1. userfox adroll

    I am delighted to announce that AdRoll has made its second acquisition – userfox.

    AdRoll is an internet retargeting company based in San Francisco. It seems odd, perhaps, that AdRoll would acquire an email marketing firm – over the next year we are going to be working on incorporating other marketing channels – email, for example – into their existing product.

    If you look at how AdRoll works and how userfox works, you will see countless parallels.

    Javascript snippet? AdRoll says pixel, we say javascript snippet. (our terminology is better)

    Segmentation? AdRoll says segments, we say filters. (their terminology is better)

    And it isn't just in the explicit product where there are parallels, both companies are obsessive about support, about bringing functionality typically only given to Fortune 100 businesses to the masses, about relentlessly raising the bar for simple, powerful, effective products.

    There are differences too. AdRoll relentlessly uses puns, whereas userfox is sassy with deft wit crafted by modest handsome writers. The only importance more importance than humour? AdRoll has incredible scale, scale that will allow userfox to build, scale and then sell our product vision faster than ever.

    One other difference, AdRoll uses Python and userfox uses Ruby. We played many Street Fighter tournaments but I was unable to convince AdRoll to switch to Ruby, and as part of this we'll be stopping signups and feature development for userfox as we work towards migrating our functionality into AdRoll. Assuming there are no fundamental issues, service will continue for existing customers.

    Everyone has seen the quote from Salesforce about how Chief Marketing Officers will spend more money on IT than Chief Information Officers – we all know Salesforce made that up, right? – but there is an element of truth – marketing departments are becoming more technically sophisticated than ever before, and with this sophistication the bar internet marketing companies must reach continually raises.

    I doubt vertical marketing companies will exist within a few years:

    • The consumerization of enterprise software has shone a light on how crappy it is to manage different marketing channels across different marketing applications. Not just from the user experience, but from results being harmed from silo'd data.

    • Big data is allowing computer scientists to treat every individual customer that uses your application as a different customer – having all the data is critical – Why are you retargeting a user that has AdBlock? Why are you emailing a customer that has your push message enabled mobile application?

    These painpoints will become more and more intense as the internet matures.

    We've already switched from Internet Advertising being only Google, to being Google and Facebook – soon Twitter will be on that list too, and lets not forget Quora or Flipboard, or whomever else. The same can be described for delivery infrastructure – from email to push messages, who knows what next!

    AdRoll has tens of thousands of customers, it has managed to reach a $100M revenue run rate with less than 2 dozen engineers – I believe it is the company that will be capable of executing upon this vision.

    I am hiring visual designers, front end developers, product managers and back end computer scientists to help work on this vision.

    I am sorry that userfox has been quiet for the last month or two, and I am even more sorry if this announcement is disruptive for your business. I believe that a year from now the marketing world will be fundamentally superior than it is today because of this announcement. My email address is peterclark@me.com.

    – Peter Clark, userfox CEO

  2. Mailto Generator

    I just created a very simple mailto href link generator. Everyone knows how to build these, but I got sick of having to find the right encoding to do anything slightly sophisticated.

    Another cool thing is that this lets you define CC and BCC fields. For example, if you email the userfox javascript snippet, it'll CC the userfox support email address.

    Straight out of your Microsoft Frontpage application, here's an example:

    Email this

  3. Email templates, a brief primer

    Did you know userfox supported multiple email templates? Probably.

    What are email templates?

    There are two parts to a message you create inside userfox: firstly, the message body: you write this from the editor whenever you add a new message. secondly, the template: this is the HTML file you wish to have your message rendered inside of.

    The message contains content specific to that message or trgger, subject lines, message body, and so on.

    The template contains content that you wish to have applied to all messages (that belong to that template) for example, styles, footers and overall designs of the message.

    Building a new template

    Adding a new template is easy, you simply need a name, and then the HTML. There are two critical elements you must include in your template:

    • {{body}} which is the body of your message. This is templated inside of your template from whatever message is being fired. Without this, when a message sends, it'll simply contain generic stuff!

    • {{unsub}} which is the unsubscription link. Some companies handle unsubscribes outside of userfox, but for most users you must include this link else users won't be able to unsubscribe! Usually you'd wrap this in href tags. Like this.

    5 Tips on building templates

    • Use tables to ease layouts

    • Use inline CSS (no external stylesheets)

    • Keep tables under 600px

    • Test emails

    • Mobile optimise your templates!

    Mobile email accounts for between 15% and 65% of all email opens!

  4. How to tell users about the gmail changes that cost you opens

    A few months ago Google introduced Tabs to GMail.

    Preliminary research from MailChimp says that these tabs have given "a small but definite drop" in open rates.

    I don't wish to simply copy their entire blog post, so I'll just link to it should you wish to read more about this.

    Should you worry?

    Not today. The issue is that you are at the mercy of Google for future changes. What happens if Google decides to hide away the Social tab?

    A fix that'll last

    You should inform your users that they should move your email messages to their inbox. We've compiled a few resources that make for a very engaging email that you can send out.

    Remember that you can hotlink to these animated gifs and they will play in most email clients. Huge for making an engaging email that clearly explains what a user needs to do.

    Step 1:

    Drag and drop the relevant email into your inbox.

    Step 2:

    Confirm you wish to save this action as a rule to happen for all future emails:

    Suggested Copy

    Subject Lines

    • Ensure you keep receiving our emails

    • About those GMail tabs...

    • Like this mail? Do this!

    Opening Line

    As you've probably noticed, GMail recently introduced tabs to their inbox, this means that some of our emails (like this one) end up somewhere other than the inbox. Here's how to fix that...

    One last thing

    Be sure to explain to your users why they should do this. Above, we discuss how to fix it, but you should also add a note on why a user would want to keep receiving your emails.

    Match does a great job at this, note in this image how they reiterate how you don't want to miss your matches. Matches being the primary reason why you signed up for a dating site in the first place, I bet this converts really nicely.

  5. Animated Gif Screencasts

    Why record a screencast when you can use a gif?

    Benefits of Animated Gifs

    • Gifs are smaller in filesize. All of the images on this page add up to less than one megabyte.

    • Gifs can be shared, embedded in iMessages, embedded in emails, and generally posted everywhere.

    • Gifs are bitesized, which lends them to be a) highly useful, and b) able to be autoplayed without being very annoying.

    I really think the latter point is key though. When I see a screencast I roll my eyes. I know it has audio, and welcome screens, and tons of other stuff. I'd rather just read text. But a gif shows me before I have even processed what it is. It just works.

    Previously, creating an animated gif to demonstrate your product wasn't really that much less work than simply recording a fancy screencast.

    However, this is no longer the case with a fantastic (albeit ancient looking - it is still under development!) application called LICEcap.

    Capturing a gif with LICEcap:


    Launch the application and drag the window to encapsulate what you wish to animate.


    Click record, choose a file name, and then use your application! anything in the window (that persists in the foreground) will be saved as an animated gif video. When you're finished, just tap Stop.

    For example, the video we just recorded (uhm, the video in the video) looks like this:

    capture userfox

    And you're done! Simply upload the image to an image provider of your choice, and share away! I'd capture this action too (using the how-did-i-live-without-you application, CloudApp) but a technical limitation of Licecap prevents you from dragging the recording window over the menu bar.

    You can download LICEcap here.

    And discuss this on Hacker News!