My first project here at 37signals was to evolve our email marketing and triggered messaging design. I want to share some thoughts about my first Getting Real experience and the design decisions we made to highlight “free Campfire accounts” for Basecamp Max plan customers.

I get it now!
Jason asked me to design our Welcome to Basecamp sign-up emails. The emails were being sent out as plain text only. Important messages like the “free Campfire account offer” were difficult to highlight in plain text. Max plan customers were confused as to how to get their free Campfire account. I started designing and producing the email last week while Jason was at the Web 2.0 Expo.

We use Campfire here at 37signals nonstop to communicate with each other. I knew Jason was out, but he checks the Campfire transcripts regularly to keep updated with the day-to-day. I made sure to upload the design showing the “free Campfire” conditional block so that he could give me some feedback.

Sam started integrating the HTML template while I was waiting for feedback from Jason. After all, what would he have a problem with? It was looking great and we were hoping to deploy it before the week was over. Sam was nearly finished with integration when I finally received feedback from Jason: We should break out that free Campfire message into a separate email.

Fuck really? OK I agree. But really? I mean I was hoping to get this out soon. Like today! I checked with Sam.

“I have to rework that email.”

Sam says, “That’s OK. I’ll deploy this. Just get me the free Campfire email next week.”

“Deploy it? Wait but Jason wants that message broken out into a separate email.”

“Sure, but this is better than what we have now.”

So he deployed it. This is when I realized how trained I was in the processes at my former workplaces. This email would have been delayed until it was perfect at Crate and Barrel, and I had trouble releasing the design when there was a way to further improve it. After fixing this there would be another thing and then another thing. A 2-day project would drag on for a week of redesign, approval, and development. Instead we deployed what we had because it is better than what we have now. Done. I finally got Real. It’s one thing to read Getting Real and say, “Yes! I agree with that!” It’s another thing to actually practice the principles of Getting Real. That part is trickier than you think.

That stand-alone free Campfire accounts email

This morning I got a chance to hammer out that Campfire email. I started out by adapting what I had done with the part in the Basecamp Welcome email.

The problem was it looked like a big blob of text that no one would read. Why am I getting this Campfire account? What exactly are the steps to activate it? I made some adjustments.

The steps to activate the account still needed some visual weight. Let’s separate them a bit from the rest of the copy.

Yes, that’s much better. Now I’ll be working with Sam to get this deployed. After that we’ll see how it does and keep on improving it!