Improve newsletter sign-up process

screenshot of website


Crain's Chicago Business (website: is a business news site in metropolitan Chicago with 2.3 million+ average monthly page views.


The publication would like to increase newsletter opt-in rates, that would lead to subscriber growth. The challenge was to simplify and improve the newsletter sign-up process using existing site structure.


In my role as the only UX designer, I focused my efforts on interaction design, content strategy, UI design, and research. My work included heuristic evaluation, user flow study, wireframe, and visual design. I used tools such as figma, illustrator and photoshop to accomplish my work.


I started out in discovery phase where I studied the current state of the site. I mapped out the current user journey and noticed ease of flow, pain points, missed opportunities, evaluated copy from a content strategy standpoint and identified usability issues.

I then conducted background research by studying industry trends to understand conventions and learned best practices for newsletter sign-up processes.

Next, I created two project lists. The first list included tasks that needed minimal time resources. The second list had projects that would require further evaluation and resources to complete.

In this case study, I will highlight three examples of improvements I recommended.

  1. User-journey flow (longer term project)
  2. UI redesign and copy edit (low time investment item)
  3. Subscription page - wireframe (longer term project)
rough sketch of journey map

(Longer term project - streamline process)

Problem: The current process took users off site to check their email twice. Email messages were also unclear and impersonal, using ambiguous terms throughout the journey. It is also not clear if the journey is taking the user to a newsletter sign-up or a site account subscription.

newsletter - user flow diagram

Solution: Eliminate effort in the customer journey – reduce steps, utilize modals to keep users on site. Make every step intentional. Communicate in a way that is friendly, not machine-like and end the experience with a friendly welcome email.

newsletter - user flow diagram

(Quick fix - UI improvement)

Problem: Newsletter sign-up box in secondary page uses poor language and design.

Current state: Red text displays when you click to submit an email. This message presents two problems:

  • Red confirmation text looks like an error message.
  • Unclear what the message means "Check your email to validate."

Solution: Restyle and rewrite confirmation message. Here's a mock-up for improvement suggestion.

in article sign up boxes - examples of before and after

(Longer term project - content strategy and UI redesign)

Problem: Subscription page has too many options and is not inviting.

Current state: There are 53 check boxes within the newsletter sign up page. Visual/information and choice overload.

newsletter subscription page

Some solutions:

Improved lo-fidelity wireframe of the subscription page

  • Reduce options. Avoid overwhelming users with too many choices.
  • Set clear expectations. Communicate newsletter frequency
  • Write better descriptions for each newsletter. Remove repeated words that precede descriptions. Copy should be clear and attractive.
  • Prioritize content. Carry out a usability study or research method such as card sorting to help better prioritize information and newsletter offerings. Remove low performing items
  • Employ information chunking. This helps break down copy into easily digestable content.
  • Use expand/collapse functions to minimize visual overload.

newsletter subscription page redesign


Studying current state and drawing out the journey map enabled me to discover pain points and improvement opportunities throughout the sign-up process.

If these suggestions were implemented, my hope was that the user's experience would've been more enjoyable through a streamlined process that would also provide more clear and easily digestible information, hopefully helping them make decisions faster with less frustration.

What I would've done differently

In an ideal world, I would carry out qualitative research to a small group of key users to learn more. I'd want to understand what motivates them, their interests, priorities and pain points while signing up for newsletters. I would also work closely with editors, the marketing department and the engineering team to leverage their expertise while making design decisions.

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