Jun 28, 2012

TinyLetter Passes 60,000 Users, Gets Some Updates

A lot of time has passed since we acquired TinyLetter last year. We’ve been quietly working on migrating it over to the MailChimp infrastructure, warming up its IPs, hooking it up to Mandrill for its transactional emails, training team members, battling spammers who tried to overtake it while it was in transition (remind me to write about that one day) and all that other behind-the-scenes stuff that ESPs need to do.

Now, we have some enhancements to talk about.

First, to set the stage a little for people who are just now hearing about it, TinyLetter is an extremely simple, elegant email app. Some people have asked, "When would I choose Tinyletter over MailChimp?" My best answer to that is: "MailChimp is email marketing for businesses. TinyLetter is an email app for people. Oh, and Mandrill is an email platform for apps." Yeah, our company is really, really into email.

Okay, so what’d we change in TinyLetter?

Publish Your Letter Archives

First, we’ve added the ability to publish archives of your past letters. It’s a new option you’ll find under Your Account -> My Profile:

Scroll down to the bottom, and there’s this new checkbox (it’s OFF by default, because we’ve heard that some of you want your letters to be private to the mailing list):


If you activate that option, your signup form will display a new link:

(you can go to tinyletter.com/ben to see it live)


Which will take people to an archive of your letter:


Our thoughts on customizability

See how the formatting of this letter is pretty clean? That works if you keep things simple in your letters. Which is kinda the point of TinyLetter. So if you’re one of those people who like to switch to "source view" and then copy-paste your own newsletter template code into TinyLetter, your results may not look so nice and clean. In general, we always want to provide options for users (that’s certainly our approach in MailChimp) but we do plan to exercise a little more aesthetic control over things in TinyLetter. It’s not that we hate customizability–we just love simplicity more. At work, I choose WordPress for its power and configurability. For my personal stuff, I choose Tumblr, cuz I don’t wanna think. Same deal with MailChimp vs. TinyLetter.


Gently Re-Designed Letters

TinyLetter is not meant to be like MailChimp, where we have tons of templates and themes for different industries and different occasions. We basically send a plain text email. Well technically, it’s more like "rich text," where you can have hyperlinks and photos.  But it’s pretty basic. And we didn’t want to change that.

Mobile Friendly

We did want to tweak the code to make your letters a little more readable on mobile devices. We’ve added some code that makes your text slightly larger on smaller displays, and also spreads out the line height a little more.  When viewed on large displays, emails will be restricted to 600 pixels wide, instead of infinitely fluid. Responsive design stuff we learned over at MailChimp, when making our mobile friendly templates.

So when you’re composing an email, you’ll notice things look slightly different, especially if you’re in full screen mode:

The message is centered now, as is the subject. That better reflects what the email will look like, and what that archive page will look like.

Photos have a nice border around them, quotes are indented nicely, and fonts are a little larger.

On mobile devices, that same email looks like:



Note the text is enlarged, lines are spaced out, while the image is scaled down. Also, the text is not pure black on white. It’s ever-so-slightly toned down to have a little less contrast. Again, basic mobile readability stuff we’ve discussed and researched before.


Other miscellaneous tweaks

Behind the scenes, we’ve been building out an API for TinyLetter. Not so much for outside users, but more so that we can build some mobile apps and add-ons. We’re also planning to add some functionality similar to MailChimp’s Email Beamer, so that you can just compose your emails in your favorite mail app (including on your smartphone) and just send to your TinyLetter list from there. We’ve also fixed the way replies work. We added a little notification to show you how many replies you have waiting:

and we’re storing your replies to replies, in case you need to go back and reference anything.

We’ve made the open and click stats a little more clear when you view sent messages:

and we’ve added a little link that allows you to send your letter to all the new subscribers who signed up after the letter was sent.

As you can see, there are lots of little improvements going on, and we’ve got more in the works. We still plan to keep it very simple, and very free.  The app is currently adding about 100 users every day, and we’re at 61,473 users total.  If you haven’t tried it out yet, you should! If nothing else, go reserve your username. When Philip Kaplan first launched Tinyletter, my first thought was, "Uh-oh, an uber-simple freemium competitor." My second thought was, "I gotta go reserve tinyletter.com/ben !"