Dressed-up Notification Mails

Posted by saintam1 on 2 February 2017 in English (English)

I’ve started designing a new layout for OSM emails. I’d like to have feedback, and I need help with testing.


Like many websites, sends an email to members when something happens that concerns them. For instance, if someone comments on one of your changesets, you get an email. This is similar to how Facebook or LinkedIn send you a message when someone contacts you via their platform.

Unlike those websites, however, OSM emails look quite plain – no colour, no layout, no logo. This must look disconcerting to new users. Good communication with new users is crucial, especially as we’re seeing growing numbers of newcomers to the project who don’t always engage in dialog with the community. More modern-looking emails can only help make the project look and feel more attractive and more legitimate to casual contributors.

Here are some screenshots of the new layout, click to embiggen.

Changeset comment, long Changeset comment, short Friend notification

You can help!

  1. Give feedback about the design in the comments below. There’s still lots of room for improvement. Keep in mind that any new text has to be translated into dozens of languages, so ideally we should keep the wording as it is for now (no new text), and stick to modifying the presentation only.

  2. Take screenshots of what the new mails look like in your mail client. See the wiki page for details.

Implementation details are in pull request #1401.

Comment from BushmanK on 6 February 2017 at 17:21

That is definitely a great improvement. Here are some things I’d like to point on after receiving two kinds of notification letters today.

Currently, a notification letter starts from:

Username has commented on the OpenStreetMap diary entry with the subject “Subject”


Username has left a comment on one of your changesets created at 2017-02-06 16:51:18 UTC with comment ‘Comment’

which is okay, but to make it a bit more clear I’d add a “user” word in the beginning. So, anyone can see that it’s from another user, not from any kind of administration or something.

Another potential problem in this section is Subject/Comment text. Now, it has no link to an original diary entry or changeset, but I think it would be logical to have a link that leads there. At the same time, if original changeset comment contains a link, an email shows it as a link, not as a text. So, if an author of that changeset has placed a malicious link there, it will be copied to an email directly.

There is a significant difference between a changeset comment notification and a diary entry comment notification email. A changeset comment notification contains the text “More details about the changeset can be found at changeset link”, typed with a regular-size font within a white rectangle that indicated the main section, which is perfect. But a diary entry comment email has its links section (starting with “You can also read the comment at comment link …”) typed with a tiny font that makes it hard to read. It is even harder to notice because it is placed outside the white rectangle, just like “unsubscribe” and other technical links usually are. I think it is better to make these links in a diary entry comment email similar to one in a changeset comment email.

And the last thing is about the main text. Currently, an italic font is used for that. Usually, an italic formatting is less readable than a regular one, while italic serves as an emphasis. So, my suggestion would be to remove italic formatting from the main text to make it easier to read.

Comment from saintam1 on 7 February 2017 at 22:31

Thanks for your valuable feedback BushmanK! It all makes sense to me, I’ll try to incorporate all this into the code.

Comment from PlaneMad on 9 February 2017 at 11:56

Thank you saintam1, a big improvement from what it used to be :)

Comment from SomeoneElse on 23 February 2017 at 10:40

I have one question - how do I turn it off?

The mails themselves do include a “text/plain” part, which is good, and it is often possible in view that by default in individual email clients, but not always (and it’s cumbersome to have to do it many times).

Clearly some people actually like to read HTML formatted text (though I can’t for the life of me think why). However the fact that this is still being adjusted to make it usable on mobile ( overlooks the fact that there’s an excellent solution to “make a message readable everywhere” already - just make it available in plain text.

Was a profile option for “send always-legible notification emails” considered? How hard would it be to add?

Comment from saintam1 on 23 February 2017 at 10:57

Having a “Preferred email format: plain text vs. html” option makes a lot of sense to me. I expect it should be doable, too. I’ll look into it.

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