How Design Sprint Can Help You Create Great Email Newsletters

*This is the third and last article of our Email Marketing Design Sprint series. you can catch up on the first two articles here.

More than 200 Billion emails are sent on a daily basis.

Consequently, it is getting increasingly difficult for digital marketers to stand out from the crowd of competitors and to design unique newsletters and email campaigns. It takes a lot of time and effort to find an alternative solution in this area, so you have to look for new ways to improve your email design.

Most people find that their email campaign development process is either too long or too short, and definitely quite random.

The most popular solution comes in the form of Design Sprints.

What is this new concept of email creation? What are the pros and cons of email design sprints? How can you use it to improve your email marketing campaigns?

We are about to answer all these questions, so keep reading to learn everything you need to know about design sprint in email marketing.

Design Sprint: Definition and Tools

Before we delve deeper into the subject, let us remind you of the design sprint background and discuss even more this new concept

What is a Design Sprint?

By definition, a Design Sprint is a "time-constrained, five-phase process that uses design thinking with the aim of reducing the risk when bringing a new product, service, or a feature to the market."

The model was introduced by Google Venture and popularized by Jack Knapp’s book entitled “SPRINT – How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days.”

A typical design sprint lasts for five days and has the purpose of quickly solving a practical problem.

m-t-w-t-f-design-sprint
Image source: thedesignsprintbook.com

Here is a detailed explanation of the design sprint steps.

What tools to use to facilitate a Design Sprint?

Google Venture prepared an excellent Design Sprint Kit to help first-time sprinters launch their projects faster and simpler. It’s an open-source library that is perfect for marketers who want to understand every single aspect of the process.

The kit also provides users with lots of practical suggestions on how to plan design sprints and how to determine a methodology.

What is important to mention is the fact that the design sprint requires little equipment. You just have to eliminate electronic devices such as phones or laptops to ensure a dialogue-friendly atmosphere.

Besides that, you only need a bunch of paper, sticky notes, pens, colored markers, and so on.

Design Sprint Tools: Markers and Sticky Notes
Image Source: Shutterstock

The Pros and Cons of Organizing an Email Design Sprint

As a relatively new concept applied to email marketing, a lot of email marketers don’t really know whether email design sprints generate more benefits or disadvantages, so we decided to make a non exhaustive list of pros and cons.

What are the Benefits of an Email Design Sprints?

  • Time efficiency: The first benefit is rather obvious. Design sprints are extremely effective because you get to complete the project in no more than five days, while traditional design thinking usually lasts for weeks or months. This time frame can be cut even shorter as some marketing teams succeed in increasing their efficiency and go through each step in a few hours instead of a whole business day.

  • Cost reduction: Since it’s a super-fast and efficient process, design sprints help email marketers reduce operational costs and save the budget for other campaigns or projects.

  • Alternative ideas: Finding fresh and alternative ideas is another very important advantage of the design sprint. Participants are forced to brainstorm quickly and think outside the box, which often leads to new and innovative solutions.

  • Eliminate creative drought: This benefit goes hand in hand with the previous one. Design sprints help a lot of marketers deal with creative drought and move on with their regular activities. Design sprints rely on both personal creativity and team brainstorming, which is the perfect hub to nurture creativity.

  • Stimulate teamwork: It’s impossible to run a successful design sprint without teamwork. Design Sprints are not only a creative process but also a team building event that improves team connections and internal communication.

  • Product development: The last benefit of design sprints is probably the most important: a successful design sprint allows you to develop a new, functional product in a few days, that would’ve otherwise taken several days.

What are the Cons of an Email Design Sprints?

  • Less research: Us marketers love to make data-driven decisions, but this is a bit harder to achieve with design sprints. Sometimes you just have to rely on your intuition to make decisions, fast. to overcome this, you can conduct your research and collect as much relevant data as you can beforehand.

  • Users join the game late: Design sprint participants at essay-to-go.net say that the concept forces them to create products and come up with ideas without forming focus groups or consulting with end-users during the process: “Our subscribers join the game at the very last stage, which can be troublesome when the quality of our product depends on user experience.” This can be remedied at the last stage of the design sprint, when it comes to testing your prototype.

How to Prepare for a Design Sprint in Email Marketing?

Although it sounds like a simple five-day activity, design sprints still require their fair share of preparation and strategic thinking.

There are some things you have to consider before the actual implementation of your design sprint. Our goal is to help you do the homework in a timely manner.

Here are some things you need to keep an eye on:

- Why are you doing it? - Know your goals

This is a critical question that you have to answer correctly before moving on. Why do you want to organize a Design Sprint? The concept has become so popular recently that email marketers tend to rush into it without thinking.

Sometimes it’s much better to organize a regular meeting or let the designers do their jobs as usual, so make sure to understand the purpose of your project before launching it.

