeedBlitz was the only unsubscribe page that readily gave me an option to change my email address without unsubscribing and re-subscribing
The saddest finding was the lack of effort put in by more organizations to customize these crucial relational pages. Unfortunately, most signup processes are just as generic. We would recommend that organizations spend the time and energy to customize the process. If constituents want to leave the list, make sure it isn't hard, but also provide a compelling reason for them to stay. At the very least, identify yourself.

***Heather Fignar is a managing partner with NPAdvisors in Warrenton, Va. Her email is The organization's Web site is
This article is from NPT TechnoBuzz, a publication of The NonProfit Times. Subscribe to NPT TechnoBuzz or any of our other enewsletters and get the latest nonprofit news and stories delivered to your inbox.

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