Using our email builder

A few tips and tricks that I use to design and create emails in Campaign Monitor.

I’ve been using our email builder since it’s release. While significant improvements in flexibility and functionality have been made by the team and might be instantly obvious, there are some ways to further leverage the builder to make it even more of a powerful tool for anyone hoping to make a beautiful email using Campaign Monitor.

It’s always a bit of fun for me to see how far I can push the limits of the builder with creative workarounds. Along the way, I’ve picked up a few tricks and tips that I hope can help others as it’s helped me.

Spacers are your best friend

I prefer to have as much control as possible when using the email builder. To gain control, I remove Vertical spacing from the Customize tab and Bottom spacing in Layout and Spacing for individual sections.

Spacing removed from the email (under the ‘Customise’ tab) and on a per section basis (when clicking on a section).

Possible design outcome: cut-off images

Not relying on the default spacing options opens up possibilities which aren’t possible with default spacing on. This two column layout, for example, with the iPhone sitting snug against the bottom of the section is only possible by removing all spacing from that section. Otherwise, there’d be a 12px — 24px space between the phone and next section.

‘Preview’ is a lifesaver

I know that sinking feeling of sending an email with a typo or broken design. To help prevent that from happening, I use the Preview button often. Clicking Preview brings up a mobile and desktop view of your email, as it would appear if received by a customer.

Using ‘Preview’ to ensure you don’t send a broken email.

At first glance, your email can look great! But clicking the Preview button reveals that, due to removing spacing across our email (if you applied my first tip), the two columns stack on top of one another on mobile and have no space between them.

When a two column goes to mobile, it stacks left on right. Add a spacer to fix the spacing issue.

It’s an easy fix – just add a spacer, and even though you won’t see the impact of that spacer on desktop, you can see it’s effect on mobile in the Preview screen.

You can see the fix on mobile, but the desktop still looks the same.

Sections aren’t exclusive

I often find myself thinking in sections when building an email, as that’s how the email builder adds content – one column, two column, three column and so on, which you can then drop content such as text and images into.

The interface to add a section of your email.

However, if you don’t think of each section as separate to the next, you can get more creative and your email will benefit.

Possible design outcome: dual button layouts

Dual buttons make a great use-case for combining a one column section and a two column section. While visually appearing to be one piece of content for the user, the way it’s built in the email builder requires multiple sections to be put together (again, with spacing turned off and manual spacing applied) to get the desired result.

Visually speaking, one section. Using the builder, however, requires multiple sections.
A one column section is used for the copy, and a two column section for the dual buttons.

The more you try and push the boundaries of the builder, the more you’ll get to know the lesser-known settings and functions. That being said, there are a couple of quick tips outside of the builder that I adhere to for every email that I design and build in our email builder:

  1. Use your design tool of choice: Use whatever software / design tool you are comfortable with (Sketch, Photoshop or chisel & stone) to design your email first. By starting with a blank canvas, it’ll allow you to be as creative as possible and have an end goal to reach for.
  2. Reverse-engineer your design: Once the design is done, do your best to adhere to it. If your design is impossible, then you can work backwards and adjust accordingly based on what is possible.
  3. Know your limitations: While the first two points contradict this one, it’s been helpful for me at certain stages in the design process to know the limitations of the builder. Knowing the builder’s limits means that you can make allowances for this in your design but experiment and explore elsewhere.

Happy building! Hopefully there’s something useful in there for you to use on your next email.

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