I have, for the company I work for, been looking into third party email providers.
Initially, I went for MailChimp but there are problems.
Their drag and drop editor is less than easy and intuitive to create amazing templates for emails. For example, imagine you selected the 1 column layout and at the bottom you wanted to add a 3 column list of products for upsell within the email. Ditto! You cannot without changing your email template, and even though MailChimp will attempt to convert your old template to the new template there will still be problems.
You can, to contradict what I just said, split a text block into two columns however, to add complications, you can only split it into two columns and you cannot drop and drag new template items on top.
I also tried making my own template for the drag and drop editor that would mean I could allow the marketing department to use the base company template and just drag and drop items on, to their hearts’ content. Nope! That is not possible, once you create your own template it reverts back to the HTML editor. There is no way to use that newly made template with an easy WYSIWYG editor.
Overall their email making abilities were less than satisfactory.
Due to having free accounts (which is awesome) they do have one downside. Occasionally spammers will use their network to send malicious emails out and even though ISPs know that MailChimp are okay they do not trust the users on their network and if you happen to send out a campaign when one of these malicious senders is doing their business then you will see a lot of undelivered mail.
I had a nasty run in when I decided to suggest to MailChimp to upgrade their PHP API wrapper, put it in a easy to share location and allow pull requests for people who wish to improve it.
Basically their reposne was: “get lost”.
To be more precise I suggested:
- They update their API to use 5.x code instead of PHP 4 code, more specifically stop using functionality constructors and var declarations for class variables
- Potientially use namespaces
- Upload the API wrapper to Github
- Upload the API wrapper to composer
Most of these points were met with a blunt and blank response. I found that on any topic not directly related to asking for a saving hand MailChimp were less than happy to listen.
No Sharing Attitude and Bad Legal Representation
Recently a relatively innocent open source guy decided he would make PSDs of poopular and good looking interfaces (Here for reference). He made one of:
- Apple Bento
- And more
Mailchimp decided they didn’t like this innocent hobby of creating a look alike and threatened him with a law suite if he didn’t take the PSD of their interface down.
Consequently he had to…
That being said other companies have said they are more than willing to have their PSD uploaded.
So the end conclusion of MailChimp was that I was begging to go somewhere else, not because their service sucked (it didn’t) but because their attitude sucked; behind all that fancy monkey talk and friendly customer service there was the blackened beating heart of a selfish corporation who wanted to ensure that their way was the only right way and anyone who questioned was put down.
After being turned down by SendGrid’s lack of segmentation I decided to look at AWeber after a long list of endorsement:
To name a few…
The first thing that greeted me was having to pay to signup, which I didn’t like.
I would have preferred the notion of paying to send Email messages to a list but being able to test their actual interface for free. This meant I had to pay for something I didn’t know the look, feel, or usage of. Would you pay for a computer you couldn’t tell was broken or not?
Their product page for promoting their email program was less than satisfactory at explaining and promoting the product in a manner that impressed anyone more than an idiot who believed shiny buttons and bright colours.
Sign up Spam
After signing up I instantly got this spam page of the CEO spamming me with his new book with the exact page you would see from, say, those scam weight loss berries or what not.
Click on the image to see a full 1080p screen print of the page to read the entire thing.
After getting this page their credibility was thrown into question.
Signing up new Leads
No matter how you import your contacts, whether from your old system (where they may have already done the two step auth) or by entering them manually within the account control panel, you must process AWebers own two step authentication.
This means that ALL your leads will get a new confirmation message out of no-where. Might not seem bad? Think again! Imagine I move the list for the company I work at out of NetSuite into AWeber. I have no choice but to notify every single person that this change has been done and that they must effectively reconfirm they wish to receive newsletters from our company.
I wonder how many would not be bothered to click that link? I would not, I signed up once; why do it again?
This also has another implication, normally when signing up for a site you would think that you also sign up to get bulk email from them, not here. After getting your confirmation email you would get another email requesting to do more stuff in order to benefit from your membership. Unacceptable, things should be easy, not difficult.
You may say, “Ah, but what about https://help.aweber.com/entries/21664348-Can-I-Disable-Confirmed-Opt-In-?” I would reply that the turning off of confirmed opt-in only works from web form. This means that if you import a list you already have they still need to be confirmed opt-in. There is no way around this.
Their interface is so confusing, to just set up a list I am sent through, what seems like, 20 different pages and very few descriptions (“WTF is a list description? Will my subscribers be seeing it?”) and overall just badly put together and thought out. MailChimp’s interface is a LOT nicer and easier to use.
The good news is that once you are left to your own devices it gets a lot easier to navigate the interface.
The API documentation is not nerd friendly let alone none nerd friendly (https://labs.aweber.com/docs/reference/1.0#api-map) and I am honestly lost in that mess; how do I upload ECommerce data to segment on products customers bought?
I got hold of MailChimp’s API documentation in about 10 minutes, however, I have been looking at AWeber’s for about the last 30 minutes and I am still trying to work out exactly how it works.
As a developer I have had to work around a lot of bad documentation and AWeber’s easily comes in close to what Apache Thrift’s was like (inc ase your wondering, it had NO documentation, not even commented code).
Although really complicated to get to grips with, I have got to be honest when I say this: it is awesome! It can do the one thing that MailChimp cannot, it gives you control over the layout of your email without having to use set,static templates. Simply select the outer container, vertical split, add a new container, vertical split again as many times as you want and, “bam”; you have your custom email design.
I love AWeber’s email editor, it is a liberal version of MailChimp’s.
However, as a downer, the custom forms for dealing with subscription handling is just not as nice looking or feeling as MailChimp’s. It would require work to make them so.
This is actually a positive aspect. A quick Google search brought up the AWeber GitHub company profile: https://github.com/aweber
It is good to see, that at least some one believes in collaborating, however, their API is still not on Composer and it seems the developers are not frequenting GitHub to check the status of pull requests and issues.
MailChimp may be a heartless, soulless shell of a corporation but it has quickly caught up and surpassed the service that AWeber provides.
I guess the take away feeling is that of depression (herp derp): I have no choice but to go with MailChimp currently.