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Rahul Singh in Transactional Emails

Best Practices To Handle Comment Notification Email

Update notifications are one of the most frequently sent emails. Therefore, you need to give it the extra care and attention it requires. Looking at it from the surface, you may think that it is all alerting your customers of what just happened. However, it is much more than that. Depending on how you design and implement it, you will realize that they are very potent and constructive.

Comments, Actions Alerts, and More

Here, we are using “update notification” as an umbrella that covers comments, actions, updates, alerts, as well as other events happening within the given software. The mentioned events will have slight differences about the presentation of email, but every other factor like the headers, footers, and the metadata will remain the same.

When you are dealing with these email types, there are more chances that the recipient will frequently interact with them. They can form a part of the most frequent communication that you engage in. Unlike any other notifications, it should be simple, highly efficient, and very practical. Therefore, ensure that you do not use too many decorations or branding so that the recipient can focus more on the content and perform the necessary task. You can leave the header and the logo. Ensure that the footer is simple. Where applicable, make it is possible to reply to the email directly.

Update Notification Emails Goals

Notification emails can be relatively simple, and their goals can be evident from the surface. However, sometimes when you complete the notification designing, you may realize that it has lost its primary focus! Follow the below vital points, not to drop your focus.

1. Notify The Person And Provide All The Related Information

It is essential that your priority sticks to offering the notification’s content. Many products will hide the vital information by including redundant and unimportant things like logos, banners, and legal disclaimer in the footer. The primary goal of this notification is to offer the recipient a lot of essential and appropriate information on the subject and more content together with numerous actions within the email’s body.

2. Make It Easy For Them To Respond To Notifications

When a person receives a notification, their next response is to either ignore, acknowledge, or reply to the notification. Ensure that it is easy for them to do so. Many ESPs offer support for processing inbound emails, which you can create without using a sophisticated tool.

Update Notification Emails And some Common Mistakes

Sometimes people make many mistakes with notification emails. It disrupts what is the recipient actually wants. All these mistakes are imperative, and they can affect your notification emails negatively.

Reusing Other Emails’ Shared Components

A common mistake made by people is to include large logos, headers, and informational footers from other notifications. For example, one can include Twitter’s or Facebook ’s links. No recipient wants a logo or a big header positioned at the top of the email that pushes all the vital details that the recipient needs further below than it has to be. Notifications should always have their custom elements that will help in reducing noise and cause the compelling content to stand out from every other unnecessary information.

Designing the Email like a Teaser

There are times when including every content of the notification in an email is impossible. Even so, you should always try to cover all the vital material in the email. This way the recipient will not have to click to get to the page. Only make a recipient click through to get to a page if it is for security reasons. Otherwise, it is not a user-friendly practice.

When a recipient is required to follow a given link, and they are on a mobile, they may have to wait for the page to download. Also, they may need to log in, and this is not always easy or practical when using a mobile device.

Whenever they can get the complete notification aligned in their emails, they can quickly decide whether to proceed to the site. However, before implementing this, we assume that you have optimized your emails. It would be of great help for reading emails on mobile devices.

Lacking More Options For The User

There are many other provisions that your notification emails should offer as an extension of the content included in the email. Your notification emails will always need the “view this” button.

Also, remember to include the options for “view the details” or the “read this” at the top of the email. There are instances when the email is broken or difficult to read or the buttons to view the content may be positioned lower in the email or maybe hidden. In such cases, the recipient will have a tough time reading it. Keep everything simple and provide your actionable buttons as well as links at the top of the email.

Making it a nightmare to adjust their preferences and batch-related notifications

Sometimes notifications can be extremely chatty. Usually, transactional emails are not supposed to offer the unsubscribe option. That does not mean that you cannot simplify the user’s ability to change their preferences of notification frequency. When you make it easy, you show the users that you value their time and attention, and it is a sign of respect.

The best way is to ensure that you reduce the number of notifications delivered. Do this by refraining from sending notifications immediately and sending a single email containing batch notifications sometimes in an hour. Most applications will not do this because it requires a great change in the engineering of sending the emails. It is a trivial process to keep firing off an email with every event. Even so, it’s more complicated to put in place a background process that identifies notifications that are relevant, bring them together and send it to a single email.

The other problem associated with sending batch notifications is that it can be overwhelming as you are sending a dozen notifications, each having full content.  Therefore, when you choose this method, send summaries only. You will be doing it right if the delivery option’s control is in your client’s hands. The recipient can choose whether to receive full content of events immediately when they happen or a batch of summarized notifications at an hourly interval.

Preventing Replies Where Relevant

For one to accept notification’s replies and have them processed automatically into the application will require immense development efforts. When you treat notification emails as a communication channel that is purely one-way, you don’t provide a user-friendly interaction. People feel comfortable replying to emails.

It is adequate if you include a support email address in the reply-to section. However, when you force your users to log in and use the web interface for the content or action notification, all they get is an unfriendly user experience. A good email service provider should have an inbuilt functionality dedicated to handling inbound emails. Some will go a step further to offer great API to access any attached files, stripped replies, and the key metadata that the header has. At Aritic Mail, we made this very easy for you with the availability of dedicated inbound email processing webhook that also offers a SpamAssassin spam filter, which you can configure. No provider has a reason not to implement this as it is effortless to add and is very vital for the users.

Information To Include In The Update Notification Email

As stated earlier, our title “update notifications” is an umbrella that covers some use cases such as alerts, comments, and so on. All these use cases are slightly different from each other. However, above that, they have details that cut across each one of them.

