Helping users get it right


When working with any type of software tool, the ability to quickly test and refine your work is usually a given. In other words, you can typically preview what you’ve created on your computer screen and make any desired corrections before it goes live. We see this all over the place, like in the form of your browser’s Print Preview option, or your blog software’s choice to Preview a Post. With this in mind, I was quite surprised to come across an email design tool that provided absolutely no way to send a test copy of the message.

Let me provide some context. The tool I was using is intended to let you write email messages in both HTML and plain text format, and then send them to one or more contacts. It gets most of the basics right, including showing you a preview on-the-fly. But when you’re ready to test out your email by sending yourself a copy, you’re out of luck. There’s no button to Send a Test Message or anything like it. Alas, the only workaround is to add yourself as a contact in the system, and then send yourself the message. By this point, you’ve wasted an awful lot of clicks to accomplish what should be a straightforward task.

In the end, the best approach is to think about your typical customer’s workflow. Once they finish with tasks A and B in your software, what do tasks C and D look like — even if they’re performed outside your product? Can you add a preview or testing feature to save people time or hassle when completing the overall process? Maybe the answer is as simple as letting them send a test email, or showing how a banner ad looks in various website designs. By asking the right questions and helping users streamline their workflow, you can increase customer satisfaction and drive greater usage of your products.