Aug 17, 2011

OnStage: An App for Collaborative Email Design

Update (2/11/15): The OnStage application is no longer available. OnStage’s collaboration tools are now native to MailChimp, making it easier than ever to share campaign design duties, request feedback, and leave comments for other team members.

Sometimes the hardest part of getting an email campaign sent out isn’t the writing, or designing, it’s getting your boss and colleagues to give you the go ahead to send. After painstakingly creating a campaign, you send a test email to the head honchos, and they respond with an avalanche of feedback and changes. You make the changes, send yet another test to stakeholders, and the feedback fun begins again.




It’s hard to have a design conversation via email where the design isn’t present and change requests can get lost in the back and forth. We’ve seen our customers struggle with this problem. Heck, we struggle with this problem ourselves! A causal conversation about collaborative design in the hallways at the MailChimp HQ sparked an idea for a simple little app to help people work together on an email campaign. It’s called OnStage, and today we’re releasing it to brave beta testers as yet another MailChimp Labs project.


Instead of sending a test email to your boss, you can now hop on over to, login with your MailChimp credentials (you’ll need your API key), and select the campaign you want to put on stage for feedback. Click "Invite People" to invite your audience via email.




To-dos, Annotations, and Live Chatting

With an audience amassed, you can solicit their feedback in The Peanut Gallery, a live chat area where you’ll be able to see who’s in the audience viewing your email. You can filter down to see the comments from specific people (like your boss) so you don’t miss anything important.

As the conversation progresses, turn any feedback into a to-do to be ticked off the list as it’s completed. Your audience will be able to communicate their recommendations more easily by simply clicking on the email wherever they’d like to see a change, which will create a to-do for you.

Annotations in OnStage App

Ding ding! Beginning Act 2

Once you’ve gotten everyone’s feedback, you can make changes back in your MailChimp account. When you’re ready to show your audience the next revision, click "import the next Act". We call revisions "Acts", you know, like an act in a play. See what we did there?

With each new Act you can tick off the tasks you’ve completed and add notes for your audience to set the stage for the next round of feedback (holy metaphor party, Batman!). Invite your audience back for more input, make changes, then start yet another new Act if needed. Rinse and repeat.

Responsive Layout

We’ve designed OnStage to be responsive to the width of the browser window. If you’re lucky enough to have a widescreen monitor, you’ll enjoy a two column layout that affords a little more email viewing space. But if you’re on a narrower monitor, we gracefully stack the interface to best use the screen real estate you have.

Responsive Layout of OnStage App

Take OnStage for a Spin

We built OnStage quickly and rather than letting it languish in a state of perpetual polishing, we’re launching it today, rough edges and all. We want to see if it’s actually useful to people. That’s where you come in. OnStage is free for anyone to use, all you need is a MailChimp account to connect it to (a free Mailchimp account will do just fine.) If after kicking the tires you have any feedback, we’d love to hear from you.

P.S. Since OnStage is so high-tech and all, you’ll need a recent browser to be able to use it. Stick to the latest versions of Chrome, Safari or Firefox for best results!

Log in to OnStage