The Name Of The Sender

There are instances when your application will not send email from your users’ addresses. Thus, it makes it more clear about who sent the email. It will include their name in the “from” section. “Name”  is one of the first things that a recipient sees. Even so, ensure that you do everything right as it may cause a lot of confusion with the address of the recipient of the email. For instance, rather than using an email address alone like ‘notification@example.com’ or using the email address with the application such as ‘Examplenotification@example.com>,’ you can include the person’s name (who triggered the notification). It will be as follows, ‘Annie Hofstadter<notification@example.com>.’

Here things get a little complicated. Some email clients add an email address to their address book automatically if the user replies to an email. This means that the ‘Annie Hofstadter’ mentioned above will not be rightly included in the address book of the recipient that has the email address as ‘notification@example.com.’ Whenever a person sends an email to Annie concerning something, because of the auto-correct feature, ‘notification@example.com’ is inserted into Annie’s email and in turn, she will not receive the email. This means that missed communications will increase.

The best way to resolve this problem is to have some extra information included in the sender’s name so that it can clarify that the authentic sender of the email is your application. For instance, it can be ‘Annie Hofstadter via ExampleApp.

<notification@example.com>’ or ‘Annie Hofstadter (ExampleApp)

<notification@example.com>’ and it will help bring clarity to the relationship. With this tact, remember to include minimal characters to create the difference.

Any Other Person That Received The Notification

The first question that pops into anyone’s mind when they get a notification is whether someone else has seen the email. They keep wondering if they need to pass the email or someone else has taken care of it. Therefore, make things easier for the recipient and include a little information about anyone else whom you have been notified as well. Theoretically, recipients will typically look at sections containing the ‘To’ and ‘Cc’ information depending on the way the notification is sent.

Information About Accepting Replies

Always let your customers know that your application accepts email replies. It is very important for the application to go further to recognize and handle advanced commands through email. The best way is to include a brief note where the email ends or in the footer, ‘You can reply to this email directly.’

If your system is capable of handling complex commands, you can create a link that directs recipients to a reference document filled with information about every control available. As small as it may seem, it is a positive way of increasing a feature’s usage and providing even better customer’s satisfaction.

Information About The Person Who Acted Or Triggered The Request

It is essential to include the information about the person who has triggered the notification. For comments, it is someone else who is using the system. However, if you are receiving an alert that responds to an event, ensure you provide information about the trigger. As much as you may have included the data through the sender’s name, ensure that the body of the email also has this information to make it crystal clear.

Include Timestamp That Is Absolute And Not Relative

To some extent, the timestamp can be implicit to the timestamp of the email. It will be of great help if the recipient of the email can quickly view the precise timestamp. This way, they can determine whether the email is outdated. Other than having the name visibly displayed in the email, having the timestamp also in great proximity will be an advantage. The reader will not have to spend much time searching for the timestamp. Remember, if there were a delay in the delivery, one would not be able to accurately state when the original action took place just by looking at the timestamp.

Metadata And The Context

While dates are an important part of the metadata, there is also more important information to help put everything in context. Many times, this is a comment or event that came before the notification’s key comment. For instance, when you update an issue tracker because of an issue, it is in good interest that you include information about regarding changes in a state like status, assignee, category, and so on.  If it is an invoicing application, include information about the invoice’s status as well as its content. The content’s metadata will equally be helpful as the key content.

Primary Content

The primary content is all about the key details about the event and the trigger action of the notification. It will always be more convenient if you can include all the information in one email. This will avoid the hassle of following a link, logging in, or waiting for a webpage to load so that they can access the information. If it is a thread of comments, try to include everything in the email including the available attachments. If you cannot add the attachment, include a link to the attachment at least.

Links That One Can Use To View The Content

While you can include everything in the email, some recipients still wish to see the content through your application in its full context. This will also add every other related comment. Therefore, include links to follow, edit, and write their updates. There are also those who will not like to read everything included in the long email. There are so many reasons why people will prefer viewing full content in context. Therefore, do not hide the link and make it hard for them to go straight to the content. Make it smooth and free from constant scrolling. If you use deep-links, use anchor tags that takes the reader straight to the content.

Direct Links To Cause The User To Take Common Actions

Notifying a person regarding the content is your number one business. Even so, you require some common and frequent second steps and actions from the recipient based on the content. Therefore, whenever possible, include simple links to significant actions that the user may need. Take care not to overwhelm the email or include unnecessary activities. For instance, you can include the unfollow link to the email that helps the user to unfollow a thread easily from the email.

Include A Link That Will Help User To Manage the Notifications

When there is an extension to help user unfollow a thread, you would have added one tool for managing notifications. Based on how the notification is structured, you can also provide tools to help in fine-tuning of the details. They should be able to control the notifications they receive and the number of times they receive. You can include a link that directs the recipients to manage their notifications. You know that we advise against having an unsubscribe link to transactional emails. Even so, we recommend ways for the recipient to gain better control over the notifications they receive.

THE CHECKLIST

Below is a quick checklist that includes all the vital individual points discussed that are crucial for designing your template.

  • The name of the sender
  • Any other person that received the notification
  • Information about acceptance of replies
  • Information about the person who triggered the request
  • Include timestamp that is absolute and not relative
  • Metadata and the context
  • Primary content
  • Links that one can use to view the content
  • Direct links to cause the user to make common actions
  • Include a link that will help the user to manage notifications to their liking
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