Feel free to follow this infographic prepared by Fresh Tilled Soil that will help you answer the question: Is a Design Sprint right for me?

hoy-do-you-know-if-a-design-sprint-is-right-for-you-inforgraphic

Once you decide to go through with your design sprint, every participant should be aware of the objectives you want to reach at the end of the design sprint.

- Do your research

When you start a design sprint, there is no time for research anymore. That is exactly why you have to prepare on time and learn everything you consider might be relevant and useful. Don’t forget that lack of research is one of the cons of design sprints – your job is to reduce it to the bare minimum.

- Find an external partner

A common problem with smaller teams is that they are too familiar with the subject, which keeps them distracted and less productive. If you believe that’s the case for you, you might consider inviting an external partner/participant who knows a lot about your business but doesn’t have a vast knowledge of your design sprint theme (in this case, email marketing). You might be surprised of what a fresh pair of eyes can bring to the table.

- Don’t put all your hopes and dreams into it

Design sprints are useful in the sense that they give you highly practical ideas and an initial prototype that you can work on and develop further more later.

How to Implement an Email Newsletter Design Sprint?

In this section, we will walk you through the exact steps of a newsletter design sprint.

You can play with the format according to your own preferences and needs, but we will stick to the standard five-day model:

1. Understand your position

The exploration phase starts with a simple question: what seems to be the problem with my email newsletters? Each member of the group must give a few concise answers, so you can think about that one major issue that burdens your marketing efforts.

For example, you might determine that your newsletter calls to action (CTA) don’t perform very well. In this case, your goal should be to redesign newsletter structure in a way that highlights CTA buttons and encourages more subscribers to engage with your content.

2. Definite your strategy

Now that you are all aware of the problem, it is time to discuss all possibilities and find a way to improve your newsletters.

The second stage of the process is all about brainstorming because you want to initiate a meaningful discussion and come up with different ideas that can solve your problem. You might agree that the strategy is to make your newsletters simpler and more transparent, but you still have to come up with alternative solutions.

3. Make your decision

Most designers and marketers believe this step to be the most critical of your email design sprint.
This is when you and your team have to pick the most adequate solution to your problem: how to improve your newsletter.

Once you select the best option, you need to dig even deeper and look for ways to actually implement it.

You also need to prepare a list of actions that cover technical details such as CTA colors, fonts and sizes, positions on a user interface, whitespace usage, and all other elements that have the power to make or break your email newsletters engagement rates.

4. Create prototypes

This is where things become more interesting, since you finally begin to put your ideas into action in order to see how they really look.

A design sprint prototype is easy to create, and it gives you tons of valuable inputs because you materialize the ideas and form the first impression.

Of course, every team member should give their opinion on what they like and don’t like about the initial newsletter design and copy.

Needless to say, a prototype newsletter structure should look as close to the final newsletter as possible as it’s the only way to make accurate performance predictions.

When designing your newsletter, you can simply use an online email builder platform.
You can edit a precoded email template or design your own template from scratch.

This option is time efficient as it allows you to focus more on the overall appearance and content of your newsletter and not worry about backend design, compatibility issues or integration with your email service provider.

Choosing a precoded newsletter template is also the best option for professionals and marketers who don’t really have background in coding and HTML. During your design sprint, you can focus on the content and layout of your newsletter without thinking about the design part, since you can be sure that any member of your marketing team will be able to easily put together any newsletter design using a highly customizable and flexible drag and drop editor.

5. Let the users decide

Finally, you need to validate your newsletter prototype by letting your subscribers decide whether it’s good or not.

You can either:

  • Have one on one virtual meeting with a few of your subscribers to collect feedback about the newsletter design, copy, CTA, colors, layout, etc. You need to choose your interviewees wisely: make sure they belong to your target customer segment. You should also prepare a list of the questions and the main points you would like to focus on.

  • Prepare a couple of versions of the same newsletter and create an A/B test to determine which newsletter performs better. You can choose to edit the content of your newsletter, the subject lines or the time of sending out the newsletter emails. Once you receive enough data, you can decide which newsletter is the most performant, and continue working on that template, until you reach your desired results.

Keep in mind that this is just a simple example of how the design sprint functions. Your job is to consider the peculiarities of your own email marketing campaigns and prepare for the implementation accordingly.

Wrapping Up

Email campaigns are one of the most powerful channels of digital marketing. But in order to exploit email marketing to the fullest potential, you have to use state of the art models of newsletter creation.

In this post, we defined the concept of design sprint, showed its advantages and disadvantages, and explained how to implement the strategy in a real-life environment.

We hope our guide is enough to launch your own design sprint, but feel free to leave a comment if you have anything else to say or ask about this interesting topic – we would be glad to answer you!

Joseph McLean

Joseph McLean

Joseph is a freelance writer who has a passion for writing, started his career in web design and interested in topics such as design thinking, UI/UX, trends, design inspiration, etc.

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