All posts in ‘Design’

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Etsy Times Are A-Changin’

Ahh, Etsy, you know…you truly are dear to me. How I browse the myriads of handmade trinkets and organics to the wee hours of the night.  Distracting myself with the countless pages of Apple protective apparatus.  I then hand over my precious currency across the information highway, into your many users’ hands.

Aside from the nerd poetry written above, it would be accurate to say that Etsy is an exciting new world.  If you don’t know what Etsy is, take a peek at their website.  It’s basically a buffet of handmade everything.  But if you’re an Etsy regular, and get their newsletter, this will be familiar.

Etsy’s newsletter is… nice.  I actually really like it.  I’ve been signed up for a while now, and I’ve seen it go through quite a few changes.  But let’s talk about how it is now.

There are three great things Etsy does that I want to point out.

1: Themes.  All of their newsletters have themes.  Have a peek:

I like the themes because of this: It helps me decide if I want to set aside time to look at it or not.  I’ll be honest, the “Farm Fresh” newsletter… didn’t read it.  But “Man Cave”?  Read it.  They have an “Etsy” newsletter, and then they have “Etsy Dudes”, which of course is for us closet Etsy zealots who happen to be men.

I think this is good because it creates focus.  With themes, we know beforehand what we’re about to look at.  Etsy comes out victorious with keeping their focus, and this is throughout the whole “Etsy experience”.

2: Sharing.  Sharing the Etsy love on Facebook and Twitter etc..  Feast your eyes below:

They have some pretty hefty icons at the bottom for Facebook, Twitter and email.  I’m a firm believer in picture tiles and icons, text is so boring, and people don’t want to shuffle their eyes through lines and lines of text and links. Etsy has a good grasp on icons and picture tiles, they use them a lot.

3:  They have the support from all the Etsy employees.  Look hard:

This one by far is the most powerful.  It reminds me of this article.  Etsy has different employees collect their favorite items throughout the website, and then they compile them in a newsletter.  They used to have a picture and the name of the person who picked the items (here’s the old one), now it’s just the name of the person which doubles as a link attached to the employees website bio/profile.  This creates enthusiasm from within the company, which filters to the reader and creates a personal attachment with the Etsy employees and the reader.  This is brilliant – everyone at Etsy is involved this way.  The employees who pick, no longer just work there, they contribute their opinion.  They see their picks being sent to thousands of inboxes.  Would that make you feel valued at your job? What about enthusiastic?  Yes sir, I think so.  But Etsy?  How about the pictures of the “pickers” again?

It’s not all rainbows and butterflies though.  Three things I would like to see change, or rethought.

1: The newsletter literally comes almost every day.  Can we do something about that?  It used to come once a week or so.  That was good.  But now with everyday, you lose a lot of that anticipation factor.  You gain the “Oh, didn’t I just get one?” factor.  Honestly, I don’t read them anymore.  Before, I got excited about reading them.  Now? Not so much.  Etsy?  This has to change.

2: Signing up for the newsletter should be more obvious.  Try to find the sign up link in the picture below.  The average person doesn’t think about newsletters, and they don’t know that they want them.  So to assume your average person will find the newsletter without it being obvious… is silly.  I actually had to hunt around for the newsletter button.  And if I have to hunt for it, how will the average person find it?  I want a huge button on the front page.

3: Clutter.  The newsletter is cluttered.  It hasn’t always been though.  Now it’s a series of picture tiles in different sizes, with other themes within the already themed newsletter.  There’s just too much happening on the page, too much to see, too much to focus on, too much to be interested in.  One theme is perfect, if people want to see more categories of items, they can go to the website.  Put it on a diet.

Etsy has a nice newsletter, one you’d expect from a handmade products website.  Their newsletter is obviously going through some change, it’s changed many times in the last year.  They seem to be exploring and trying to find their nesting area.  However, I hope they don’t lay down to rest where they are now.  I’ll keep you updated on the whirlwind world of Etsy.  There is more to be said on Etsy.

Ari Ahokas@@@@@

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Newsletter Welcoming… Iceland Style

I just have to show you this. I found it at Campaign Monitor and I couldn’t resist, I had to go and sign up for their newsletter.

Iceland Wants To Be Your Friend” is the name of the website.   As you’ve probably figured out by now, the purpose of the website is to get people more interested in this curious little island in the north – and to visit.

They have a pretty stripped down and textual design that they coat the website, blog, Facebook and all the rest with, have a look:

This is their Facebook Page, look at all that courier:

Unmistakably well thought out.  And the same goes for their welcoming process for new subscribers via email.

On their blog under the “People” and “Places” tab they have a very obvious box to the right explaining how Iceland wants to be my friend.  They ask for three things: name, email, and where in the world (literally) I live.

When I signed up, I got this:

So far, there isn’t the slightest slip in humor.  It’s all been in the same funny uniform.  “Iceland” then makes an appeal that you can’t refuse, that is to help ”him” find new friends.  And they make the process pretty easy.

So, how does their welcome email look?

In the same entertaining and personified way, they talk about their little island in the middle of the ocean.  They also explain that they won’t be that clingy and irritating newsletter buddy that invites themselves into your inbox all the time… without bringing anything.  And of course, they joke about the volcano that messed up Europe’s airlines in the spring of 2010.

This whole idea, is very unique.  It makes Iceland the friend you never had.  You now want to visit it, call it, and post on its Facebook wall.  And I like how they sprawl out the different ways you can interact and discover them.  But of course this is two sided tape, the other side is they want to keep in touch with me.

A nice example to say the least.  I’ve actually been to Iceland – and I wasn’t that impressed.  But after this, I think I’ll give them another chance.

You can see the whole thing here.


Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Awesome Subscription Flow

I found something for you to feast your eyes on. This is nice.

So, I said before that I would love to see more newsletters with a consistent “language” and thought behind it. The point is, that it has to make sense to the reader, they need to be able to easily find the “subscribe” or “unsubscribe” buttons for example. Here is a perfect example of this… Even though this is a newsletter entirely about photography they didn’t flood it with pictures, since many may be blocked anyway.

I went to the MailChimps blog and they were talking about this letter. is the brains behind this newsletter. Very simple, and very well thought out.

Below is a screenshot of their website, you can see how easy they’ve made it for you to register for the newsletter, front and top center, staring at you. They even slyly tell you that it comes every week.

When you click “Newsletter/Weekly”, a big picture shows up with all the logical reasons why you should register. Then a tempting video to make anyone slightly interested in photography scramble for the subscribe button. I’m sold.

This is interesting, they give you examples of what their newsletters look like.

They don’t ask for more than your name and email address. Simple, easy. LeahAndMark want to have a list of people who really want their email, so they use double opt-in. This means that they send you an email with a link in it that you have to click on to tell them that you really want to subscribe. This is something that a lot of email marketers are afraid to do because they don’t want to risk it being missed. But, this is a great example of how to make it easy for us to actually CLICK … And, it’s all in HTML 🙂 Not in the standard text version that all of the suppliers think we should use.

Then they tell you that you’re “Almost Finished…”, so you know to go and check your email to confirm it. And that’s it, bye bye long and terrifying forms to fill out.

So what’s that confirm email look like? For one, there’s no mistaking who it’s from with the mammoth sized “Email by” link. It’s pretty clear what to do next, and I happily … Click.

Soon as I click… Bling… I have an email in my inbox confirming that I… confirmed, and am now a subscriber. I’m also reminded of how “awesome” the email is and of course how often it will come.

It’s not over yet… A little later I get an email where they remind me of what personal info I gave to them… and brace yourselves people… they show me how to unsubscribe! It’s genius, because now I know how easy it is to take myself off the list, which means I’ll stay for infinity and beyond.

And they don’t hide how to get a hold of them. In fact, if you peek at the bottom of the email, they include a “” file, which is a contact file you can add to your desktop contacts etc. Crazy!

So, what makes this so awesome?

They have the same ”language” and design in ALL of their letters – this means security and trust.
Clarity – this gives them a quality list of subscribers that really want their newsletters.
They have personal style that reminds me of blog language without losing its seriousness – creating a relationship with the reader.
All of the necessary communication was there during your peak interest.
They adapted to email’s limitations and possibilities.

I get so happy when I see this! What they’ve done here doesn’t mean endless wisdom and intelligence, but it does show that it’s brilliantly thought out, and they really want to take good care of their followers… I’m kind of in love…

Sign up and see what they look like!

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Forget All You Think You Know – Pictures in Emails Are Different Animals

Let’s say I sell Swedish grown oranges. It would have been so special – because oranges don’t grow in Sweden. But we’re using it as an example anyway. And we’re going to use a picture that makes you want oranges grown in Sweden – or elsewhere. One that sells.

On the web it will probably look like this:

Looks great! Alright, now let’s send it out to thousands of people in an email:

Hmm, not so great. Did you know that 10% felt no need to download the missing picture? 10% saw the picture properly, and 75% of the newsletters ended up in the fearsome spam box. The left over 5% decided they could no longer ignore that unrelenting curiosity, gave in, and downloaded the picture. I’m slightly exaggerating, but you get the idea.

Pictures in emails and pictures on the web are like comparing apples and, well…oranges. Pictures in emails and pictures in that lovely junk mail waiting at your front door aren’t really the same thing either. If we count on spam filters and image blocking, we could do it this way:

Try to even create the feeling of oranges when the picture pulls a no show:

I’m going to write more about this in an article about pictures in emails in a newsletter soon.
I’m going to run through these main points:

  • Pictures in emails
  • This is picture blocking
  • Dressing up picture blocking
  • Pictures and spam
  • General picture rules

And of course Sarah and I have some more exciting tips and ideas we want to share with you!

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Groom Your Boring Links!

When we think about email, we don’t usually think about the small delicate design details. But one area we could groom a little is our basic, default links in a newsletter. Personally, I love it when they do something interesting with the unsubscribe link. Even if it’s just slightly different or shows a little personality.

When an email is setup like this (see below), I think they really do a good job of making unsubscribing not so…well, dramatic. They even throw some humor in there. They openly ask for feedback on the very open Twitter. It’s obvious that they’re not afraid of everyone knowing just how customers feel about them, even the angry ones. This truly gives Twitter an interesting position.

In the example below (which has a nice sized, neat and clean header), it’s obvious that they used pretty basic links to keep a nice balance between the header and the links. When they lay it out like this, it feels like you can trust the sender. It’s serious.

In this example they’ve made a little icon of its own for the “Forward to a Friend” link. More than likely the designer understands how important it is that people forward the email.

This one below is a great example where they used the same “icon-ish” style for the “Forward to Friends” and “Unsubscribe” links. I really like it when they are equally as noticeable and prominent. No link feels lonely and left out…

Here’s something to think about. How many of you include a standardized link that takes care of the people who have been tipped off by a friend?

Small icons, and at the same time, text….are good things to keep in mind because a lot of images are blocked.

But, why put so much time and energy into this? Well, believe it or not, you don’t have to. But if you want your readers to see that you care about the appearance and style of the newsletter, that it’s harmonious and makes sense to look at, that you really appreciate that you have their email address, that you put just as much time and energy into email marketing as any other avenue, and that you meticulously went through every detail to make sure it’s something simple, elegant, and easy to comprehend, then maybe you should think about these things.

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