CiviMail: the Next Frontier
Updated March 9, 2017.
For many using CiviCRM, CiviMail is the least attractive feature. Though very powerful and reliable and fully integrated, it is not as user friendly as MailChimp or Constant Contact can be. The main thing that CiviMail has going for it, however, is that CiviMail is part of CiviCRM which means that you do not have to deal with synchronization challenges with an external application. In addition, all your readers activities such as opened mail, clickthrough, forward email, and unsubscribe are stored in CiviCRM rather than in a separate database giving you concrete data to tie together with the rest of the information in your CRM.
There is great news. The CiviCRM Core Team and others in the CiviCRM community are working on a new drag and drop user interface for CiviMail called Mosaico. Mosaico is an open source, responsive email template builder that, combined with CiviMail, makes an incredibly functional and powerful mailing platform. The extension is currently in beta version but it is looking very promising. The version that is linked to in the CiviCRM extension directory is not up to date. If you want to test the current version you need to get it directly from GitHub. Access to your server and some background in using Linux is important. The instructions I used to get this working can be found here.
In this post, we want to highlight some of the most exciting features:
With Mosaico, email creators will be able to easily drag and drop blocks into a template. Each of these blocks has elements like images, text, buttons and more. There are lots of blocks that will fit almost any templating need.
Once you have added the block to the template you can change the content and you can manipulate the font, font size, color and much more.
Adding images is also very easy with drag and drop. Just find the image you want to add and drop it into the placeholder in the block. The placeholder will be replaced with the image you have just selected.
Having the option to add blocks to the template is very helpful. You can change the order of the blocks and also duplicate blocks. For example, you may have two article blocks in the same newsletter.
Mosaico makes editing text very easy. The built-in text editor has the ability to change fonts, colors, sizes, as well as choose from many other formatting options.
Another benefit of the direct integration between Mosaico and CiviCRM is that Mosaico can use CiviCRM Tokens. It has a simple token browser like you would use in other places in CiviCRM. This means that you can not only use tokens like First Name but you can also use checksums and other tokens that a third party system can't use.
Each of these features makes design much easier. The feature that may be even more valuable is the ability to see how your email will render on various screen types. Every day more people read their email on their phones and tablets and as content producers, it is our responsibility to make sure our content works well on these devices. The preview tool is a great start for creating a better reader experience.
When you save your template in Mosaico it is availaible in the CiviMail system.
A release date for Mosaico has not yet been announced. We will keep you informed as soon as this is known. In the meantime, we want Cividesk clients to know that we are activly monitoring this project and will be ready to deploy it to your site as soon as offically released.
Mosaico is an exciting leap forward for CiviCRM and one that will help extend the usability and reach of the platform.