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Email Design Inspiration Time

The collection of great gallery entries keeps growing. Use them for inspiration when you need to spark an idea for your next design. Subscribe to the email design gallery’s RSS feed to see them all.

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How 37signals Uses Campaign Monitor – an Interview with Jason Fried

For most of our readers, 37signals need no introduction. As long time Campaign Monitor customers (they were our 41st customer way back in 2004), I chatted with founder Jason Fried about how they use email to market their products, their recent switch from plain text to HTML emails and plenty more. 1. How do you see email as a marketing tool? Do you see it as a different audience than your blog readers, an extension, or something else? “An email can have such an impact. It’s like calling an old friend every few months to catch up.” There’s some crossover between our blog and newsletter, but there are a lot of people who subscribe to the newsletter that don’t read our blog. It’s easy to think everyone reads your blog, but most people are way too busy to be a regular reader. That’s why an email can have such an impact. It reaches interested people who aren’t paying attention all the time. It’s like calling an old friend every few months to catch up. 2. What motivated you to make the switch from plain text to HTML? A couple things. We wanted to track how many people were opening the email and clicking the links. Using simple design and color to call out more important parts of the newsletter. Even though we’re going HTML, it’s still mostly text. The color and simple styling really helps make the point without having to get too fancy. 3. Have you seen an improvement in the traffic to your site or received any feedback since the switch? We didn’t really track newsletter results before, but it definitely feels like we’re seeing great results. We usually include a coupon with the newsletters and we’re seeing a nice uptake. 4. You guys typically design for the browser, how did you find designing HTML emails? A pain in the ass, honestly. It’s like designing web sites that have to work on 10 different browsers. HTML email display in mail clients feels like the mid 90s. They have a long way to go to embrace modern standards. 5. How do you decide what to put in your newsletters? We usually go back through a month’s worth of blog posts and pick out the ones we thought were most interesting. The more comments the better. We also announce a couple recent new features in our products and often include a coupon for a few bucks off a product. We try not to make the newsletters too long, so brevity is considered. We also use a URL shortening tool (like TinyURL) to keep the URLs from wrapping. 6. Do you and your team subscribe to many email newsletters yourselves? I like Mark Hurst’s Good Experience newsletter (also sent with Campaign Monitor). I think that may be the only one I’m consciously subscribed to. Unfortunately I get a lot of other ones I don’t remember asking for ;) 7. Why did you choose to use an external service to send your newsletters? “We looked around and tried a few, but nothing held a candle to Campaign Monitor. It is truly elegant, useful, and valuable.” A long time ago we used to do this ourselves, but we didn’t really have a good way of managing the list. We could blast one out, but we didn’t really know who was on it, we couldn’t send multi-part emails, we couldn’t deal with bounces, etc. As our lists grew (we have over 100,000 on one product list) we needed something to manage this process. We looked around and tried a few, but nothing held a candle to Campaign Monitor. It is truly elegant, useful, and valuable. We’re proud to use it and thank you for creating it. Recent 37signals newsletters Not surprisingly, the 37signals newsletters are a great example of simple, effective HTML email design. Each issue is predominantly text and smart formatting through inline CSS make them a pleasure to read in every email client.

Blog Post

Test Your Email Designs on BlackBerry and Windows Mobile

If you’re a BlackBerry or iPhone user, you’re probably well aware of just how popular mobile email is going to be in the future. With the recent announcement of HTML email support on the BlackBerry, not to mention the iPhone’s already stellar CSS support, it’s clear that the challenge for us email designers might not be as daunting after all. If you consider the recent prediction that 20% of email will be accessed wirelessly in 2 years, that’s a comforting thought. That’s the future, but what about the present? Currently, the BlackBerry only supports plain text, Windows Mobile 5 does plain text too, and Windows Mobile 6 scrapes in with basic HTML support. It’s not the prettiest of pictures. With that in mind, we’ve just updated our design and spam testing tool to produce screenshots of exactly how your email will look on all 3 of these mobile platforms. Add to this the 17 other email clients we already cover across the desktop and web, and you’ve got some serious testing coverage, all for just $10. If you’re interested in learning more about mobile email, Email Marketing Reports have a great list of resources, particularly on mobile email design. Even if you don’t read your email on a mobile device, you can safely bet that some of your recipients do.

