Loomio
Wed 25 Nov 2015

UX: Engaging people with notification emails without overwhelming them with noise

RDB
Richard D. Bartlett Public Seen by 650

Updated March 9th- next iteration ready for feedback: https://goo.gl/7mjyQv


Original context, November 25th

Notification emails are critical for engaging people: 40% of all traffic to loomio.org comes from emails generated by activity in app.

At the same time, we know that sending too many emails is irritating, and causes people to disengage.

We’ve put a lot of energy into navigating this balance, and we’ve got a really powerful system, once you understand how to use it. The problem is, it takes a huge effort to figure out how it works!

When it comes to email, people’s preferences and needs are really different.

If the default settings are ‘too quiet’, Loomio feels like an empty room: you raise an idea and nobody responds. If the default settings are ‘too loud’, it feels really intimidating to speak up, because you know that your idea is going to be broadcast to every single person in your group.

Either way, the consequence is that people are discouraged from contributing :(

The challenge

The defaults need to work well for people that are not likely to get in and change their settings.

Once you decide to alter your settings, they need to be intuitive and easy to configure.

## How Loomio’s email settings currently work

Right now, when you first join a Loomio group, you’ll get a bunch of emails:

  • Whenever someone starts a thread you will be notified immediately.
  • If you participate in the thread, or if someone @mentions you, you will be emailed notifications of subsequent activity in that thread.
  • You will be emailed when someone starts a proposal, when it is about to close, and when a proposal outcome is published.
  • You will be emailed if someone @mentions you in a comment, or if their comment is posted in reply to yours.
  • You will receive the ‘Yesterday on Loomio’ summary email each morning, which contains all of yesterday’s activity that you haven’t read yet.

The great thing is you can reply directly to any of these emails (excluding the summary email), and your comment will be added to the thread.

Changing these settings is kinda painful

If you want to change any of that behaviour, there’s quite a lot to learn.

First, you can go to your email settings page to change these settings at a global level.

Email settings page

You could be a member of a bunch of groups. Maybe one is really important, and another one you don’t care about so much. To accommodate this, you can have different email settings for different groups: you can go to the group page and choose to be emailed about all activity, just new threads and proposals, or nothing.

Similarly, you can configure your email settings for specific threads.

(Note, this all applies to the new Loomio interface. The old beta interface has similar behaviour, but it is described with different language.)

Design ideas

Right now, there are couple of big ideas I want to explore:

  • Set loud defaults to engage new members, and make it really easy for them to turn the volume down when they arrive.
  • Give the speaker and the audience control over the volume: start a quiet thread, or make an announcement.

Make it easy to turn the volume down

Let’s assume that we change the defaults, so when you first join Loomio, you get an email every time there is new activity in your group. (You’ll notice a lot of other tools do this, as it helps people build a new habit.)

With luck, your group gets really engaged, and there’s heaps of activity. At this point, you’re thinking, “wow it’s cool that I can be involved in decisions without going to a meeting, but sheish Loomio sends so many emails! There must be a way to turn that off!”

Then without having to hunt for it, you see a really obvious button to change your emails settings. You open the email settings form, read it for a few seconds and think ‘yeah, makes sense’. You tick a few boxes and get on with your life, never having to worry about it again. Aaaaah, email freedom.

The devil is in the details so I’m going to draw some picture to illustrate this story. I’m keen to hear other stories and see other pictures too, so feel free to share in this thread :)

Give the speaker and the audience control over the volume

At the moment, the “volume” is totally up to the the audience to control: you change your email settings to configure how much email you receive. I reckon it might be useful to also give some control to the speaker.

Imagine you want to discuss an idea, but you’re not ready to announce it to everyone in your group: it would be cool if you could start the thread quietly, and bring people in gradually.

Or maybe you have an announcement that is really important for everyone in your group to hear about. Wouldn’t it be cool if you could guarantee that everyone is going to receive it?

Maybe someone wants to draw some pictures for this idea too :P

Share what you know

So I’m wondering: how do you use Loomio email settings? What frustrations do you have? What works really well for you?

Thinking about other tools you use - where have you seen the email settings work really well? How have they solved this challenge?

GR

Gina Rembe Wed 25 Nov 2015

Thanks for raising this! I use the general feature a lot, but definitely find it confusing. For me, when I adjust notifications the window that pops up is an 'either, or', not 'mix and match to suit your needs'. So perhaps even a line that says 'tick all that you want' kinda thing could be really useful.

Another thing I've been pondering is a summary email from all the things I've muted/toned down (maybe once a month or so) that showss what's going on. Threads might increase in relevance again, but I don't know unless I consciously dig through the groups and recent threads. Hope that makes sense?

