As website owners we have very little time to earn the trust of our visitors, and just one little slip-up can damage a fledgling relationship beyond repair. Always remember that the search results that referred your visitor to your site in the first place are rarely more than a few clicks away.

Don’t undermine user trust to build your mailing list

If you’ve done enough things right to nurture a visitor towards your sign-up prompt, you really don’t want to fall at the last hurdle — make sure they always feel in control, especially when they are submitting their personal information and preferences.

I recently signed up to a website that presented a newsletter opt-out check box (‘opt-out’ meaning it was ticked by default). It was quite large, so I spotted it straightaway and went to un-tick it. It was at this point I realised the site owners had deliberately disabled the form control, making it impossible to deselect the box.

Newsletter subscription checkbox ticked by default and disabled.

This was an arrogant manoeuvre that undermined my trust in the site straightaway. If you want to use an opt-out check box, I can just about live with that, but if you think you have the right to remove my choice in the matter entirely then that isn’t going to sit with me too well.

So, being a web designer myself, I was curious. I cracked open the page inspector and started tinkering:

HTML code showing that an opt-out form has been disabled.

As I suspected. I removed both ‘checked=”checked”‘ and ‘disabled=”disabled”‘ (HTML5 has a way with words) and submitted the form. I guess I shouldn’t have been too surprised when I received an opt-in email from the site anyway. This is a site that’s most likely visited by a lot of savvy web designers who know the same tricks as me.

It seems their server adds every email address submitted to this form to their mailing list confirmation queue regardless of whether the box is ticked, un-ticked, or not present at all presumably. Needless to say, that was one email that went straight in the bin, although I’m sure many overwhelmed inbox owners would opt to mark it as spam instead, thereby damaging the domain email sender reputation.

Bad user experience damages brands

The help text beside the check box claimed that this was an opt-in process, and ultimately that claim is true, because ignoring the confirmation email meant I wasn’t signed up.

But the tactics employed by the site owners created a bad user experience and damaged their brand reputation in my eyes. If I’d actually ticked the box (or even left it ticked) then the company concerned would’ve been right to send the opt-in email. Think of all the unsolicited emails you receive every day, do you really want to receive any more?

Of course, I can just go elsewhere for what I’m after if I don’t like what they’re doing (and I will), but I thought this was a good example of what I consider to be bad user interface design and bad user experience design.

Your website is often the first thing many of your potential customers will see, and the first opportunity to create a good impression of your brand. Don’t throw that opportunity away for the sake of gaining a few extra newsletter subscribers. They’ll most likely end up unsubscribing anyway because they were never engaged enough with your brand in the first place.

Find out how we can help

If you’d like to roll out the red carpet and improve the experience your visitors have on your website, or if you’re interested in learning more about setting up a mailing list why not speak to us and we’ll see if we can help.