There are billions and billions of emails sent every single day and, while most of them are nothing more than lousy attempts at attempting to get access to our banking information, it’s still the most popular form of communication used today. If you’ve recently received an order confirmation from an online retailer or a weekly newsletter from your favourite coffee shop, it’s likely to have been very well designed and, in some cases, easy to read on a mobile device.
With Mail Designer Pro, it’s now possible to design great-looking email templates on your Mac that actually look really good and will work across many devices. While a little costly, the benefits and savings it provides make this an attractive alternative to dedicated design studios when it comes to jazzing up your email newsletters.
One Size Doesn’t Fit All
Email is still the biggest weapon in your marketing arsenal when running an online business so it’s important to make sure that your emails to customers not only look good, but work across many devices. Otherwise, no-one is going to be able, or bother, to read them. Up to now, designing a great email was hard work and usually done at a great expense by web designers, or at least it used to be.
Unfortunately, email newsletters are incredibly difficult to design. While they work the same as a web page, email apps do not, with many (such as Microsoft Outlook) lacking support for even the most basic of HTML tags and features.
iWork for Mail
Mail Designer Pro has been developed to bring an almost iWork-like function to designing an email template. There’s no code to look at, no designers to involve, it’s just Pages for email templates.
This really shows when you launch the app and you’re presented with templates that you can base your design from. Many of these templates actually look great, so you’d be forgiven for simply using these without changing a thing. That’s great, though the app offers some incredible functionality to really make these your own.
For seasoned desktop publishers, the app will feel right at home with many options for altering the layout of any items or elements within the template. My only criticism of the app’s interface is that there isn’t enough to distinguish between whether a toolbar icon is disabled or not, something that isn’t helped by the darker background.
The default view is also icons only, with no real explanation of what some of the functions do. For anyone coming to Mail Designer Pro for the first time, I’d suggest changing the toolbar to display both icon and text to avoid confusion and I hope it’s something that could be changed in the future.
Everything is very much drag-and-drop, with options to add images, shapes and texts. You’re a little more restricted than with Pages as the app conforms to a specific set of rules to ensure that your email will look the same on any device it is viewed on. This may seem like quite a restriction but, because of the disparity between email clients, it’s one limitation that serves a very good purpose.
It can be a little difficult to figure out how how to hide elements at first and you’ll find yourself referring to the manual quite often to begin with, though while some of the features may not be immediately apparent, they’re soon quickly remembered.
With more people using mobile devices, such as smartphones, than any other computing device, Mail Designer Pro includes a dedicated mobile device preview that can be toggled between any number of devices to provide a live preview. For those wanting to see how it would look on an iPhone and Android device, multiple mobile preview windows can be displayed.
You can toggle between the desktop and mobile layout when it comes to customising and even specify elements that will only display on certain devices, such as hiding any sections that may not look great on a mobile device or that have no relevance.
As I mentioned before, Mail Designer Pro doesn’t give you much leeway regarding the width of the template in order to ensure maximum compatibility. The same goes for fonts, as it’s not immediately apparent you can select any font you wish. While it could be seen as a limitation of the app, it certainly isn’t the case. Mail Designer Pro limits the fonts to, again, ensure maximum compatibility and the fonts listed will be accessible on all devices, with some font sets being able to gracefully fall back to more common fonts if the specialised ones aren’t available.
While Mail Designer Pro will let you customise a template for you to then use in mail sent from your Mac, it also integrates very well with more popular online newsletter services such as MailChimp or Campaign Monitor. If you’ve ever tried to use either of these services to design a template, it can be very hard work. Being able to create a powerful and great-looking template from the comfort of your own Mac and then simply upload the results is a huge benefit.
Mail Designer Pro features full support for templates on either of the above services with the ability to insert the required placeholder code directly within the app, no fiddling about afterwards. As someone who uses MailChimp regularly, this is a great feature and one that works brilliantly.
You can also output HTML directly, allowing for use with other services, bespoke systems or simply hosting a web-accessible version.
Mail Designer Pro is a complete email template creator that is unsurpassed by anything else on offer currently. Its advanced features and relative ease of use make it a great app for anyone involved with newsletter campaigns on a regular basis. Even more experienced web designers will find Mail Designer Pro useful, being able to take care of almost all the hassle when it comes to ensuring a newsletter not only looks good but works well.
But at $99.99 Mail Designer Pro isn’t cheap, especially when you realise that there is a cheaper version, Mail Designer, available at just $33.99. The difference in price dictates wether you’re newsletters will be responsive and easily read on mobile devices. This can be rather bitter pill to swallow for the sake of responsive design, though when you consider that more people check email on their phone than their computer, that additional cost seems a little easier to digest.
All in all, it simply comes down to how integral emails are to your business or website, but I’d recommend Mail Designer Pro over the lesser Mail Designer in most cases simply because the extra cost would be worth it in the long run. After all, given the choice between receiving a newsletter that was mobile-ready or one which isn’t that requires a lot of pinch and zoom, I know which one I’d throw to the trash and which I might read.
An easy way to create great-looking email templates for marketing campaigns and newsletters. Integration with newsletter services is a killer feature though it's price when compared to Mail Designer is a bit on the steep side.7
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