Oct 21, 2014

The Making of MailChimp Snap

A few months ago, I was grabbing coffee in the common area with Drew, one of our mobile engineers, when our UX director, Aarron, approached us with an idea. His team had been visiting MailChimp customers with brick-and-mortar retail shops, and he had some observations about how they used—and didn’t use—our product.

"When new stock arrives, they often know who’d be excited to see it, but they generally just wait for the customer to stop by to make the recommendation," he said. "They don’t have the time to go look them up in their POS system and send them an email."

To fill this gap, Aarron asked if we could build an app that would allow customers to take and send photos directly from their mobile devices to a MailChimp list. He had listened hard—and we were about to change fast.


The prototype

I started sketching right away, and we built the first iteration of MailChimp Snap in about a week. It was bare bones—just a bunch of big buttons to tap through campaign creation, and a send button. The prototype allowed us to play around for a few weeks and map out the feature set. We stripped a lot of the details away to simplify it for mobile devices.


The design

With a final prototype in hand, our next visit was with MailChimp’s creative director, Ron. After we gave him a quick demo, he pulled out a few unused design comps originally meant for another project.

"We considered leading with photographic pictograms," he told us of MailChimp’s recent automation rollout. "We hoped pictograms would help users quickly recognize pathways and offer greater creative freedom over our current icons."

That idea was scrapped for automation, but it made a lot of sense for MailChimp Snap, a photo-based app. We had a mission, a prototype, and a design style. It was time to build.


The refinement

Once we had a beta version, we ran it by some customers to make sure the app met their needs. We walked an early prototype over to Tweeds, a handcrafted clothing shop and MailChimp customer in our neighborhood. One of the big a-ha moments during their demo was that they wanted to send multiple tests, just like in MailChimp.

On Aarron’s return visit to one of the customers that inspired MailChimp Snap, Avid Bookshop, it became clear that segments and groups weren’t granular enough. The owner knew the personal interests of her customers, and needed the ability to send to a small handful of them.

When we got back to mobile lab, we added the ability to send tests. Then, we took another look at segmentation and introduced list search, coupled with static segment creation—two essential features we discovered by visiting beta users.

The product

MailChimp Snap campaigns start with a photo. Grab one from your camera roll or your Instagram account, or take a new one with the app. Then write a short description of the product and provide a title for the campaign. You can add a URL from your online store to make the photo clickable, too. All 3 templates are mobile-focused and designed to showcase the product photo you’ve taken.

Once your campaign is ready, select a list and filter it by subscribers, or send to a segment you’ve already created. From there, it’s just like any other campaign.

The future

This kind of stuff is in MailChimp’s DNA. Our product ideas always come from our customers. We’ve listened to them over the years, building and acquiring tools that speak to their needs and fix their problems—products like Mandrill, TinyLetter, Gather, and Wavelength. We couldn’t be more proud of this new addition.

Download MailChimp Snap For iPhone