We worked with our client ExactTarget to design an email marketing application for Web.com – who provide hosting and web design services (either DIY or Do-It-For-Me) for small businesses through an online interface. Web.com wanted to tap into some of ExactTarget’s extensive email marketing experience for their partnership.
When we say small businesses, we’re talking about very small. Typically a single owner / employee providing a service or running a retail establishment – often they’re on a first name basis with their customers! Web.com wanted to extend what they offered to these businesses with a powerful but easy-to-use email marketing suite. Our key driving force for the design was the realization that these folks were not email marketing savvy in fact, most of them have probably never sent an email on behalf of their business before. So we designed a tool that turns many of the typical marketing concepts on their head in an attempt to make the process as simple as possible, while still allowing for sophisticated email marketing.
One simple enhancement in speaking to users through the interface was re-thinking what the primary objects were called. In the email marketing world ‘Campaigns’ and ‘Subscribers’ are pretty typical for describing emails and the people you can send to but when you’re a contractor or a landscape designer, these words may end up sounding more unusual than typical. We worked to reduce the friction users would have when working in the site; ‘Emails’ are emails; ‘Contacts’ are my contacts. Both translated well from the real world, not specialized Marketing terms.
Firstly, an important thing we landed on was a guided experience that matured along with the user – 3 states of each dashboard module, help content where no user-content had been created yet and concepts like “Suggested Next Steps” to guide someone with little time who wanted to maximize their product usage.
Another factor that went into the design was how to best guide inexperienced business owners through the steps of using the product. The primary design decision revolved around surfacing the content contextually so a user never had to dig through an FAQ or Help section to find simple answers. The bulk of the content – related to operational questions – was built into videos. Tips and short lists provided additional information in a ‘just-in-time’ fashion.
Creating an Email
On many services, the experience of creating an email spans many steps before a user actually arrives at the fun part; choosing a theme and layout. We cut out all of the standard form fields and details required by other services so users could start creating an email straight away.
Layout = Purpose
We found through research, that there are key layouts that work well for different types of messages. Instead of naming different layouts based on a grid or visual style, we chose a naming-convention that described the type of message being composed. For instance, layouts named ‘Newsletters’, ‘Events’, ‘Announcements’ and ‘Coupons/Offers’ made it much simpler for users to decide which layout to select. Additionally, the “dummy” content of the layout was actual content written as if it were a real email providing a good starting point from which to modify as necessary.
Our solution to avoid having the end user name and organize emails created but not yet sent was to auto-save drafts as soon as they began adding content. The name of the email is then a combination of layout choice along with a timestamp.
Tips to Improve
As a first time marketer, it’s exciting to watch people open and click on your email content. What do you do though when those numbers aren’t what you were expecting or hoping, and what if you actually had no idea what to expect? We worked with ExactTarget to understand the most common issues that go into poor performing emails and content and placed those tips inline as users reviewed results.
Once a user sends more than a single email, they start to think about how email marketing impacts the bottom line in a broader way. Seeing an overview of performance across all sent emails teaches them about simple best practices that can be leveraged in their future mailings.
I hope this glimpse into how our thought process manifests within the User Interfaces of products we develop helps you understand more about how we work.