NatureScapes is one of the longest running websites for nature photographers to network and learn from each other. As a brand, NatureScapes is comprised of several different business segments of photographers in their audience.
Since 2009 I’ve designed and developed hundreds of email communications to support various stages of the customer journey. These areas include messages for online store advertisements, luxury travel, monthly newsletters, and transactional emails throughout the website.
All emails are responsive. I have designed, developed, tested, and analyzed them from the ground up. I’ve exceeded many benchmarks including consistently high open and click rates along with low bounce rates. Less than 10% of Constant Contact users accomplish this, resulting in strong customer engagement and loyalty.
To increase email list sign-ups, a special offer was implemented using an autoresponder. This change resulted in a 447% increase in email list growth over 6 months. In turn, the offer’s campaign conversion rate increased by 23% with 3x the transactions in 6 months.
After creating an outline of the types of email messages that are sent, I determined which elements were the most common. The goal was to create a responsive template that could be used throughout different types of communications.
When I first started at the company, there was not a cohesive email system in place therefore I had to build one from the ground up. First, I determined what types of messages needed to be sent for all company communications in order to design and develop a responsive template that could be used throughout. I then created an outline of each type of message and listed which each responsive template would be used for with its goals. The types of emails range from promotional and informational to autoresponders and transactional.
For most types of messages, the logo, navigation, and footer were the three common elements required throughout. I created wireframes for each section so the team could review and provide feedback. The core template layout was then designed and built with these three areas as the foundation.
Every email design starts with a goal using research and content creation as the foundation. My favorite way to design a promotional email is to create a theme. It’s a great way to be creative, try new approaches, and keep messages engaging.
While working in a small company, email campaigns need to be designed swiftly without sacrificing quality. Using the template, campaigns are designed based on seasonal company goals. Generally, I’m given a list of what to feature to make a content plan for the layout. At times I repurpose website content, while at other times I perform more research and write additional material to bring a unique point of view to the message.
When designing promotional messages for luxury travel, it can be challenging to create content about locations that I’ve never visited. For inspiration, I often communicate with the company owner, read subject matter websites, and watch short YouTube videos to get an idea of what locations are like.
For eCommerce and travel promotions, I like to create themes that tie everything together as a unified message. It’s a great way to get creative with messaging and keep things fresh rather than send the same type of advertisements repeatedly.
The final step is writing a compelling subject line with complementary pre-header text to engage the reader with the goal of increasing open rates.
Pictured above are wireframe sketches for three different emails. Using the message content, I draw ideas and notes by hand for every email design before working on the computer. I discover the best ideas when sketching first without restriction.
Once the content is complete, I always sketch wireframes by hand and mark them up with notes to incorporate into the visual design. Sometimes I will think of additional ideas for content to feature while sketching and will go back and update the content that was written during the research phase.
After the concept is set in motion, I work on my computer and begin the visual design. During this stage I compose with supporting photography, graphics, typefaces, and colors to create a layout that is mobile aware and will be readable on different size devices. I always design emails with the idea they are an extension of the landing page in mind.
When an email design is approved, the development phase begins. The campaign design is developed within the core template layout. A text only version is formatted and included for email subscribers who receive text only communications.
Following the visual design of an email, it gets sent for review and changes are made if necessary. Afterwards, the design is developed as part of the responsive email template using responsive HTML and CSS, with a formatted text version to match. Testing each email in various email clients is a must for compatibility prior to deployment.
Email messages are delivered based on a customer’s preferences. After sending I observe the performance of each campaign. UTM codes are added to promotional messages for campaign tracking. This is an especially helpful metric for the store, providing unique insight into what makes a successful campaign and ideas for improvement. Working for a small company, there aren’t enough resources to perform A/B testing, I instead compare similar messages and test elements like imagery, writing style, and promotion type to see how customers respond. In moving forward, iterations are made and new approaches are tested.