RDB

Richard D. Bartlett Wed 25 Nov 2015

Thanks Gina, I award you 100 Internet Points for those two insights :)

GC

Greg Cassel Wed 25 Nov 2015

I don't have much headspace for this right now, but the two big design ideas make a ton of sense to me. Hope to hear from others!

RG

Rob Guthrie Thu 26 Nov 2015

I think there are a few things we can do to make it simpler now:
- Add a checkbox "Apply this setting to all threads in the group" for both group and thread notifications modals.
- Maybe move from notification settings cards to something that feels more more integrated. (the dropdowns were actually pretty great)
- improve the footer of thread emails to make them simpler and clearer

In the future I think that a system like the following would work well:
There is a concept of being notified. Each user chooses how to receive their notifications, either by immediate email, digest email or in app (or some combination).

You can choose to 'notify' people (or, to not notify anyone) by adding them to the thread when you start it, or mentioning them during the conversation.

When you start a thread, if you assign it to a group, then you can choose if it is an "announcement" which will notify the whole group. Otherwise the thread will just show up in recent threads and the summary email, allowing people from the group to drift in as it suits them. You can also notify just a few people to get the thread humming then later on more people will see it in their feed.

Am I missing something? Does that make sense?

EW

Ethan Winn Fri 27 Nov 2015

I appreciate Ginas points also, and +1 the digest idea. An issue I've encountered is comment notification drowning out deadline updates, etc. Being able to digest the former and make the latter loud would be great.

Blue sky wish would be some dashboard for helping to wrangle participants. We've found personal reach out a must have in order to get quorum on many threads. This often means calling out a bunch of folks in chat, and having a thread facilitator who tracks. Having tools to support such facilitation would be awesome.

RDB

Richard D. Bartlett Fri 27 Nov 2015

Also, let's make a feature so I can like that comment twice @ethanwinn - the wrangler's dashboard is a freakin great idea!

AI

Alanna Irving Sun 29 Nov 2015

I don't use email notifications myself, but when I was doing some user testing/interviewing recently I learned about some groups looking to replace an existing email list (or even worse, a culture of massive "reply all" emailing without list management). If people are migrating off an all-email system, telling them "Loomio will email you everything, and you can reply by email - it's a lot like your current system, but with better archiving and clear decisions" makes a ton of sense to them. I wonder if part of the setup process could take into consideration where a group is coming from, and that would be relevant to the default settings for users who join?

RDB

Richard D. Bartlett started a proposal Wed 9 Mar 2016

I’ve reviewed the proposed changes to the email settings and provided feedback Closed Sun 13 Mar 2016

Outcome
by Richard D. Bartlett Mon 27 Feb 2017

Thanks for the feedback everyone! I have updated the designs with some language tweaks.

I expect this will be built and deployed by the end of the week :four_leaf_clover:

We’ve designed the next iteration of the Loomio email settings:
https://goo.gl/7mjyQv

Before we build this, it would be great to hear from more people:

  • do you agree with the problems named in the design doc?
  • do you have other problems with Loomio emails that aren’t named here?
  • looking at the new settings page and modals, do you understand the options?
  • are you confident you could configure your email settings to behave the way you want them to?
  • is the language clear?

Please ‘agree’ on this proposal once you’ve reviewed and given feedback :heart:

Note: unfortunately this design process is not fully accessible to people who are blind as it relies on visual mockups. We’ll be working separately with an expert to confirm the accessibility of the new software development though.

Results
Agree - 19
Abstain - 19
Disagree - 19
Block - 19
19 people have voted (2%)
RDB

Richard D. Bartlett started a proposal Wed 9 Mar 2016

I’ve reviewed the proposed changes to the email settings and provided feedback Closed Sun 13 Mar 2016

Outcome
by Richard D. Bartlett Mon 27 Feb 2017

Thanks for the feedback everyone! I have updated the designs with some language tweaks.

I expect this will be built and deployed by the end of the week :four_leaf_clover:

We’ve designed the next iteration of the Loomio email settings:
https://goo.gl/7mjyQv

Before we build this, it would be great to hear from more people:

  • do you agree with the problems named in the design doc?
  • do you have other problems with Loomio emails that aren’t named here?
  • looking at the new settings page and modals, do you understand the options?
  • are you confident you could configure your email settings to behave the way you want them to?
  • is the language clear?

Please ‘agree’ on this proposal once you’ve reviewed and given feedback :heart:

Note: unfortunately this design process is not fully accessible to people who are blind as it relies on visual mockups. We’ll be working separately with an expert to confirm the accessibility of the new software development though.

Results
Agree - 19
Abstain - 19
Disagree - 19
Block - 19
19 people have voted (2%)
RDB

Richard D. Bartlett Wed 9 Mar 2016

@ginarembe I'd love to hear if these proposed changes will fix the frustrations you've experienced!

