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Community Champion: Nicole MerlinWe’ve encouraged many of our customers to share their knowledge via blog posts – not just for the feel-good factor, but because it’s the best way to get recognized in the email and web communities alike. This month’s Community Champion took up the challenge by starting the Email Wizardry blog, which has since become a runaway hit. Whether or not you know her from being a self-publishing phenom or friendly face on the forums, please welcome Nicole Merlin to the Community Champion stage.

Hi Nicole, you’ve really made some noise by sharing your know-how via your blog. What motivated you to start educating others?

a really well-designed email can be impressive in its own rightI was definitely motivated by being familiar with how difficult coding HTML emails is. When thinking back to my early days, I reflect on how awesome it would have been if there were more helpful, email-focused sites. There are many more resources available now, but nowhere near as many as there are for the web, so I just want to contribute to the mix in the hope that I can help make it easier for others.

As a designer, I like to shine a light on well-designed HTML emails and
not just focus on ROI and clicks. I really want to be able to analyse
email from not just a marketing perspective and show that a really well-designed email can be impressive in its own right.

Your recent blog post on the Mailbox email client recently got a lot of

It definitely did! That post has received around 1,250 hits since
I wrote it – I definitely did not expect that. Thanks to a few retweets from Campaign Monitor, Litmus and others, my blog is a lot more popular, thank you very much!

It’s funny because I almost didn’t post that article; I realized just before I leaving work for the day that I probably should share my observations. It’s now turned out to be the most popular thing I have ever written.

Email is a unique field of expertise – what is your background story?

I spend a
lot of time educating people about HTML email because it is perpetually
My love of web development started at 16 when I taught myself to code by creating a Buffy the Vampire Slayer fansite, using tables – it was 1999 after all. I later studied Communication Design and worked at a print factory, learning the ins-and-outs of print design. I continued to work in print for a while, before returning to web design.

I currently work as a designer at an advertising agency in Melbourne, Australia and
although I primarily design for websites, I often get to work on HTML emails. When I started here a few years ago, my first HTML email job was a newsletter for a big paint brand. Being familiar with using tables – thanks to all those fansites I made – I was totally comfortable laying it out. However, I consistently tried to defy the lack of CSS support, so spent about two or three times the allocated hours trying to figure out things like what the heck Outlook was doing to my styles.

These days (and a few thousand hours of email coding later), I do quite a bit of email work, but being in a corporate environment means I am bound to the briefs and budgets of our clients. I also have to spend a lot of time educating people about HTML email because it is perpetually
misunderstood, which makes it difficult to get the resources needed to apply progressive and cutting-edge design and development methods to client work. Working privately on projects and my blog lets me get all of that out of my system!

Finally, we’ve spoken to customers who have had great design tips and ideas, yet have been hesitant to start blogging. What advice can you offer?

Oh man. Post them! Absolutely post them. The more information that exists about email quirks and perks, the better!

The thing that used to deter me from publishing my findings was the fear of people on sites like StackOverflow where the immediate response is often to shoot down whoever is answering a question. Eventually, I realised that it was silly not to share what I know!

I get stuff wrong all the time and sometimes struggle with posting ideas on a forum because occasionally you realize a day later that you have it totally wrong and have to go back and fix it. But I think it’s way better to just put it out there – you can go back and add another comment if you learn something new. Everyone is in this together, and I find that everyone in the email development community is really friendly and nice.

The worst that can happen is what used to happen to me, which is that my blog got about 2 visits a week. I was happy with that. Now that I get more visitors, the old posts that I wrote when it was completely unknown are still useful. And most of all, the response that I have had has been overwhelmingly positive.

A huge congratulations to Nicole for taking the Community Champion crown for the month of June – her Email Wizardry blog is well worth following, as are her email tutorials on tuts+. If you’ve been proactive in helping others, 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.

This blog provides general information and discussion about email marketing and related subjects. The content provided in this blog ("Content”), should not be construed as and is not intended to constitute financial, legal or tax advice. You should seek the advice of professionals prior to acting upon any information contained in the Content. All Content is provided strictly “as is” and we make no warranty or representation of any kind regarding the Content.
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