Hi Anna, I first spoke to you during my first week at Campaign Monitor (back in 2009). Years later, you’re still sharing valuable advice on your blog and of course, sending out cutting-edge campaigns. What has kept you pushing the envelope?
I know we all complain about email’s limitations in comparison to the web, but trying to find ways around those constraints can be perversely fun. Besides the client work we do, we always have a few side projects that are pure research and development. More than anything, just playing keeps me enthusiastic.
It also helps that email design is never static. Mobile email gave a lot of designers a renewed appreciation for their job. Instead of starting every project with a 750px rectangle, we now have a lot more options; skinny, horizontal, fluid, dynamic, pixel art and now, responsive.
Responsive email design is a major part of your business, Style Campaign. What is driving the “mobile friendly” rush from the big brands you send on behalf of?
I’m seeing clients with around 50% mobile email usageI’m seeing a lot of clients with around 50% mobile email usage and just did work for a client with 71% of opens recorded on mobile devices. These are panic-level numbers that show no signs of leveling off.
Couple that with Litmus’ reporting only 3.3% of users re-open emails on another device and you realize there are no second chances. Also, users have lost all tolerance for shabbily designed campaigns; one recent study found 80.3% delete emails that are poorly rendered on mobile, up from 69.7% last year.
Your blog is the go-to for many email designers, but as far as getting the word out to potential clients, what have you found to be most effective channel?
Our blog content has been the most effective way to get the word out, particularly early on. I think there’s a real opportunity to stand out through authentic blog content right now.
There’s a lot of noise surrounding mobile email for instance, but not enough written by actual practitioners in the way we see in the mobile web community.
Finally, there seems to be a lot of confusion around responsive templates – especially in regards to email client support. What do you think is the biggest, or most common misconception when it comes to responsive email design?
It’s not how it was two years ago, most clients that come to us now are fairly well informed. They know what responsive design is and why they need it.
That said, there is still the expectation of a simple fix that will cover all their requirements. There’s no magic bullet with universal support – it’s not just a case of adding a bit of code and you’re done. When asking for a responsive re-design, clients are, as Graeme (Style Campaign’s co-founder) would say, “asking for a new engine in their car, not just to top up the oil”.
Most of the questions I get trend towards the practical, for example, “Will responsive templates require more resources to maintain than a scalable layout? Does it involve having to create two sets of images? Is it going to add to the workload?”
Another concern is whether an internal team will be able to manage the responsive code, with questions cropping up like, “What’s with that !important; thingy and will we need training?”. One misconception is that responsive templates are hard to manage and are not scalable or reusable. But often, from a maintainability perspective, clients are still simply replacing an image or swapping some copy, just within a more sophisticated framework.
Massive thanks to Anna for continuing to be one of the most valuable and innovative sources of email design knowledge – this Community Champion nomination couldn’t have come soon enough. Should email design also be your passion, we may get in touch with you in the months ahead. However, if you’d like to nominate a fellow customer, be sure to get in touch with details, including how they’ve helped you.