Friday, May 20, 2016
I originally wrote this post for Cloud Construct (Click here to go to the original article). Hopefully you will learn a thing or two that you didn't already know. If not, feel free to browse the rest of my site! Enjoy!
Cloud Construct has delivered a number of marketing led client web development projects that include integration to email marketing platforms. Part of our responsibilities in the projects was to develop email templates for the platform, upload, test, and distribute. Recently, the three most common marketing email platforms we have worked with Constant Contact, Mailchimp, and SalesGenius. In this post, I will review the User Interface, the User Experience, and overall experience of using each email marketing product from the point of view of a web developer.
User Interface: The web interface of the Constant Contact app is clean and well organized. The colors work well together to pull off a professional and modern feel. The application uses icons to enable the user to intuit the purpose of each link, and they are large enough for all users to easily interpret the precise meaning. A brief text description accompanies the icons; so even if it is unclear for all users, there is a fallback mechanism to understand where this link goes. There are some dated screens that detract from the experience, for example, when first creating an email campaign the colors and fonts don't match the rest of the site, leaving the user to wondering if something went wrong when loading the page. The advanced editor also looks a little old school and feels out of place with the rest of the slick and modern application.
User Experience: The Constant Contact user experience also nicely done. Upon login, the user is prompted with the home screen which consists of all the buttons, icons and tabs necessary to create and send an email campaign. This is simple and direct layout is very helpful for new users to learn the initial process to create, edit, and distribute their first email. The "Create" button is nice and large on the home screen. It catches your attention right away and pulls you in, saving time when you have the ability to get right into a campaign. This simple experience also benefits experienced users focused on quickly creating and sending campaigns, resulting in less overall clicks.
Overall Experience: The overall experience with Constant Contact is very positive. Everything looks and feels clean and organized, and the site contains everything needed in an email marketing platform. As a designer and a web developer, one major nit to pick is with the advanced editor. This is input form for all the code for a custom email. The link to access the editor is very small and almost lost with everything else on the "create a campaign" screen. The editor also feels a little outdated, but is definitely not the worst online text editor that can be found online. The advanced text editor is a major component of the experience for a web developer, where the simple editor is probably the most common experience for the average user.
User Interface: MailChimp platform boasts a strong overall user interface. The top navigation bar is always visible, providing the user with the immediate access to the most needed pages. The template page consists of an easy to read table, which presents a preview of the email as well as important info about the email template. One of the only downsides of the UI is the lack of colors. The site feels too plain with the monochromatic, gray buttons and dark grey text. It would certainly benefit from additional colors to help make important buttons, headers and tabs pop!
User Experience: The site is easy to navigate and provides all the necessary information to get started. All the marketing metrics needed are only a click or two away and nicely organized into tables. The template editor is the big plus of this site. A user has the ability to choose from some basic theme templates or create one from scratch. Surprisingly, the included theme templates are not a terrible baseline for a web developer to use to get started, and would probably suffice for teams with minimal creative skill of their own. The text editor is another great feature on the site. It provides the ability to view a real-time preview while developing and tweaking the template. The editor also includes color highlighting/hinting depending on HTML or CSS code. Additionally, a user can test the email at the click of a button, which is great when you need immediate feedback from a coworker, manager, or yourself on the content, design or experience from within a mail client.
Overall Experience: MailChimp hits a lot of key criteria that a web developer would look for in an marketing email platform. Some improvements to the color theme of the site to make certain important items pop would create a near perfect product to create and send email campaigns.
User Interface: The overall SalesGenius user interface feels outdated and like something from the early 2000s. A new design and revamp of colors and fonts is much needed. The navigation bar is minimally sufficient, however it is floating to the right of the page while all of your content is to the left; which is a challenge with the wide screen monitors so common today. A user has to go out their way to get to certain key controls, which adds up to quite a bit of annoyance.
User Experience: I'm not going to beat around the bush on this one, the User Experience for this site is not the best. It is difficult to navigate, it often takes too many clicks to find the desired interface, and one of the biggest disappointments is that when creating a custom email the text editor strips out certain HTML and CSS that is apparently incompatible. This becomes a major problem when implementing workarounds for Outlook display issues and to get certain things to happen for other email clients. As a web developer, this caused frustration and the repetition quickly caused boredom with this outdated mess of platform. As a result, I plowed through and finished as fast as possible to get off of the site, probably resulting in lower quality work (never!)
Overall Experience: Of the three, SalesGenius is probably the worst overall experience. A new design and color palette is much needed, as well as a rethink of URL pathing. The platform has some potential but there are too many negative qualities to make this a go-to email marketing application.
After using all three marketing email platforms in real client web development projects, I can say that it is a toss-up between MailChimp and Constant Contact. In the end, it comes down to the most common user for each case. Constant Contact would be best for an email marketer and MailChimp would be best as a web developer. If you are doing simple emails with a template from the system, then Constant Contact is for you. But, if you are looking to make nice custom templates, the text editor in MailChimp is hands down the best choice. I hope this helps you make a decision about which marketing email application is best for your needs.