Big Cartel

How do you build a beautiful and functional email template?

The Problem

Big Cartel was moving to a new email marketing platform, MailChimp, and wanted to also update the design of their email template to meet their sophisticated brand standards. Their Community Managers, the team responsible for their newsletter, needed to simply and quickly build campaigns using a highly customized email design—something MailChimp doesn’t easily allow. We worked around MailChimp’s limitations to deliver a custom, easy-to-use email template.

Guiding Principle

An email template shouldn’t sacrifice beauty for functionality.

The Process

Understand MailChimp’s capabilities

Big Cartel’s Community Managers can’t (and shouldn’t have to) work in code. Ideally, we would have been able to use MailChimp’s drag-and-drop functionality, but it didn’t offer the level of customization we needed to meet Big Cartel’s brand standards. We found a solution that would offer a completely custom template with as much content flexibility as possible.

Work within existing limitations

To remain true to the original design, we built a custom template. With this approach, we were able to customize every detail—padding, spacing, line-heights, etc. Those details would have been sacrificed with the drag-and-drop route.

Because Big Cartel needed this template to be flexible, we accounted for all possible content types, building sections with different combinations of images, titles, text, and linked buttons.

This approach came with one specific limitation: Big Cartel wouldn’t be able to move those content blocks around. The ability to drag-and-drop content is lost in a custom template. We overcame that restriction by duplicating content blocks, creating one long template with every possible combination Big Cartel envisioned needing; now, they can delete blocks they don’t need to create custom content flows for individual campaigns.

Test, test, and test some more

Before we passed the templates back over to Big Cartel, we tested them extensively to ensure consistency. We used Litmus, which enabled us to test against all major email clients at once. We made iterative code adjustments to achieve exactly what Big Cartel asked for, and when we encountered limitations we couldn’t get around, we collaborated with Big Cartel to get as close to ideal as possible.

The Outcome

Big Cartel now has a highly customizable MailChimp template that’s easy for their Community Managers to work within as they create and deliver email newsletters.