Behind the system: Design

Posted on October 13, 2017 at 2:00 pm Written by

This week’s blog looks behind the system in another direction, towards the Design Team.

Annette-West - Project Manager

Annette West

Project Manager

Mike Nicol

Digital Designer & UX Craftsman
Tom Scott - Digital Designer & UI Architect

Tom Scott

Digital Designer & UI Architect

Mike & Tom, what are your respective job titles and what do your roles involve?

I’m a Digital Designer & UX Craftsman and as part of the Design Team I have a number of roles, many of which I share with Tom – these include:

  • Designing email templates to use in the NewZapp System
  • Building and testing those templates in HTML and CSS, making sure all the custom blocks other functionality work correctly
  • Working on the User Interface for NewZapp – I take the behind-the-scenes coded functionality and ensure it all looks and works correctly for the customer, as well as conforming to the latest NewZapp branding

We double-up on a lot of stuff. This helps us keep production flowing and pools our ideas and expertise to ensure our designs look great and work as well as possible. As the UI Architect I spend time on the user journey, process and styling for creating and overhauling the NewZapp User Interface. We’re constantly evolving and adding to the NewZapp system, and it’s a privilege be part of the design of it. As a Digital Designer I create Customer designs and content with Mike, and take on any company brand and marketing work too. It’s a very varied workload and keeps me happy!

Annette, what are the stages of design for templates?

As each order comes over to the design studio, I contact the client and work with them to compile a brief for us to work with. When this is complete and assets gathered, I pass this onto Mike or Tom and we have a chat about ideas and practicalities that we want to bear in mind for the particular client. It’s very much a bespoke process for each client.

From brief, to proof... to build

The design is then presented to the client showing them the overall effect we think will work well for them on both desktop and mobile views.

Providing both designs illustrates the choices we want to suggest as part of its responsive behaviour. e.g. the ability to hide / show / scale particular elements for the best mobile experience. I’ll also run through the flexibilities that will be built-in enabling them to use the template as a basis for all sorts of branded campaigns. Once a client is happy with the concept (and we have to admit we have a phenomenal approval rate!) the next step is building the actual email template file using CSS, HTML and graphics.

The template is then put through its paces by sending it from a NewZapp test account to Litmus (an email testing service) as well as some real test accounts. This helps us check for any dubious behaviour! Any issues found are fixed and the email template re-tested until we’re happy to send it out to the big wide world.

an exhaustive test reveals any flawsAs part of the handover to the client, I’ll schedule a time with them to have a run through the main points and answer any start-up queries. At this point clients are always excited at the fact that they can see the design concept right there in their account ready for them to edit.

Mike and Tom, how has template design changed from when you first started to the present day?

Just after they stopped using granite tablets

I joined NewZapp way back in 2003 when email marketing was in its infancy, and support for HTML emails was very limited. Often times people’s email systems would only allow you to view plain text (.txt), so we had to create plain text email templates that would be sent along with the HTML version. Then as now, we used HTML table-based layouts, with CSS restricted to a handful of attributes that could only be used in an inline style. Fonts had to be one of the small number of web-friendly faces or risk being rendered in Times New Roman.

How does my email look in my car?

Email standards have definitely come a long way since those then. Huge advances have been made in computing in general, especially the massive rise in smartphone and mobile device use. A strong community of email designers has risen, pushing the boundaries of what an HTML email can be, and calling for better support for things such as embedded CSS, media queries, responsive email coding, and better webfont support.

What other projects form part of a Designer’s day?

Other stuff that is passed to the Design Team includes working on the NewZapp website – designing and building site pages and creating graphic assets, all in accordance with NewZapp branding. As Fire Marshal, it’s also my job to keep the office environment flame-free and safe!

We also do our own marketing and promotional work, from our range of NewZapp guides and factsheets to leaflets, business cards, adverts, exhibition stands – even mugs. It’s also important that we keep our collective fingers on the pulse of email design and marketing techniques as it all changes so fast. We constantly monitor best practice,years of squinting at screens have left us with just one working eyeball between us email/web standards, changes to the way readers render etc to ensure we’re always on the bleeding edge.

Every so often we gather this knowledge together in the form of the Design Blog!

What’s the best part of your job?

The excitement of a client making their first campaign with a new template and being part of the team spec’ing out new features and UI solutions.
Mike and Tom on an email fact-finding mission...

To be honest, it’s the company – we’re all such a friendly bunch at NewZapp, we have a relaxed atmosphere and have a giggle, and we all help each other out.

I love the variety of what we do here. One minute I’ll be creating a roller banner for marketing, next a customer template, then onto thinking about how a user will move through the interface of our latest project.

What’s been the highlight of your career so far at NewZapp?

Funny, I’ve never thought of this as a career as such, but the sheer amount I’ve learnt in terms of design and coding, helping the fledgling NewZapp system evolve into what it is today, those are highlights for me!

So far? Moving into UI design. I started here as “just” a designer, but now I’ve got sticky fingers in all the pies and need to wash my hands.

Increasing the scope of my role from a purely design focused project manager to an agile development project manager. Oh, and getting the chance to work with these two obviously!

Anything big in the pipeline?

Lots! We pride ourselves in the way that NewZapp is constantly evolving, we’re currently making plans for improvements to the all areas of the system – our Drag & Drop editor, Subscriber data management, expanding Automations and campaign tracking – watch this space!


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Rachel Hughes

Email Marketing Executive at NewZapp


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