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My company's news site is relaunching, and as part of this we are replacing our old commenting platform with Disqus. The team came up with the idea to email everyone who used the old platform to give them

  • a heads up that something is changing
  • the opportunity to sign up and be ready to start commenting once Disqus is launched

What we know is this:

  • 3 000 users commented the last year
  • 1 600 users commented the last 6 months (… which means 1 400 users did not!)
  • Our users are not the youngest, nor the most tech savvy
  • They have been through an extensive signup process to use our current system

As an interaction / UX designer my concerns are these:

  • I don't know how important commenting is to the users and have no idea what they would expect (no, researching this will unfortunately not be prioritised for this)
  • It feels a bit weird to contact them about this using their email, since we have never emailed them before
  • It could feel annoying / intrusive for users who aren't using it frequently
  • I fear they will read the email, then maybe sign up and then forget about the whole thing (and then it was for nothing)

Alternatively, we could make the users "cross the bridge when they get to it" and give the information they need when they want to comment something. In that case they have to go through the process of signing up (verifying email an all) then.

Any opinions about this?

  • This is a well framed and well asked question. Would users need to sign up again with disqus? – tohster Mar 19 '15 at 16:35
  • @tohster - They have to sign up with Disqus if they don't have a Disqus account from before (other big news sites already use it) – or they can sign in with Facebook, Twitter or Google (which should cover most users). – Liesl Mar 19 '15 at 22:19
  • I think your alternative idea is good, assuming you mean some kind of temporary, dismissible information that is shown next to the comment area. "On May 1st, we'll be changing our comment system to Disqus. (Learn more) (Close)". It's less intrusive, only applies to people who see the comments, can be hidden once they've read it, and doesn't blast anyone with emails. – Kip Mar 19 '15 at 23:32
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This is a very hard question to answer because it really depends on who your users are, how loyal they are, how much they value commenting, and how the perceive the cost and benefit of signing up again with Disqus.

As such, it's not really possible to give a reasoned answer on whether or not to send the emails because there are simply too many variables.

That said, one thing you CAN do when you have 3000+ users is:

Test it out

For example:

  1. Segment your users into frequent commenters, occasional commenters, and never-commented
  2. Start with frequent commenters, since they are most likely to care. Take a small sample, say 20 of them, and send out the email. Measure the open and click-through rates. That will tell you a lot.
  3. If the frequent commenters are reading the emails, then try the same sample-first approach with occasional commenters. And repeat for never-commented.

My instinct based on prior experience with this kind of change management is:

  • Users will not really care or feel slightly annoyed at the email.
  • You are better off providing an onboarding tutorial such as this when disqus actually rolls out (note that you can also stage this in the same was as above...testing it out on frequent commenters first).
    • This allows users to learn about the new commenting system when they actually visit the site, rather than by reading some unsolicited email and then waiting an indeterminate amount of time (when they can forget) before they get around to visiting the site.

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