13 Email Signup Forms, From Infuriating to Great

Your brand has all kinds of tiny UX touchpoints on your site. One of those is your newsletter signup.

Some people use a signup field with all the personality and lead-gen potential of a dessicated mouse corpse. This tells me that (a) they don't want anyone to subscribe to their newsletter, (b) their brand is as boring as The English Patient, and (c) they don't think the small things matter.

Here's a list of email signup forms, from unfathomably lame to actually good.

1) This form makes me wonder why they bother at all:

There's nothing about the newsletter, what you'll be getting, how often you'll get it, or what you'll get out of it. Why don't they just add a middle finger?

2) Email updates?! Awesome!

They're bludgeoning me with "Sign Up" twice. That they think they need a copyright notice under that form makes me laugh, and the social buttons don't belong there.

3) WTF

4) This one has a modern, clean look. (So clean you might not be able to even see it.) But what am I going to get? An email every few months with injury care tips for roller derby teams? An email every few hours giving me detailed updates on a family of raccoons? Contextually, you can assume they're updates, but give us something.

5) This one makes me want to throw hammers. "Not Convinced?" No, not quite:

Excuse me while I go use my rubber mallet on a cardboard box.

6) At least this one has an image...and some modicum of enthusiasm ("Sign me up!" is better than "Sign Up")...but it has "subscribe" twice. Please stop. And exactly how many newsletters am I getting? Boo.

7) This one's an improvement. It's got a little social proof near the button, but it doesn't need that bit about the plans. And "Sign Up" isn't lighting the world on fire.

8) Wow, updates straight to my INBOX? What a world! Has that ever been done before?

Pluses: Cute little image. Orange button (that has tiny text and the dreaded "sign up here"). We've got "Sign up" twice. I'm digging furrows into my desk.

9) On this one, the color should be reversed, with a pink button rather than a pink background. But at least it's an eye-catching color box. The button text is blah, but at least they add "now," and you have some idea of what you'll get (Every week? Every day? Who knows?).

10) Shop Smart. Shop S-Mart.

Some improvement here. A headline that's something other than "Sign up for our newsletter," and you know what you're getting (just not how often). The button is about as interesting as Meet Joe Black, but at least the text is noticeable.

11) I'm starting to calm down a little. This form tells you often they'll email you, and it has a whimsical way of describing what you'll get. Join Us, gabba gabba. We still have "Subscribe Now" and "Sign up," but the form has some personality.

12) This one has a solid headline, some specifics on what you'll get from subscribing, and a high-contrast button. It's good to see text like "I Want Free Tips," but it's better suited to a content offer where you actually get tips for something, so it seems like you're getting something other than what's described. How about "I Want to take Charge"?

Speaking of the word "charge," there's a nice anxiety-reducer under the form, but they can get rid of the unecessary "no charge." It's not a mastermind group, it's a newsletter.

And for this kind of thing, you'd also want to get a subscriber's first name. If it's an "email club," first names should be involved. Or do they use numbers?

13) Hello. Sharp look, clear benefit—and punchy copy with personality, including those fun hashtag buttons. The buttons have different looks, and there's much more emphasis on the desired action. Yay!

(I'd hyphenate "next-level")

Am I guilty of being too lax with my own email forms? Probably. But let's recap: Put some thought and personality into the details. Also, "Subscribe" and "Sign Up" are the lead-gen form versions of this thing (only not memorable at all): 

Q&A with Author and Actor Megan O'Russell

by Nina Post

I'm very pleased to have author and actor Megan O’Russell on the blog today to chat about social media, marketing, touring, working creatively with a spouse, public speaking, and a time portal in Trader Joe's. I think her answers are a fascinating insight into the life of a touring actor, and useful for anyone who wants to improve their marketing and public speaking skills.

Megan and I have the same publisher, and she just released her latest book (congrats, Megan!), a young adult urban fantasy novel that sounds like a really fun read:

The Tale of Bryant Adams:

How I Magically Messed Up My Life in Four Freakin’ Days

In the past few weeks, you've been doing a Facebook Live reading series, where you read an excerpt from a book from our publisher, Curiosity Quills. Before that, you did a number of Facebook Live videos. Can you talk about how you got started, why you're doing it, and how you're getting the videos done?