Blog Post

New Feature: Quick-Start Your Plain Text Version

We all know that having a plain text version is an essential component of a well designed email campaign. For people who use email clients that can’t display HTML, and for those who prefer plain text, we need to provide information equivalent to the HTML component. By the time you have fought your way through the endless incompatibilities of email client rendering however, it can be hard work getting yourself excited about a well formatted text version. Good news! We’ve just added the ability to jump start your plain text email by automatically pulling all the text out of your HTML version. We can’t do all the work for you, but we can save you some time and hassle. Just click the ‘import it from your HTML’ link, wait a moment and up will pop your text, stripped of all HTML, your links replaced with the relevant URLs written like so: [https://www.campaignmonitor.com] and your webversion and unsubscribe tags converted to the plain text tag format. The whole thing is formatted to our recommended width, so that you have the maximum chance of everything working. Then all you need to do is a little tidying to make things neater, and remove anything not relevant for the plain text. For example, from an upcoming MailBuild newsletter, which looks like this in HTML: Campaign Monitor can automatically generate the following text: We hope that will save you a lot of time, and should lead to more nicely formatted plain text versions in the future. Don’t forget to checkout our plain text templates and tips for more ways to make your plain text more effective.

Blog Post

Norton, McAfee and Microsoft Join Our Spam Testing Arsenal

We’ve just pushed an update live to our popular design and spam testing tool with the addition of 3 new spam filters. For all new tests, we’ll now be running your campaign though these additional filters: Norton 2008 McAfee Security Center 2008 Outlook 2007 Here’s a screenshot of the complete spam test line-up, which now includes 6 of the most popular desktop spam filters on the market: Where possible, we’ll try and provide as many useful reasons as possible why your email might have been filtered. Don’t forget, on top of running your email through 11 spam filters, firewalls and gateways we also provide a screenshot of your email in 17 of the most popular email clients. All for only $10.

Blog Post

Huge Time Saver: Automatic Inline CSS Generation

A few days back we quietly launched what I think is one of the most useful new features we’ve added to Campaign Monitor in a while. As we’ve written countless times before, getting some design consistency across all the major email clients is one of the biggest annoyances of the job. The sole reason behind this frustration is the lack of CSS support, which was the reason we launched the Email Standards Project recently. To get around these deficiencies, you really need to move away from web standards and stick with table-based layouts with all of your CSS done inline, instead of being separate to your content. The problem is, adding that CSS inline is fiddly and takes a long time, not to mention how depressing it is completely butchering your code. Be frustrated no longer. Now, by checking a single checkbox, we’ll automatically generate your inline CSS for you when you import your campaign. This means you can build your emails just as efficiently as your web pages (except for those nasty tables you need to add), and then we’ll do the heavy lifting for you automatically that will ensure the best rendering result across all the major email clients. See it in action The best way to demonstrate how cool this feature really is, is to show a few before and after shots. As you know, the biggest CSS hater is Gmail. Taking a few random samples from our email design gallery, here are the results you can get just by ticking that innocent little checkbox. The Tonic Vision newsletter Gmail before the checkbox Gmail after the checkbox The NZLive.com newsletter Gmail before the checkbox Gmail after the checkbox The results really do speak for themselves. Even though we quietly snuck this feature in a few days ago, it’s already proven extremely popular, with more than 600 customers using it for their campaigns. A big shout goes to Toby Brain, our superstar intern who developed this feature, and also a big thanks to Alex Dunae, the developer of Premailer who was generous enough to offer his own advice on the best way to approach inline CSS to get the best results possible for you all. Enjoy, and if you can think of any ways we can make this feature even more useful, please let us know.

