The Community Spotlight is a monthly blog series highlighting some of the amazing members of the Litmus Community.
This month, we’re chatting with Jaina Mistry, an email designer, world-traveller, and Community veteran. Be sure to follow her on Twitter and check out her website.
So, who are you and what do you do?
I’m Jaina Mistry and I’m an Email Marketing Specialist for Padawan Group, a London-based startup company.
When did you first get involved with email marketing and design?
Back in 2007 I landed my first web design & development job at Sit-Up Channels, where a big part of the job was to look after the design and build of the emails. I think I thought of them as mini-websites back then.
What did you do before email? Has it had any effect on how you approach email?
Before email I was working in IT. Working in IT taught me a few things about problem solving. There is no one solution to problems you face. Sometimes there are a few and it’s up to you to choose a solution for your situation. I feel like that’s the case in email, especially today when there are so many devices and browsers to cater to. There are different solutions, the quick and dirty ones that are just temporary patches, or the ones that take a bit more time to implement but will holdfast for the long term.
What are some of your favorite tools? And what does your typical design process look like?
It goes without saying that I’d be lost without Litmus. I was without Litmus for a week, at one point, and it was terrifying.
Can I also say that the #emailgeeks on Twitter and Litmus Community are a couple of my favorite tools, too? There’s such a wealth of knowledge, all of which the community shares with everyone.
My design process always starts with some sketches and brainstorming in my notebook. I find it a lot easier to come up with a design for an email after I scratch out a few words on what the objective of the email is and what the end user should be doing with the email. Once I’ve got some loose ideas down and a very sketchy sketch, I’ll dive into design. In the past (as in, just a couple of months ago) I used Adobe Photoshop to design the emails. However I’ve now jumped on the Sketch bandwagon for designing them. Sometimes during the design process, I’ll design something I’m not yet sure how to code. So I’ll jump into Adobe Brackets to do a quick HTML mock-up, just to make sure I can code what I’m designing.
What’s your favorite email hack?
The one email hack I find myself coming back to time and time again is Mike Ragan’s Ghost Column Hack. It’s incredibly simple and it just works. Any email hack that makes the everyday process of email coding easier is a favorite of mine. And the min-width hack for Gmail, to make sure the Gmail app displays your email at the right width. Again, it’s a small hack, but knowing my email renders well in an app that over 60% of our customers use makes me happy.
What do you see as the biggest challenge in email today?
Technically, combatting the vast array of email vendors, browsers and devices. And the numbers of all of those just keeps increasing. And when something new is released or changes are made, email marketers often stumble upon it (or find out their emails render somewhat differently) rather than finding out in a release document!
Generally in terms of email marketing, working with your data. While it’s great collecting data and analyzing and reporting on what you’ve found in your last 10 email campaigns, it’s still very subjective. It’s a guessing game as to why the open rate may have dipped 2 months ago, but then came back up again. Or why one CTA button worked but another didn’t. We know as email marketers that we have to use our data in order to give our customers the emails they want to receive, but understanding and forming conclusions around that data can sometimes be more of an art-form than a science.
What do you think email will look like in five years?
I don’t know if it’ll be vastly different in five years. After all, email hasn’t changed much since it’s birth. I can imagine it’ll still be a big part of everyday lives, with it still being used as a messaging as well as a marketing platform. Email isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, but the way it’s consumed may well change. With things like Siri already being able to read emails, albeit not very well, I could well imagine more email being consumed without screens.
You recently moved from the UK to Bahrain. How has that move influenced how you approach work? What’s changed?
As I’m still working for a UK-based company, my approach hasn’t changed that much. However living in a completely different region has given me more of an awareness of how marketing is so different, globally. Email marketing isn’t nearly as prevalent in Bahrain as it is in the UK or USA. Instead, there’s much more reliance on SMS, WhatsApp and Instagram. And everyone does marketing—even hospitals send out WhatsApp marketing messages!
While we don’t have a Bahraini website at Padawan Group (yet!), working for a company with a group of global websites has made me appreciate how important localization is. Having local knowledge to make sure your marketing is relevant to the target audience is vital.
What’s your favorite movie, book, band, and email campaign?
- Favorite movie: Gladiator. Ridley Scott at his best.
- Favorite book: Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut. There’s something very reassuring about how Vonnegut describes time.
- Favorite band: Foo Fighters. Just call me a Dave Grohl fangirl.
- Favorite email campaign: From Bonobos. Subject line: =VLOOKUP(Your boss is behind you)
This email from Bonobos goes against almost everything I work towards in email myself—it’s all images for one thing! But it is a fantastically unique email from an online retailer. I’ve not seen anything like this before. A really interesting and different way to get people to engage with your brand and your email. To give them something alternative in an email. A spreadsheet of all things. It’s such a fun concept and shows a really inventive way of creating engagement.
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