I actually got started with the videos because of Curiosity Quills. They issued a challenge for all their authors to try Facebook Live [Ed: that was me :::villainous laugh:::]. It took me a while to find something that I consistently wanted to chat about that people might be interested in. Reading excerpts became the concept I could most consistently work with.

It’s fun (and super educational) for me to read other authors’ blurbs and books, and it’s a great way to get the word out about my fellow writers’ material. The videos are actually really easy to do. I have a mini tripod for my phone, and Facebook Live is very user friendly. Honestly, the biggest issue is finding good light for filming at home.

You'll be leaving to go on a tour soon. I have so many questions about this :). Have you done that before, how many people are you going with, and what are you taking with you?

I have been on a national tour before. I did the Fiddler on the Roof tour about five years ago and am super excited to get back out on the road. This time I’ll be Dance Captaining (monkey wrangling) and performing in The Wizard of Oz. I don’t know an exact number, but my best guess is that I’ll be sharing a bus with about twenty-five other actors and musicians for seven months.

As for packing…you have to think of it as a two-week backpacking trip where you hit all four seasons of weather. Pack as light as you can on the clothes, bring a sleeping bag for days when you have to sleep on the bus floor, and don’t forget your laptop and Kindle!

Can you give me an overview of a typical day (and night) when you're in a theater production?

When you’re in rehearsal you usually spend between eight and twelve hours a day in the rehearsal studio. You learn all your music, dance till you can’t walk anymore, and figure out where to stand so you don’t get run over by a set piece. Once you’re in performance, you really only work nights. Two or three days a week I have a matinee so I’ll have to be at the theatre around noon and then back at seven for the second show, but it’s really not bad.

On a tour like Wizard of Oz all bets are off. We travel from city to city pretty quickly. So a morning could be 5am bus call, 12pm lunch, 3pm arrive at hotel, 6pm leave for the theatre to get to mic check, 8pm show. Then do it all over the next day.

On what I think was your first Facebook Live video, your husband was playing the piano and singing. It seems that you two have a great working relationship and share the same passion for theater. Can you give me an example of how you tend to work together, and do you have any tips for facilitating a spouse's creative process?

My husband is actually a performer as well. He’ll be playing the Tinman on tour. We have a very… strange relationship. We’ve been together since we were eighteen and have worked together as performers since college, which is very rare in theatre. We have been extremely lucky in that respect.

Because we spend pretty much all our time together, working together on projects became a natural extension. He’s the first reader for all of my books, so I have a thick skin when he tells me something isn’t working. We’re actually working on writing our second musical together right now. I write the lyrics and sometimes a bit of the melody, and he does the rest of the composing and orchestrating. It’s actually a ton of fun to lock ourselves away and work on a project, and it ensures we never run out of things to talk about.

It seems like you've been getting more interested in marketing and branding lately, including launching your reading series and making visual content. What was the hardest part about getting started, and do you have any tips for someone who wants to get more active in marketing their products?

The hardest part of getting started was pushing past the intimidation. You read about creating banners, and it all just seems overwhelming. Finding your brand colors and font, experimenting with posting times, finding a way to do all of it consistently can feel impossible. My best advice is to take it one tiny step at a time. Figure out how to use Manage Flitter to work on your Twitter. Figure out how to schedule posts on Facebook. Figure out how to use Canva.

But do it one thing at a time, and don’t get frustrated if you need help. I have been asking questions all over the place, trying to figure everything out. Without wonderful people like Nina (who helped me figure out font pairing) I would still be crying over my Canva handbook. [Thanks, Megan!]

As an actor, what advice would you give someone who's doing some infrequent public speaking, but still can't quite get past their terror when they're in front of people?

You just have to practice. Practice in front of your partner or, if that’s too much, your pet. Then add a few more trusted friends. Find a low stakes environment: an open mic poetry night, go sing karaoke, sign up for an acting class.

The only way to get really comfortable in front of people is to get used to it. I’ve been onstage thousands upon thousands of times, and I still get nervous sometimes. You have to accept that nerves happen and train your body and your mind to do what it needs to anyway. The only way to do that is by practicing

If you found a time portal in your local Trader Joe's that looped briefly through another time and place, where would you most want that portal to lead, and what Trader Joe's product would you want to take with you?