GR

Gina Rembe
Agree
Wed 9 Mar 2016

focused on the 'Mute' one

GR

Gina Rembe
Agree
Wed 9 Mar 2016

focused on the 'Mute' one

JK

James Kiesel
Agree
Wed 9 Mar 2016

JK

James Kiesel
Agree
Wed 9 Mar 2016

JW

James Wilson
Agree
Wed 9 Mar 2016

A lot of thought has gone into this and I think it will be much clearer for new users.

JW

James Wilson
Agree
Wed 9 Mar 2016

A lot of thought has gone into this and I think it will be much clearer for new users.

BB

Bernard Brunet
Agree
Wed 9 Mar 2016

BB

Bernard Brunet
Agree
Wed 9 Mar 2016

JCG

Josir Cardoso Gomes
Agree
Wed 9 Mar 2016

JCG

Josir Cardoso Gomes
Agree
Wed 9 Mar 2016

JCG

Josir Cardoso Gomes Wed 9 Mar 2016

Hi folks, all suggestion are great and it will help a lot.

Today I admin a group of 600 activists and the major complaint is that they don't know how to stop the emails.

And I have to answer one by one, teaching them how to turn off the email notification :(((

So I have just one suggestion: the default "Mute" option for a group. This would be a group attribute that implements the following logic:

  • if this option was checked by admin, all new group users will enter in mute mode, that is, they will not receive any emails at all.
AR

A. Renato
Agree
Wed 9 Mar 2016

Some issues are well addressed; an option for coordinators 'control' the e-mail notifications of their groups and members would make some of the pain be relieved.

AR

A. Renato
Agree
Wed 9 Mar 2016

Some issues are well addressed; an option for coordinators 'control' the e-mail notifications of their groups and members would make some of the pain be relieved.

RG

Rob Guthrie
Agree
Wed 9 Mar 2016

I love this iteration.

RG

Rob Guthrie
Agree
Wed 9 Mar 2016

I love this iteration.

RDB

Richard D. Bartlett Wed 9 Mar 2016

Sorry about the frustration @josircardosogomes :(((

I hope this fixes it! Thanks for your cool suggestion too.

NL

Nati Lombardo
Agree
Wed 9 Mar 2016

NL

Nati Lombardo
Agree
Wed 9 Mar 2016

CYK

Choi yong kwan
Agree
Wed 9 Mar 2016

CYK

Choi yong kwan
Agree
Wed 9 Mar 2016

CYK

Choi yong kwan
Agree
Wed 9 Mar 2016

CYK

Choi yong kwan
Agree
Wed 9 Mar 2016

GC

Greg Cassel
Agree
Thu 10 Mar 2016

Fine progress!

GC

Greg Cassel
Agree
Thu 10 Mar 2016

Fine progress!

G

GasparI Thu 10 Mar 2016

Hi! This is a really fine proposal and discussion!
@richarddbartlett just one remark:
"Set loud defaults to engage new members" - being too pushy is just as bad as being too shy :)
I would give an explicit choice to users at registration or start from a medium level (e.g. daily digest from the areas of interest).

G

GasparI
Agree
Thu 10 Mar 2016

I like these changes.

G

GasparI
Agree
Thu 10 Mar 2016

I like these changes.

RDB

Richard D. Bartlett Thu 10 Mar 2016

Thanks for the support and extra feedback too :)

Regarding your suggestion: if I were redesigning the group-joining process, my priority would be to explain the group's code of conduct to the new member, and invite them to consent to it before proceeding. This is a feature that a lot of experienced facilitators have been pleading for.

Perhaps we could include a 'set your email preferences' step at that point too, though I wonder if it will be a bit premature for the average user. They don't have context for how useful or not those emails are going to be yet.

I wonder if we could achieve a similar thing to what you're proposing, with a pop-up that appears the first time you participate in a thread. Something like: "Thanks for participating! We'll send you an email with any further activity so you don't miss out. If that sounds annoying, [go here] to change your email preferences."

What do you think?

AI

Alanna Irving
Agree
Thu 10 Mar 2016

great step in the right direction. also love the small improvements people are suggesting as part of this process. yay collaboration!

AI

Alanna Irving
Agree
Thu 10 Mar 2016

great step in the right direction. also love the small improvements people are suggesting as part of this process. yay collaboration!

G

GasparI Thu 10 Mar 2016

This would be a welcomed proactive measure - clear expectations and ground rules are top enablers for effective collaboration.
If I had to describe an intelligent design I would say: it foresees the majority of common issues and pain points and address them before they become pain :)

GP

Genevieve Parkes
Agree
Thu 10 Mar 2016

Some great and careful thinking here, I would like clarification about the daily digest email eg if I choose not to receive emails about a group/thread, does activity still show in my digest email? It's not quite clear from this proposal, thanks!

