Designing Campaign Designer – an insight into our new email tools

9 minute read

We’ve just introduced a whole new set of email campaign creation tools, available now to all accounts as a completely free upgrade.

This upgrade marks quite a change in our email design process, so I’d like to explain our thinking behind the changes.

The biggest challenge with email marketing is often the design stage, especially if you don’t have an experienced email designer on call, or the budget to outsource your campaign creation. There are so many different considerations when building an email that it can be quite a challenge.

That’s what we wanted to do away with with this release, and we started from the point of view that:

Different people work differently

We’ve always provided an email creation tool that gave users complete control over their email design. This is great for users who are confident with creating and editing HTML based campaigns, but with great power comes great responsibility and the downside is that it also made it very easy to break things.

So, we’ve now divided our email creation tools into 3 distinct modes, to let users work in the way they prefer:

  • Classic Mode: This is a visual editing tool very similar to our previous system. It gives you complete control over a campaign and is ideal if you want to be able to manually tweak your code. It introduces several major enhancements though, including multiple levels of undo/redo, inline image editing, enhanced social sharing tools and automatic code tidying. If you edit a campaign that you’ve previously made, this is the tool you’ll use.
  • Code View: If you’re a hardcore geek at heart and see the world in code, this mode will let you upload, or cut-and-paste your own HTML code straight in. It won’t be modified in any way.
  • Campaign Designer: This is our whole new way of creating emails, designed to do away with the challenges that can make building your email campaign a confusing process. You won’t see HTML code using Campaign Designer! It’s fundamentally different from anything we’ve done before and has taken over 2,000 people-hours of development.

In the rest of this post, I’ll give you a brief insight into why Campaign Designer is so different, how it will change the way you create emails and some of the thinking that went into it’s creation.

Resolve the obvious challenges

When building an email campaign from scratch there are several challenges that have to be overcome; we wanted to deal with these in a way that needs no, or very little, effort from our users.

Campaign structure: creating an email structure which looks the same in all major email clients is a significant challenge. We’ve resolved this by providing a wide range of fully customisable templates which work great in all major email clients and building the editing tools to maintain this consistency as you add your own content.

Images: adding, editing and hosting images for your campaigns can be a time consuming process. Now when you add an image we not only let you edit it directly using the fantastic Picnik editing system but we’ll automatically re-save your image at the exact size used in your campaign and at an optimised level of compression. Then we serve it over a content delivery network (CDN) to make sure it loads as fast as possible for your readers. No more worrying about huge file sizes or Outlook ignoring the fact that you’ve resized an image.

Managing content: templates are great for speeding up the initial stages of campaign design, but when you want to re-order content or add more articles, things can get difficult. Not any more – you can add and remove articles with just one click and simply drag them around to re-order them. No more worrying about whether you’ll break the table structure behind the template or how to add in an extra article box.

Changing colours: changing the colour elements of your email is something that should be easy, but because of the discrepancies across different email clients often isn’t. Our new colour management tools make changing everything from the background of your email to individual links easy (and we’ve got an upgrade coming soon which takes this even further).

Consistency in different email clients: creating a design tool which lets you see your campaign on-screen as you build it is one thing, the real issue comes when trying to ensure that things look the same when viewed by your readers in their email clients. They tend to display things in a very different way to a web browser.

We don’t want our clients to have to worry about this, so we introduced a new, behind-the-scenes processing stage for email campaigns. Before your Campaign Designer email is sent to your customers we apply a wide range of best-practice optimisations to the email code, from inlining the styles to adding work-around to correct rendering issues in different email clients.

Resolving these challenges meant building a brand new email creation tool from scratch. For the geekily inclined amongst our readers, we make use of some great Open Source code like JQuery and TinyMCE and have wrapped this up with a huge quantity of our own javascript code and back end processing to perform the myriad optimisations and corrections that are needed to generate great looking email campaigns.

Make things even better

Once we’d resolved these challenges we set about looking at other ways we could make the email design process easier, and even more fun. So we’ve added a host of new features including:

  • Easy social sharing across all major social networks (including adding Facebook Like features) – just point and click.
  • Unlimited undo/redo functionality.
  • Automatic generation of a plain-text version of your email.
  • One-click previewing, including live testing of Google Analytics integration.
  • One-click removal of pre-set styles (if you copy across content we preserve your styling, which is great 90% of the time, this is for the other 10% when you want to change things).
  • A wide range of new free email templates to help you get designing quickly and easily.

Campaign Designer is a fundamentally different way to build your emails – you drag and drop articles and edit pre-defined areas of a template, making it easy to create great looking emails as you can focus on the content rather than worrying about the code in your email. Once you’ve chosen your basic design it’s easy to customise it to match your branding and realise your own creative vision, all without having to worry about breaking things. If you want total control of the underlying code, then Classic Mode is still your best choice, but if you’d prefer to focus on the substance of your campaign rather than the code, give Campaign Designer a try today – and let us know what you think!