Review: MailChimp – The Email Campaign Service

MailChimpI’ve started off many of my posts on this blog the same way, but here we go: As a web developer at a company with many, many clients, I get to play around with a bunch of tools and services that, normally, would not be in my reach.

One of such is MailChimp — the email campaign service with a catchy name and logo. It’s compareable to other services, such as Campaigner and MagnetMail (of which are both terrible, by the way).

MailChimp boasts a whole host of tools that allow you to create templates OR use their premade templates. If you watch their demos, you can see how “awesome” this can be.

Unfortunately, this does not translate into it actually working as desired. Emails can be a difficult to create generally because of all of the different platforms. The complexities increase significantly when the emails must be responsive.

Because of the nature of the game (as described above), you can expect complications to occur. What you may not be expecting, however, is MailChimp-specific issues.

Such issues include…

  • Templates with tables nested in tables nested in tables nested in tables, with a stylesheet on the top that is as long as a book. You may be thinking — “Oh, so the templates must just be complex-looking, right?” Nope. The one I was working with only had 2 columns (content area + sidebar).
  • Images don’t always show. You are better off hosting the images yourself. This is a problem experienced when using MagnetMail as well.
  • When using their templating system to edit text on your design, if you are editing an area on the template with white text, then the edit textbox (which is also white) will also show the text as white. This means that the text is INVISIBLE.
  • Edits don’t always stick right away. You’ll make an edit, save, then send out a test email… only to find out the new edits are not showing in the email. Edit: Maybe they were slammed at the time, but this has not happened again.
  • The “last edited” date in the templates section doesn’t update when it’s supposed to. I’ve done over 20 edits within a 2 hour timespan to multiple templates, and it’s still stating that the last edits occurred yesterday, 16 hours ago.

I really wanted to like this service. Unfortunately, they’re not making it easy for me, although I am being melodramatic out of frustration.

And so, with that said… I do have good things to say as well.

  • It is WAY better than MagnetMail and Campaigner
  • The interface is slick and clean, as well as easy to navigate
  • When you nail down the template and host your own images, MailChimp makes it easy to make certain areas on the template easy to edit visually without touching code, which is great for clients
  • The name is, like, totally catchy!

You’re better off not using their templates. Instead, code your own, unless you don’t plan on deviating from their design much and are ok with the iffy coding / ocassional glitch.

Time to wrap this up…

At this juncture, it’s hard for me to recommend any email service right now, as each one has serious flaws. But if you have to go with one, then MailChimp wins hands-down. And it will only get better.

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