Content Sections as Poetry. An Email WYSIWYG Alternative

When Sendicate was planning how to improve the email process we had to tackle the whole system from message ideation, structural composition, subscriber management, etc, but also importantly we had to figure out how to improve the end user experience by creating better looking emails.  Creating an email is a process and each step in the flow must be at the highest standards otherwise the end user (your brand’s customer) will have an inferior and degraded experience.  Unfortunately this notion seems to be lost on every ESP as their tools and systems are an absolute nightmare to work with consequently guaranteeing an abysmal email polluting the inbox.

A lot of the blame can be directed to the dysfunctional WYSIWYG experience (see Die WYSIWYG Die), but more fundamentally there is a conceptual lacking that permeates the experience.  Creativity needs to be nurtured through a holistic process that gives special attention to the needs of writers, designers, and editors and should culminate in a email that delights users.  The current blank slate WYSIWYG approach doesn’t come close to this.

Seen another way, the creative nurturing becomes much more empowered when there are some parameters or constraints in the process.  Jamis Buck from 37 Signals wrote about learning the guitar:

There are too many possibilities: which strings to hold at which frets, and whether to strum or pluck. It’s overwhelming! But instead [me teacher] taught me a minor pentatonic scale and said “play any note on that scale while this track is playing”. Suddenly the possibilities were narrowed and instead of feeling straitjacketed, I felt free. I was given power, because my options were constrained[…]Whether we choose the constraints or are chosen by them, we can decide to embrace them and find the power there. By embracing them, we grow.

Continuing the theme of embracing constraints, Jonah Lehrer in his informative article on the nature of insights and inspirations writes that constraints are crucial to the creative process and looks to poetry as an example.

The constant need for insights has shaped the creative process. In fact, these radical breakthroughs are so valuable that we’ve invented traditions and rituals that increase the probability of an epiphany, making us more likely to hear those remote associations coming from the right hemisphere. Just look at poets, who often rely on literary forms with strict requirements, such as haikus and sonnets. At first glance, this writing method makes little sense, since the creative act then becomes much more difficult. Instead of composing freely, poets frustrate themselves with structural constraints. Unless poets are stumped by the form, unless they are forced to look beyond the obvious associations, they’ll never invent an original line. They’ll be stuck with clichés and conventions, with predictable adjectives and boring verbs. And this is why poetic forms are so important. 

Similarly Sendicate follows this poetic conceptual framework and uses content sections as the fuel of the creative fire.  Like the constraints of a Haiku, there are only 6 sections to choose from, but the designer and developer can implement these in any way they choose.  The author is free to pick whatever section best suits the content, and arrange these in the most compelling way.  In this way we believe that the users of Sendicate are much like the poets making the best use of literary form.