Blog Post

New Feature: Comparing Campaign Reports

You may have noticed in your accounts recently a new link under the ‘reports’ tab labelled ‘Compare campaigns’. This is a brand new feature we released recently, thanks to a lot of great customer suggestions, and to the efforts of our star interns. The idea is that you can select two or more past campaigns for a particular client, or even across all your clients, and compare their key statistics in chart and table form. The five measurements you can compare are: Opens Clicks Bounces Unsubscribes Spam complaints Each one is compared as a percentage. Once you’ve picked the campaigns you want to compare, you hit the generate button and the data is loaded in. The new graphs are pretty slick, and you will need to have a recent version of the flash player installed to view them. You can hover over each indicated point to see the relevant date and value for the statistic at that point. Below the graph is a table listing the data, and at the bottom, averages across all your campaigns. If you decide you’d like to change the graph, use the edit button at the top to add or remove campaigns or statistics to compare, and regenerate it. These graphs are also available to your clients logging in for their reporting via Client Report Access. Why compare campaigns? With this new ability to easily compare your campaigns, you can start to really get an idea of what is working and what needs improvements with your clients emails. Here’s just a few ideas to get you started – we’re looking forward to hearing how you use campaign comparisons. Testing different subject lines If you want to improve your open rate, changing the subject line is a great place to start. Use segmemting to target one part of your list, and send them your standard subject line. For another segment, try something different, like putting an article title in the subject. Then compare your open rates for two campaigns. (more ideas for subject lines) Change your ‘call to action’ Once you can easily compare your click rates, you can start to experiment with the links in your campaigns. What happens if you use a graphic button to link to your site rather than a text link? What about a photo of your new product as a link vs the normal heading? Does putting a link at the top get more clicks? Are competitions worthwhile for gaining subscribers? Sure, running a competition where people have to give their address to enter might gain a ton of signups, but are they worthwhile? Use compare campaigns to compare your open rates and click throughs before and after the competition, and see if those new people are really interested. Also check out your bounce rates to see if you just end up with a bunch of bad addresses. There’s plenty of other ways you and your clients can make use of simple comparisons between campaigns. If you have a great idea, leave us a comment. Thanks to everyone who suggested this feature too!

Blog Post

The Principles of Beautiful HTML Email

If you’re an experienced Campaign Monitor user and a regular reader of this blog, then you probably have a pretty solid idea of what makes a ‘good’ HTML email. If you need a refresher, or you are looking for a good introductory article, then read on. Over on SitePoint, which is a great resource for web designers and developers of all kinds, I’ve got a new article live. It’s called The Principles of Beautiful HTML Email and it covers the core principles of designing for email vs designing for the web. I want to give a special mention to some Campaign Monitor users (and their clients) who have been previously featured in our gallery and are examples in the article. Zurb Threadless Recycle Now WWF Future Makers HIVE Inside Packaging Please do check the article out, and consider bookmarking it for later to send it to that designer who still sends emails as one big image, or to your client who wants you to send them! Read The Principles of Beautiful HTML Email at SitePoint

Blog Post

HTML Email Coming Soon on the Blackberry

Some important news if you send to a lot of mobile subscribers, or view emails on your own Blackberry. While existing Blackberry devices and software only support plain text email rendering, RIM has announced that an upcoming software update will add HTML and rich text support to the platform. HTML and Rich Text Email Rendering – BlackBerry smartphone users will be able to view HTML and rich text email messages with original formatting preserved including font colors and styles, embedded images, hyperlinks, tables, bullets and other formatting. It is not yet clear whether this will be optional, allowing Blackberry users to select their desired format, or whether HTML will always be shown when available. In any case, sending multipart text+html will always be the safest option. The update is set to be released in ‘the first half of 2008’, and once it becomes available we plan to run our normal HTML/CSS rendering tests and post here about the results. Of course, if you do know your audience is mostly mobile, then you will want to ensure your emails are shorter, to the point and simpler than you would typically do for a an audience using a desktop client. A mobile context is very different, and even the type of content itself may differ considerably – information that is useful when at your desk may be pointless when sitting on a train or in a taxi. Are you looking forward to HTML on your Blackberry? Or do your clients send campaigns specifically written for people on the move? Leave us a comment.

Blog Post

Behind the Scenes at the Freshview Office

I don’t know about you but I always love getting a peek into how other people work. It’s always interesting seeing the real space people are spending their time in at the other end of the pipe. I recently put together a post on the Freshview blog about our new office space and why we approached it the way we did. It won’t make you a better designer or email marketer, but will definitely give you a sneak peek behind the scenes at the people working hard to make Campaign Monitor the best email tool for designers. On top of the voyer value, many of our customers are also growing software and other web-related companies. The post goes into a little detail about how we’ve tried to create the best environment possible for developers, and what the results have been so far. Hopefully some of the lessons we’ve learned over the years can come in handy at your end too. If anyone has photos of their own workplace, make sure you share them in the comments. If you like the way we do things and feel the need to experience sunny Sydney, we’ve still got 4 positions open right now.

Blog Post

Building the Ultimate Office for Software Developers

Read all about our new office fit-out, and why we think closed offices are the…

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