Friday, March 16, 2007

"Email This" - The cheapest and simplest way to attract new users

In order to grow your web business, you need new users.

There are a multitude of ways in which you can attract new users. Targeted ads, affiliate programs etc etc etc. But the cheapest and simplest way is to let your current users do it for you for free.

For this to happen, you need to do 2 things -
-- Create compelling content. It should be compelling enough that a portion of your users want to tell others about it. This is the critical path. Without this, there is no point trying anything else as otherwise any new users you manage to attract will ultimately leave.
-- Once your users find something on your site compelling enough to share, make it easy for them to tell their friends about it

I started using the Internet in 1999. In trolling thru countless news-sites, blogs, web apps etc etc since then, the easiest way I have found to share something is thru an "Email This" link right next to the content I wanted to share.

It in incredible how many people manage to botch this up. So, from my user experience, this is my cheat sheet for a great "Email This" link design...
-- Have the "Email This" link displayed prominently next to the content you want your users to share. Having a familiar letter icon will help. The aim is to put the thought of emailing the content into the mind of a user who has not even considered sharing your content.
-- Clicking the link should preferably not open a new page. The best implementation would open a new Ajaxy-layer within the same page. The aim is to prevent the user losing interest in the time it takes to load an email form in a new page.
-- Email the entire content. Most recipients don't bother clicking on URL's sent by their friends. If the content they read in their mail client is good, they will come to your site looking for more.
-- If you gotta have a captcha, then try not to make it intrusive. I hate captchas that are filled with numbers because I need to refer to the captcha again and again as I fill it out. As I have mentioned in a previous article (Corvette not GS450H), human beings prefer meaningful words rather than numbers. If it takes too long to type the captcha, I'm outta there.
-- Don't have stupid restrictions in your email form, like allowing only 1 recipient address, enforcing ridiculous formatting requirements between multiple email addresses etc etc.

In the next few posts, I will highlight some of the most brain-dead implementations of the "Email This" link that has had me banging my desk in frustration. I will also cover my search for the perfect "Email This" link for this blog.

Related Posts
Corvette not GS450H
Why "Simplicity Works Everytime"

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