GP

Genevieve Parkes
Agree
Thu 10 Mar 2016

Some great and careful thinking here, I would like clarification about the daily digest email eg if I choose not to receive emails about a group/thread, does activity still show in my digest email? It's not quite clear from this proposal, thanks!

RDB

Richard D. Bartlett Thu 10 Mar 2016

Excellent point @genevieveparkes, I will have a go at incorporating that too :)

HS

Hannah Salmon
Agree
Thu 10 Mar 2016

Looks great, loving the feedback coming in too.

HS

Hannah Salmon
Agree
Thu 10 Mar 2016

Looks great, loving the feedback coming in too.

GP

Genevieve Parkes Thu 10 Mar 2016

Cool, it's not so much in the scope of this proposal, but I've often thought I'd like the option to relegate certain convos to a weekly digest email if there was one.

DS

Danyl Strype Fri 11 Mar 2016

I think @alanna 's comment is relevant here, whether emails are useful depends a lot on why a group has chosen to start using Loomio. If it's to move discussions out of their inbox to somewhere they can go when they want to engage with their group, a default that sends a bunch of email will be annoying. If they are coming from FarceBook, and they've adopted Loomio because they want a more email list style of interaction, then not getting any email by default will be annoying. I can see why its been a challenge to find a happy medium :smiley:

I think Loud/ Quiet/ Mute options, per-group and per-thread, are a big improvement on the sea of check-boxes required to give that kind of granular control. I really like having these controls on group/ thread pages, and at the bottom of each email, as well as an email control dashboard that controls emails across my whole account. I think giving each new user an option to set their account to Loud/ Quiet/ Mute, with some explanation of the resulting experience and reassurance that these options can be changed both globally and per-group/ per-thread would really help address the needs of different groups coming to Loomio group different reasons.

GC

Greg Cassel Fri 11 Mar 2016

if I were redesigning the group-joining process, my priority would be to explain the group's code of conduct to the new member, and invite them to consent to it before proceeding.

Hear hear!

AR

A. Renato Fri 11 Mar 2016

@richarddbartlett is in tune with @gregorycassel's newest paper :thumbsup:

MI

mix irving
Abstain
Fri 11 Mar 2016

I don't find email notifications useful. Hope this goes well for others though

MI

mix irving
Abstain
Fri 11 Mar 2016

I don't find email notifications useful. Hope this goes well for others though

ΔΖ

Δημήτρης Ζούπης
Agree
Sat 12 Mar 2016

ΔΖ

Δημήτρης Ζούπης
Agree
Sat 12 Mar 2016

T

thomas
Agree
Sat 12 Mar 2016

T

thomas
Agree
Sat 12 Mar 2016

S

Simon
Agree
Sat 12 Mar 2016

I agree this is an area that needs improvement and think you should give the proposed changes a go. I appreciate being able to see the the problem definition and analysis. The proposed changes seem consistent with these and they make sense to me.

S

Simon
Agree
Sat 12 Mar 2016

I agree this is an area that needs improvement and think you should give the proposed changes a go. I appreciate being able to see the the problem definition and analysis. The proposed changes seem consistent with these and they make sense to me.

JD

Josef Davies-Coates
Agree
Sun 13 Mar 2016

JD

Josef Davies-Coates
Agree
Sun 13 Mar 2016

RDB

Richard D. Bartlett Sun 13 Mar 2016

Just want to say thanks everyone for your constructive feedback. Makes me feel a lot more confident in this change.

I'm looking forward to opening up some more exciting feature design discussions with y'all soon :)

BK

Benjamin Knight
Agree
Sun 13 Mar 2016

As someone who uses email notifications all the time, I really appreciate the thought that's going into this

BK

Benjamin Knight
Agree
Sun 13 Mar 2016

As someone who uses email notifications all the time, I really appreciate the thought that's going into this

ME

Marianne Elliott Sun 13 Mar 2016

Looks like I missed the window for this. I think it looks great, but may still need some help to manage overall email inundation :-)

JW

James Wilson Mon 14 Mar 2016

Delighted to meet Richard (in 3D) on Friday and he asked for a quote to here it is.

"If I log in to Loomio and make the reply from there then there is no record in my email history and I have to log in to Loomio to see it. It might be helpful for Loomio to include your own postings so that when you look at the thread in the "Yesterday on Loomio" the full discussion is there in front of you. Otherwise they might as well just say - "There was some discussion yesterday so go onto Loomio and have a look at it". There is probably a downside to this idea that I haven't thought of. It is all a bit complicated trying to keep track of everything."

I have some sympathy for the suggestion.