Email UX is Easy

Email UX is Easy. Said No One Ever.

Creating new emails is so easy, isn’t it?

Not!

It’s easy to say that email marketing has become easier over the years, and for the majority of us, email marketing is easier.

I Didn't Choose the Email Marketing Life. It Chose Me.

I was a young, naive, 27-year-old getting my first taste of email marketing with a “wonderful” ESP named Manticore. I would routinely spend days coding and fixing emails. The WYSIWYG editor wouldn’t have been state-of-the-art in 1995. It was a horrible experience.

Needless to say, once I started getting the hang of what it took to create HTML emails, I soon was on the hunt for a new, more user-friendly ESP. And about 18 months after I started, I led the drive and search for a new ESP, which turned into a search for a marketing automation provider as the industry changed. At the end of the day, we ended up with Pardot and haven’t looked back.

Marketing Automation to the rescue!

The difference between Pardot and the previous platform, Manticore, is night and day AND the effect on myself and our company was immediate. My time spent working on individual emails went from 3-4 days to maybe half a day, if not less. Today, I work on an individual email maybe once every 3 months because everything is pretty much on autopilot design- and coding-wise.

(As an aside, this changed me and my job role from that of email/web grunt to email/web strategist, and I now spend most of my time driving our email/web strategy instead of coding. FTW!)

WYSIWYG What?

One of the main criteria we used in our ESP/MA search was “how easy was it to create an email?” We wanted all of our marketing staff to be able to create emails on a regular basis without the need for fixing code on a regular basis. This is one of the main reasons we ended up choosing Pardot. Pardot’s WYSIWYG editor was light years ahead of what we were used to and what we saw among other enterprise-level Marketing Automation providers.

Design in IE MemeChange the Editor

Fast-forward 2-3 years and I realize now how difficult email design remains.

Yes, many tools exist to make design and coding easier. Tools to make troubleshooting easier. Guides on what CSS works in what client.

The million-dollar question remains: Why is it so difficult to create good emails these days?

It’s Outlook’s fault!

We all do this. You can hear me on a regular basis damning Outlook to eternal hell. It’s easy for all of us to blame it on the inbox – the Outlooks, the Gmails, and LotusNotes. But the blame also resides with us, the marketers, the designers, the technologists in charge of email marketing and marketing automation.

“Emails that provide a better user experience should be within reach of most marketers. They should not require any hand coding. All complexity should be hidden behind better, more powerful email creation tools. That’s our job as product people, and we are — at least partially — failing.” – OnlyInfluencers.com

There are plenty of what I call “email nerds.” The people who understand to their core, email is 600px wide, only use tables, Word sucks, inline CSS, and so much more. These are the people who know how to code the exceptions so the email renders correctly in Outlook. But in lots of companies, like mine, there’s only one of you (or me) – if you’re lucky. I think of other marketers in my metro area (roughly 200,000 people or so), and how many use ESPs like Constant Contact. These are the marketers who don’t have the resources, human or capital, to dedicate themselves to crafting hand-coded emails.

How to save the Everyman Marketer?

Where are the options for them? Where are the tools for the Everyman marketer? I’ve tried to make our templates or code-snippets “super simple” for anyone on our team to copy-paste into the email they’re creating. But the options are pretty much limited to creating one-off templates/emails for each email they create – which is tedious and time-consuming – or I create plain text code snippets and save them on our intranet for them to copy. This leaves our marketers open to copying or pasting the code incorrectly, and now the template doesn’t work as intended.

Where’s the drag-drop editor? How can I make that “snippet” process even easier? Even more simple?

Innovation in Email Marketing

Taxi for Email” is a good start in this direction. From what I’ve seen of the latest MailChimp editor, that’s a good start as well. While “Taxi” is something that anyone can use, most other similar tools are proprietary tools stuck within siloed software.

How do we move the email marketing industry forward and spread the knowledge outside of each of our silos? How do we get marketers and our budgets to place the same attention on email marketing that we do on social media? This despite the fact that email continues to be one of THE best ways to connect with customers and prospects.

No Best Solution. Right now.

The above missive isn’t really meant to answer those questions. Not for me, and not for you. We all have our own specific needs and wants, strengths and weaknesses. But we need to come together, as marketers AND consumers (because we are both), and push the marketing industry towards a more user-friendly email design future.

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