I would love to go to the original opening night of Romeo and Juliet at the Globe Theatre, and I would bring four boxes of the maple leaf cookies.

The Tale of Bryant Adams: How I Magically Messed Up My Life in Four Freakin’ Days

Ever wanted to grow a five-story tall flower in central park? How about fight a deadly battle under the subway tunnels of Manhattan?

Don't worry. I never wanted to either. But if you're ever being chased by ladies made of mist and you have to save the girl with the sparkly eyes you've never had the guts to say actual words to, there's an app for that.

I found a magic cell phone, opened an app I shouldn't have, burned down the set shop for my high school's theatre, and it was all downhill from there. A drag queen seer who lives under a bridge is my only hope for keeping my mom alive, and I think the cops might be after me for destroying my dad's penthouse.

But it gets better! Now I'm stuck being the sidekick to the guy who got me into this mess in the first place. It'll be a miracle if I survive until Monday.

Megan O'Russell is a native of Upstate New York who spends her time traveling the country as a professional actor. Megan's current published works include YA series Girl of Glass and The Tale of Bryant Adams: How I Magically Messed Up My Life in Four Freakin’ Days as well as the Christmas romance Nuttycracker Sweet. 2018 projects include The Chronicles of Maggie Trent: The Girl Without Magic and book two in the Girl of Glass series, Boy of Blood. For more information on Megan O’Russell's books, visit MeganORussell.com.

Curiosity Quills Press
(author page)

Strategy, Precision, and Brute Force

by Nina Post

There are a few different ways you can take down a big tree like a Douglas Fir, Big-Leaf Maple, or Hemlock.

You can cut a notch in the side where you want the tree to fall, then go to the other side, chainsaw some space, insert some plastic wedges, and hammer them in. Hammer the wedges for a bit, and the tree might fall then.

If the tree is more stubborn and has some back lean, you may have to use all the wedges in your wedge bag, and hammer them for a long time.

If the tree is really stubborn, like a dense and strong Doug Fir that just doesn't want to move, and hammering those wedges isn't getting anywhere, it would be helpful to get a Bobcat or other heavy machinery to give it a push.

If you only have a narrow space where you can drop the tree, because there are other trees in the path -- and the tree has back lean (so it wants to fall a different way) -- you may need to use a chain and ratcheting method along with the notch and wedges to guide its path.

Even if you've perfected a technique for doing something, it may not cover 100% of the cases. Sometimes you need strategy, precision, and brute force (more people, new partnerships, different staff, etc) to get the job done.

Responsiveness is Undervalued

by Nina Post

It seems like most companies spend all their time trying to find people who have the right combination of education, prior work experience, etc. They may mention something about looking for people who possess "strong attention to detail" and a "self-driven sense of urgency," but the attribute that's most often left out is responsiveness.

Responsiveness should be considered as valuable as everything else, but it's well under the radar. The nature of most work requires communication with both internal and outside parties, and keeping that communication going can make the difference between a project that's on-time and meets expectations, versus one that's plagued with delays and functional issues.

When it comes to getting complex work done and working effectively as part of a team, responsiveness is so valuable that it's arguably a better predictor of job effectiveness than nearly anything else.

How can we be more responsive? Here are a few tactics that anyone can implement right away:

  • If you're waiting to get the answer from someone else, or you don't know the answer, just say so. It's that simple (but incredibly rare).
  • If someone asks you to do something and you can't get to it right away, it's still helpful to tell the person who sent the request, "Got it - I'll let you know when I can work on this." Take a second to acknowledge that you received the email so the sender isn't left in the position of wondering if you did.
  • Don't run your inbox on a FIFO basis. Have enough flexibility and awareness that you don't blindly go through all of your emails in order. Say that someone sends you an email, you reply to them a few hours later, and then they reply to you right after that.

    Do you wait until you've made your way through all your other emails before looking at their latest reply, or do you pick up the thread and finish the conversation right then and there? The second approach is the more responsive one, and also has the benefit of reducing the time you spend switching from one task to another.