Are You Making Your Users Feel Insignificant?

Are You Making Your Users Feel Insignificant? image 9788You may have heard of Mailbox, a new tool for email. The well-hyped app has an awesomely sleek video that has made its way around the Web enough times to have everyone and their mom (literally) signing up to get access. The app promises to get you to zero inbox, daily. If the UI screenshots and touted functionality are true to how it’s presented on the website, it could very well change the way we do email. Honestly, I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

But, it looks like I’m not going to get my hands on the app for quite a while. Yesterday, when I put in my reservation ID and private code, I found out that there are 97,998 people ahead of me on the list. You see, Mailbox is rolling out the app on a first-come, first-serve basis. The current app screen provides transparency as to where you fall on the list– a completely reasonable idea, so it would seem. But, I’d rather not be almost 98,000 people down on the list. That makes me feel like I’m not going to get to use the app for years. And, it instantly makes me feel like I rank low to Mailbox. Intrinsically, I’m saying, “Screw you, I’m doing just fine with my email. See if I need you.” In fact, it’s not just me who feels this way. In the last hour alone, they’ve had to address the concern over 20 times– see for yourself.

Are You Making Your Users Feel Insignificant? image Screen shot 2013 02 08 at 1.56.27 PM

Mailbox wrote a blog post explaining the rollout here. Their explanation makes perfect sense, and it’s completely respectable. They want Mailbox to work. “We’ve designed the Mailbox service to scale indefinitely, and have done as much load testing as we can. But we don’t know what we don’t know, so we’re using reservations to add people gradually.” But is this waiting-list transparency really a good way to start a relationship with people who are eager to use your product?

I think not. Here’s are just a few things that Mailbox could do differently:

If the transparent rollout is how you want to play, that’s fine. But, don’t put numbers on people.
In high school, I had a teacher who gave all of his students a number. Instead of writing our names on our assignments, we would be forced to identify by that number. Looking back, I realize that this was probably because he wanted to grade fairly– it was a writing class after all. But, at the time, it made us despise him. Very few of us ever felt connected to the class or put our heart into the assignments. As humans, we’re passionate about things that make us feel good, and when someone tells me I’m at the bottom of their list, that doesn’t feel good. It makes me think, “No, you’ve got it wrong. I’m number one– see ya later.”

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Remember, no matter how awesome you are: it’s less about you and more about them.
Click the “story” section of Mailbox’s website and you’ll see their lead: “Two years ago, a small team of engineers and designers set out to build the world’s best mobile collaboration tool.” That’s great, good for you. It gives me confidence that your product will be nice. But really? We’re on a first date and that’s how you’re going to open up the conversation? Similarly, head over to the “jobs” section and read the paragraph under communication. “We love talking about Mailbox, whether to friends or strangers, members of the press or investors, potential customers or current users. We love writing. We love helping. We love seeing Mailbox in the media and we love social media. We love learning about what drives adoption and experimenting to an even better way. We love answering users’ questions and hearing their amazing feedback. Most importantly, we love helping people discover Mailbox so it can help them focus and work better to live better.”

Towards the end, the sentiment is there, the person reading can feel the love. But starting every sentence with “we” gives off a very “it’s all about me” feeling. What if the paragraph read something like this: “Our highest priority is building relationships– building friendships with strangers, providing valuable information to members of the press or investors, and learning about potential and current users. Writing and helping, it’s what we do. People know about Mailbox, because we take the time to build meaningful relationships. Social media helps us get to know people better…” Less “we” — because it’s less about us and more about them.

Use social networks, especially Twitter, for more than support issues.
Social media is a great way to ensure that people feel heard. We all know that it’s nice to ask a business a question or complain and get a response. But, give us more value than that. Like a young child, people on social media are practically begging, “tell me a story!” Businesses need to take this opportunity seriously. When I go to your Twitter page and see only responses to concerns, it’s definitely a red flag.

Although my experience thus far with Mailbox has made me feel insignificant, I’m still looking forward to checking the actual app out for myself. I appreciate that the team is taking the time to ensure that the product works well. But, I think they could have went about the experience much differently. Let this be a great lesson for all of us, don’t make your potential users or users feel insignificant. If you do, eventually, you’ll be left with none.

Discuss This Article

Comments: 2

  • Iain Harper says:

    The majority of commentary I have seen runs counter to your argument here. People I’ve come across seem largely to appreciate the honesty of knowing where they are in the queue, and this hasn’t made them feel insignificant in the slightest.

    It seems a stretch to correlate a few moans on Twitter with the sentiment “Screw you, I’m doing just fine with my email. See if I need you.” Personally I’d far rather my expectations were managed in this way, and it’s also a clever way of keeping people engaged and checking back in my opinion.

  • Hey Iain,

    Thanks for your comment and for reading the piece. I’ve heard both sides– some people appreciate the transparency and others feel the way I described above. The “Screw you, I’m doing just fine with my email…” sentiment is my own, as identified in the post. I definitely don’t want to put words in anyone’s mouth.

    I absolutely see your point and understand that you appreciate your expectations are being managed. It’s a fair and respectable way for Mailbox to launch– I just think it could have been done differently. “A few moans” is actually many tweets per hour and negative review for the app on iTunes, so those comments do make an impact.

    Again, thanks for your comment. It’s been great to hear both sides, and I’m looking forward to doing a follow up piece when I have access to the app.

    – Liz

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