A few months ago I put Audience out into the wild and it has been interesting, some really good actionable feedback.
It's good to get actionable feedback, helps to get a good understanding of where I need to be. One of the big things for me, is that it is already a crowded market. So being the new tool it can be hard to break out, you don't have feature parity with the existing tools. So it becomes harder for people who are already using existing tools to switch. In my case would you drop another tool for Audience? To be really blunt, I wouldn't so why would anyone else. Of course that doesn't mean that will always be true. I just have to figure out the right next steps.
On the flip side, I've found people who want to have a newsletter but haven't built the habit to write a newsletter every week or month. Mostly they have tried other tools but it can be that they didn't like their experience with those tools or other blockers to building that habit needed to send a monthly or weekly email. (Side track: These I know all too well)
In one sense I feel like I'm being pulled in two directions but I also see there is overlap in the needs.
What have I been doing
Some of the latest updates that I've been working on.
Shift focus from Lists to Newsletters
When I created Audience I went for a similar flow to existing tools, create a list, add subscribers, send email. I didn't like this as a flow, it's still there but I changed the on boarding flow.
Now you can create a newsletter and a list all at the same time or create a newsletter and attach it to a list.
When you create a newsletter, you can give it a profile image and load a description.
Newsletter Audience, is the list that it will be on. There is an option in there to create a new list.
When users signup to Audience, they don't have a list creating then Audience will give them the "Create new List" option by default.
With the new focus on newsletters, I updated the default form samples from Audience, to now include the logo if you add one.
You can also get the details to build your own form.
When a subscriber signs up, they are redirected to the newsletter thank you page.
Which also contains links to the last email newsletters.
Opt In Emails
Audience has had Opt In emails from the beginning but they were a default setting so every newsletter you created would have the same Opt In email content.
Now I've added a new layer, you can set a different Opt In for each newsletter.
By default it uses your default Opt In settings, but you can change those as you want.
Connect your RSS Feeds
Now for the really cool bit, I've added support for RSS feeds, so for example this blog is now being loaded directly into my Serversncode newsletter in Audience when a new blog post is published it appears in my RSS content and I can click "Create Email" to create and send an email newsletter.
Currently it's not automated but it will be soon, more on that in a bit.
What comes next
My main focus now will change to the editor and the writing experience, the current editor isn't bad but it's not great either.
One of the limitations I have with the current editor happens when I do the "Create Email" from the RSS feed. It doesn't hold the formatting from the RSS content, so I lose the headings, etc.
Then we have the automations, I want to be able to create welcome emails, that I could use to share the last newsletter, or a "Best of " selection of posts from my blog type thing when someone signs up for my newsletter.
So before I start working on the welcome email section, I have decided to work on the editor and try and improve the experience of writing emails in Audience.
I also want to be able to handle images better, at the moment large I am uploading the images fine but when you open the email on mobile if the image isn't sized right it throws the whole email off. I need to add in some better image handling for the emails.
I'd like to also be able to add blocks, for example I could drag and drop a blog post onto the email and have it create an image that looks like this.
That image would then be a link back to the actual blog post. But instead of just a "Read More" button or a link you could make something more interesting and really easy to use.
Speaking of buttons, I want to be able to create a button in the email, just have it as an option like adding a link or an image, you can just click "Create Button" put in the URL you want the button to link to and then style the button.
Creating embeds for share this on twitter, facebook so it becomes really easy for a ready to share it.
Improving the templates is a big part of this work as well, the current template is pretty simple and straight forward but I'd like to make it more responsive, I've been looking a lot lately at https://mjml.io/ and integrating that framework into my own default template.
But I'm also thinking about allowing users to just upload their own template or even just upload the email, if you already created it somewhere else, why not just make it easy to either copy and paste or upload it and then schedule and send it.
Thank you for reading, you can follow along over on my twitter @jamesmkenny I share the ups, downs and everything inbetween and a solid amount of coffee.