Very surprised to experience such hurdles with the email designer. At first I thought it’s something I’m doing wrong, but overall it has been a challenge to build emails from the ground up, except for when looking at very basic structure. I’ve been using it for little over a month now and I really feel bad that I’m already thinking about alternatives that won’t be as much of a pain as this.
Disclaimer: Unfortunately, I’m not a UI’er so I couldn’t come up with concrete suggestions on all points.
Disclaimer 2: I understand these are no small things to handle and they pose a challenge. But based on my experience with the tool so far, a bigger challenge is not addressing such issues. To be frank, I pushed our company to use ActiveCampaign over Hubspot (although we already use HS as our CRM) because to my knowledge it was superior in the “marketing” aspect of these tools (where
HS would win on the “sales” part). Now I’m starting to doubt, whether this is true.
1. Overall clumsiness of the drag-and-drop builder
Firstly, the drag-and-drop builder feels clumsy & choppy. Elements jiggle weirdly around when trying to paste new ones. I like that it’s simple so it’s not about “box shadows” and “looking cool” but it gives off a bit of an underwhelming feeling especially to people who are transitioning from other automation tools. It lacks the overall smoothness.
2. Weird element behavior
For some reason element properties affect each other. Take, for example, a text field. I place this text field next to an image. Now I want to change the element’s background color. However, it changes the background color for the image (and sometimes other elements further down in the email) as well randomly.
Video demonstration: https://www.loom.com/share/aaa36fcd0e8b45649490ff955d441da5
Honestly, my reaction throughout the whole video was “Seriously, what is this?!”. Also yes, I tried with both Snap to grid on & off.
3. Lack of (appropriate) visual feedback when placing elements
Example: When dragging an element in the email, often time the element does not land properly. Yes, the green line is present, but as such, I expect that element to land the first time I drag it on top. If I do the exact same movement 5 times and it works only 1/5, why does it look like the element is going to get placed. Otherwise, alternatively, why doesn’t it get placed right away as it’s supposed to?
4. No sections
Not much to say here. Others have spoken about this in different threads (frankly, from quite a while ago). I really can’t see why this isn’t a priority.
5. CTRL + Z
I think this does more harm than not. The CTRL + Z / Undo functionality works selectively and reverts changes at random. Sometimes, it will revert the text to an older version, other times it will revert the text, design and alignment as well.
Wikipedia quote: “The expectations for undo are easy to understand: to have a predictable functionality, and to include all “undoable” commands.”
Undo is a very standard feature. Why is it broken here?
In this part of the post, I will share other issues that impact the UX negatively.
Side Issue #1: Speed
The overall speed of the tool is also disappointing. I know it’s not just text that we’re displaying, but some of the changes take ages. I thought this would get better after the free trial once we had a plan - but really it hasn’t. It seems like it’s based on random events - sometimes it works just as fast and normal as you’d expect. Other times it’s well into a minute to load things fully.
This is true both throughout the whole tool and when editing specific automations. It seems like every change we make is directly pushed to the server which really slows things down (I mean, imagine copying a Wait rule and waiting 30 seconds for it).
Best suggestion / guess that comes to mind is to have something like Facebook’s Ad Manager. That is, all changes are first saved locally to the user’s device - and once the user submit those changes they are all pushed together to the server.
This way you also allow for somewhat-of-a-versioning functionality - which prevents major failures when building campaigns and automations. That is, if something goes wrong, the user can still chose to push only the changes wanted.
Side Issue #2: Blank automations
When copying an automation, the automation is “blank” if you open it right away. This makes no sense to me, it doesn’t look like caching either. You literally have to click off to another page and then return to “Automations” -> “Your Automation (copy)” to be able to edit it. If it’s such a problem to fix this, why not just remove the “Edit” button upon copying.
Side Issue #3: Reporting.
Now, I know I can’t ask for a Google-Data-studio-competitor here - and that’s fair. With that, there are definitely certain improvements that can be made to reports.
For example, I have to make extra steps, setups and workarounds to be able to do standard KPI reporting. Sure, I can see open rates and clicks - but this is a tool made for companies and clients who require seeing the business case in things. Seeing a report for Clicks, Delivery and a block of avatars really doesn’t help me convince either my client or my boss that I’m capable of doing what they want me to do.
I have the confidence that I’m not a one-off case who experienced all these things. For this reason I think it’s appropriate:
To have the community chip and with comments and suggestions on the issues listed above. Am I wrong anywhere? Is there anything else you’d add?
To see the ActiveCampaign team address these issues - and potentially put ballpark deadlines of when we can expect improvements. For example, the drag-and-drop builder still lacks “Sections” - something that others have reported already in 2016 & 2017. Many of us take the time and energy out of our days to help the tool become better. Not addressing these issues would be, frankly, shameful.