Jun 24, 2009

Never Use MailChimp’s WYSIWYG Again

owl_orlyLast week I was in Boston for IRCE2009. I ran into quite a few MailChimp power users, and it was awesome talking about how they use MailChimp, and what they’d like to see in the near future.

Some of their feature requests are actually already live (they just didn’t know about them yet). So that will be the subject of the next half-dozen or so upcoming blog posts from me: Oh really? MailChimp Does That?

For example, one person asked me if we could make our campaign designer window a little bigger, so there’d be more room to code his HTML.

Actually, we can do better than that…

Quick background – our campaign editor is sort of a WYSIWYG-hybrid. Specifically, it uses a modified version of the FCK editor. Yes, we’ve looked into many others (TinyMCE included) but FCK was, at the time, the most configurable WYSIWYG that was supported in Windows and Mac. It had to support multiple operating systems because—well, that’s the whole point of browser based apps. And it had to be configurable, because we had to strip a lot of cool stuff out (stuff that would never work in HTML email).

How To Never, Ever Use MailChimp’s WYSIWYG Again

We’ve got plans to build our own WYSIWYG one day. Technology has come a long way since we had to bribe programmers for Safari support. And with our image gallery hosting and iStockPhoto integration, we really need a more integrated solution.

Until then, there are many ways you can get your email design loaded into MailChimp without even using our campaign editor.

The "Email Beamer"

Wouldn’t it be cool if you could just write an email in Outlook, or Apple Mail, or whatever your favorite email app, then just send it to MailChimp for distribution to your list? That would be especially handy for some of your clients who aren’t so tech savvy. Wouldn’t it be even cooler if they could use their own "stationery" that they’re so fond of? Even cooler if MailChimp could take their email, automatically inline its CSS, automatically host the images on our servers, and send a properly formatted HTML email. Done.

As described in this post, every MailChimp list has its own secret email address. You can create an email using anything you want, then "beam it" to your secret address. Here’s a demo video of how it works:

MailChimp’s Email Beamer

ZIP upload

Do you design and code all your email campaigns in DreamWeaver, or some other code editor? Take your .html file plus all the assets and zip them up in a folder. Then, upload to MailChimp and we’ll unzip everything, host all the images, make the relative image links absolute, and we’ll even in-line your CSS for you if you want. Really handy if you’re a control freak and you just want to use your fav editor.

Here’s a demo video.

import-by-zip

Import by URL

If you’ve ever taken the time to setup a CMS, you probably wish you could just take the news articles you publish on your website and just turn them into HTML email newsletters. Well, you can do that with MailChimp’s "Import by URL" feature (demo video here). It not only automates publishing to email, but makes the whole "campaign archive" thing really easy too. Did we mention there are "email stylesheet" tags that you can use to format the content on your published web pages to look differently (or disappear altogether) when imported into MailChimp (here’s the tutorial)?

Here’s a beautiful example of the import-by-URL feature in action, from the folks at Modx CMS:

modx-email-newsletter

RSS to email

Finally, if you don’t even want to log in to MailChimp at all, you can just setup an RSS-to-email campaign in MailChimp, so that any time you post a new article to your blog (or anything that generates an RSS feed), MailChimp will send it out as an email newsletter. Unlike other RSS-to-email services, you can actually design a nice HTML email template around your content and you get all the wonderful open, click, etc. stats you’d get with any other MailChimp campaign. You can even schedule the updates to go out daily, weekly, or monthly:

schedule-rss