To see our website at full performance please update your browser or use other modern browsers such as Chrome, Firefox or Opera.

‘It’s not you, it’s me’: the art of breaking up with your users

Needing some catharsis in my life, in the spirit of spring (or, more like summer) cleaning, I have recently started sorting out the “social” and “promotions” folders in my Inbox.

A long overdue update of folders, labels, and other mail management systems that are supposed to make your life easier – it seemed like I once knew how to manage my mail, until I ended up with an inbox with one thousand three hundred seventy one unread e-mails. Oeps! To be honest, the Inbox Zero has never been my thing. Usually, from just a glance at the sender and the title of the email, I can already filter in my brain whether it is worthy of my attention, and if yes, whether it is worth my attention right now or can wait until the weekend (or, whatever the next available catch-up-on-email time is). Neither have I really cracked this art of mail management that allows me to ninja through all this inflow of information. Good thing these e-mails have that magical “e-” in front, or else, I cannot imagine what my apartment would have looked like in those ages where communication mainly happened in physical form.

Clearly, I have not been reading most of these e-mails, which never got deleted (probably for the reason of “but, I will read it later when I get some time”) nor archived (probably for the reasons of “I will forget to read them if they are out of my sight”). The style and nutrition advices from goop? Oh yea, I remember the week of hype around my nutritionist’s advice to change my diet, and over-obsessing by collecting healthy recipes and conscious apparel online. The Amsterdam’s weekend-hotspot-digest? Are you going to make me feel guilty for choosing Netflix on my couch over that next over-crowded bar requiring to have to yell through your glands to have a conversation (who said that 30s were the next 20s, more like next 40s I would say)? Or continuous Yelp recommendations about Asian places in LA from that one time that I looked for a restaurant there?

It is true that for someone to enjoy or appreciate something, they need to first see what it is like at rock bottom – and oh boy, how alleviating was to see those numbers go down by batches at every service being unsubscribed and unread e-mails deleted.

While getting all that satisfaction from a potential goal of reaching a manageable amount of unread emails (who knows how many hours, days, months it might take), I couldn’t help to notice differences in the UX of breakup emails – in the experience each service provided to the user throughout the un-subscription process.

So, ladies and gentlemen, if you ever plan to break up with your user online, here are some tips and tricks from the humble UX designer on what not to do or what to do when doing so.


First of all, DO NOT hide the option to bid adieu from your user

As first step, just to mention the obvious: it is always good in any relationship to have the option to say “I’ve had enough! I am leaving”. Some newsletters have been caught using dark patterns and making it very hard to notice the Unsubscribe button. You have to understand: you cannot be forced to love. If a user wants to leave, s/he wants to leave. A good example of having a clear option to part ways from the MIT senseable lab newsletter:

mit sensible labMIT Senseable City Lab’s newsletter


Whatever you do, DO NOT be mean by making it difficult to let go

We know breakups are difficult, and some may leave you hating the one on the other end, but if they said they want to part ways with you, there’s no need to make it hard for them. The “unsubscribe” button on the newsletter sent from HEMA lands on the “sign up for the newsletter” option. Did you hear it wrong, HEMA?


Hema’s unsubscription page.


So, the user should not only tap on the “Opt out” tab, but also manually type in their email address. Why are good-byes so difficult? Come on, HEMA, no need to get so clingy.

The nicest thing you can do for your user when they are breaking up (unsubscribing), is to let them go without having to bring back all those memories and having to ask them to login again. For the service that you might be bidding adieu, Emirates expects you to also login to the service to make your decision official. No matter how much of a fan of ‘dark patterns’ your design team might be, just don’t do it. The end.


Emirates’ unsubscribe page


DO NOT be hypocrite

In the world of user experience, consistency is a very important feature. Hence, even at your not-so-cool moments, it is important to stay true to your values. Strikingly, the “no-code-needed website to build gorgeous websites” is a bit lacking on that ‘’gorgeous” side for their break-up emails.


Strikingly’s unsubscribe page



DO keep the bridges

Some nice goodbye letter with a promise to stay friends? I know, you might argue that ‘ain’t nobody got time for this’, but it is nice to be recognised for all the great time you had together while using this service. Who knows, maybe one day we will bump into each other and resurrect those feelings?

bodyshop_enThe Body Shop’s unsubscribe page


DO give an option to change my mind

And for the future possibility that I do so, an option for me to get back together?

paypal_en2Paypal’s unsubscribe page

Do use your last chance to woo

And do please explain me on all the great goodies I am going to miss out on!


Paypal’s unsubscribe page


And most importantly, keep it cool 🙂

A pitch of humour, when done appropriately, can lighten up any situation, including break ups. The only thing to be aware of is not to sound as if you are making fun of the other party, or taking the situation too lightly, but to reduce the tension and leave with a pleasant lasting impression:

appsumoAppsumo: A selfie wave from the (topless) chief sumo

Or, product hunt – you can’t go wrong with catz gifs.


Product Hunt’s unsubscribe page

Similarly, with most e-mail unsubscriptions it goes fast and simple. So simple, that my first thought as a normal user was, “if only all goodbye’s were this easy”. But then, on a second thought, are you telling me that it was that easy for you to just leave? Just like that? After all these years of our, although one-way, communication relationship? Can’t you show some emotions?! Don’t be so cold-hearted.

Just when I was having that thought, an e-mail came into my almost zero inbox, that made me think: “enough is enough!” If somebody said goodbye, that means goodbye! Some services just did not get the message. To my surprise, after hours of unsubscribing meditation, I woke up to some more e-mails from all those past subscription relationships. And this time, they sent the best friend (or, the mother) for some retaliation work: yet another email from just a different alias. If it was the that I have unsubscribed from, apparently there are still and that I still have to bid adieu. Oh, you just don’t want to let me go, do you? 😃


Wish you a great week ahead, and let your breakups be no-hard-feelings, and your UX – full of customer engagement points.