Even if you don't have graphic design experience, you can create professional-quality email messages with Message Designer. With it, you can:
- add and remove stories (i.e., content),
- insert headings, text blocks, and images, and
- apply custom templates.
The designer's formatting tools make it easy to:
- add borders and spacing,
- change font styles and colors, and
- manipulate images.
ACCESSIBILITY: Any time you're designing webpage or email-based content, it's more important than ever to keep modern accessibility principles in mind. Because this article touches on content design, we recommend referring to Best Practices - Accessibility and its associated resources.
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Let's learn about the Message Designer's three main areas.
- Navigation Bar - Across the top are the four primary tabs you'll use to design, configure, and send your messages.
- Canvas - In the middle is the canvas, which is where you'll add and manage message content.
- Content Properties - After adding or selecting content on the canvas, a properties panel appears on the left where you can configure the content. The options vary depending on the content type (e.g., selecting text provides typical formatting options while selecting images provides image-formatting properties).
The Template tab is where you can apply templates to modify the look of your message without changing its content. Here, you can see every available template that you can apply to your messages.
NOTE: Templates must be activated in order to be available.
Selecting a Template
The gallery always lists the currently-used template first. If you want to find a template in a different folder, click the Folder menu to select a folder.
Click a different template thumbnail to use it for your message. The system will attempt to automatically migrate any message content or stories you have from the old template to the new template (see below). However, if the new template does not have enough available Message Content Areas, you may see some content truncated or lost.
Edit templates in Message Designer
If you want to quickly edit your template while working on a message, you can do so on the Template tab.
- Click your template's Edit button to open Template Designer 2 (this automatically saves your work).
- When you’ve made your modifications, click Save to update the template.
- Click Return to navigate back to your message in Message Designer, along with a notification indicating a new version of the template is available. Click Update Template to switch to your new template.
Keep the following details in mind about the Template tab:
- The template used in the message always displays as the first item (regardless of the folder selection).
- You can edit the in-use template even if that template is deactivated.
- You cannot edit an in-use template if it has been deleted. This disables the Edit button.
NOTE: Only users with template editing permissions can make changes directly from Message Designer.
The Design tab is where you build your messages, of which content types are the heart and soul. In Message Designer, you add content to Message Content Areas, which are indicated by the Add Content button.
NOTE: Your message's overall layout and Message Content Areas are controlled by the template your message is using. If you're unable to achieve certain results or add certain types of content, you may need to edit the template.
To start adding content, click one of the Add Content buttons. The available content types (again, dictated by the template) appear in a menu next to the Message Content Area.
Click the content type you'd like to add to launch its properties. Now, you can add content and format it as necessary using the Rich Text Editor.
This is the text-only version (all HTML is removed) of your message, which you can see and edit by selecting this view.
To view the text-only version, click the menu at the top right and select Text Version.
NOTE: This version is shown to recipients who opt to receive text-only emails (i.e., they use a text-based email client).
As you're creating a message, the text-only version is automatically created for you alongside the HTML version. Once your message is finalized, the best practice is to verify and reformat this version to fix any possible spacing, bullets, style issues that may not convert properly from the HTML version.
TIP: Content you add to your text-only version is not automatically added to the HTML version, enabling you to add unique text-only content, if needed.
- Undo - Click this to undo one or more actions you made while creating your message. This is the best way to quickly and easily fix mistakes you've made or changes you don't want to keep.
- Redo - Click this to redo actions you've made while creating your message, but had then undone.
NOTE: These buttons are only available when editing the HTML version of your message.
Best practices: Deliverability
The ultimate goal when sending a message is to, of course, have it delivered. Prior to any message landing in someone's inbox, email clients employ a spam filter to evaluate whether that message meets a set of standards. Let's look at some of the best practices you can employ in your messages to give them the best chance of delivery.
- Avoid excessive punctuation, caps, hyphens, etc. in the body and subject line of your message.
- Avoid using third-party link-shortening tools such as bit.ly or tinyurl. Because a lot of spammers use these free tools in an attempt to hide their spam links, many email clients now flag these types of links.
- Avoid "exposed" URLs (i.e., simply pasting a full link in the message); instead, "embed" your URLs in text and images.
- Avoid common spam trigger words/phrases in the body and subject line. While this is fairly nuanced in practice, you should avoid words like "free!" and phrases like "work from home"; ultimately, if it sounds like something a spammer or scammer would say, try to keep it out of your messages. With that said, there is some flexibility here, and simply including the word "free" doesn't automatically mean your message won't be delivered.
- Avoid too little text in the body of your message. A common reason this occurs is the use of excessive images. Spam filters flag emails with too little text, so messages that comprise mostly images tend to be flagged. This can be tricky, as many organization employ graphic designers who produce wonderful images for use in their email campaigns, and while we support (and encourage) the use of high-quality imagery to bolster your messages, it's important to have a balance of images and text.
- Include alt-text for all of your images. This is especially important if you plan to include a lot of images. This not only helps you comply with accessibility standards but also gives spam filters additional text to evaluate.
The Properties tab is where you'll set high-level properties for your message. There are four main sub-tabs in the Properties tab:
Name (message properties) sub-tab
- Enter a Message Name. This is for your own organizational purpose, so contacts won't see this.
- Click the Folder menu to store your message in an available folder.
Tentative Send Date
A good way to stay organized is to set a tentative send date for each message. By doing so, everyone on your team will know "who's sending what, when" by simply taking a peek at the calendar. If you have concerns about sending too many messages, or if you need to oversee other child accounts, this is an invaluable tool.
Click the Tentative Send Date field and select your desired send date and time.
Targeting is where you'll set the recipients for your message. See Targeting to learn more.
TIP: Use a Sender Profile to quickly populate the "From," "Friendly From," and "Reply To" fields.
- The From email address is displayed next to the "Friendly From." Some bounces and all out-of-office replies go to this address.
- The Friendly From is the name that contacts see in the "From" field.
- Enter the Subject Line for message recipients. Click the Personalization icon to the right to add any personalizations to your subject line.
NOTE: Subject Lines are required for all messages. If you enable A/B Testing, Subject Line A and Subject Line B are required.
- Check the Use Targeted Subjects box to set alternative subject lines that display to contacts in the specified target groups. Refer to the Targeted Subject Lines section of our Targeting article to learn more.
- The Reply To email address receives all email replies.
You can A/B test your Friendly From and Subject Line via the menu at the top. When you select either option, the Envelope page expands to allow you to enter an "A" version and a "B" version for the selected field.
Google Analytics is a popular tool that many organizations use to track their web visitors. You can track hyperlinks in your Higher Logic account messages with Google Analytics, helping you to better understand your audience.
See Google Analytics to learn more about setting up Google Analytics in your account.
Review & Send tab
The Review & Send tab is your final stop before sending your message. Here, you'll have the chance to check the look and feel of your content, test your personalizations, and ultimately send your message to your targeted contacts.
Because there's a lot to learn about the process of sending a message, including several deliverability best practices, we've dedicated an entire article to it.
See Send a Message to learn more.