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Using the Drag-and-Drop Editor to Build Email Templates

Overview

Successful Campaigns rely on a message that grabs the attention of a customer. Templates give the user a blank canvas to create a visually interesting and uniquely personal message for each recipient. The MessageGears Drag-and-Drop Editor provides a method of creating Templates without the knowledge of HTML and CSS.

This article guides the user through the different tools available when creating Email Templates through the Drag-and-Drop creator.

 

Table of Contents

Creating a New Template

Setting Up Personalization

Using the Drag-and-Drop Template Builder

Text

Special Links

Merge Tags

Image

Button

Divider

Social

Dynamic Content

HTML

Video

Icon

Adding Rows

Row Properties

Background Images

Customize Columns

Saving Rows

Template Settings

Testing the Template

Preview Template

 

Process

Creating a New Template

Navigate to Templates in the Message section. If Message is not activated in Accelerator, then Templates are not available.

Create a new Template by selecting Create Template in the top right of the view.

 

Enter a Name and optionally add a Description or attach a Sample Audience to your template. If you attach a sample audience here, skip down to the Using the Drag-and-Drop Template Builder portion of this guide.

If a Template is not using personalized information, then an Audience is not required.

 

 

Setting Up Personalization

Personalization is a powerful feature of Templates. Using information from the database that stores customer information, personalized data is seamlessly displayed to the customer. This could include names, preferred stores, items abandoned in a cart, etc. A Template could access any information present in your database of customer information.

Audiences must be defined for a Template to access the customer information. To link an Audience to a Template, select Configure Sample Data.

 

 

The Configure Sample Data button in the top right corner expands the fields to attach an Audience to the Template.

Use the Select Audience drop-down to search for and select the Audience for the template. Use the Amount drop-down and Refresh link to review the columns returned by the Audience. Select the amount of records to query from the Audience and click Refresh to populate the information below.

 

 

Select Close Configuration in the top right of the screen to collapse the Audience fields.

For more information on Audiences, refer to Creating and Editing Audiences

 

Using the Drag-and-Drop Template Builder

Select Create Email Content to create an Email Template. This opens the Drag-and-Drop Email Template Builder.

Change the name and description of the Template by clicking the Template Name at the top of the screen. Names must be unique for all Templates within a Folder.

 

 

There are different types of content available for a Template. Drag the content onto the workspace to set up the unique properties of the content. The Content Properties display different options based on the selected item within the Template.

 

Text

The Text content is the most common piece of content. After dragging a Text content into the workspace, use the formatting tools to style the text. Standard HTML formatting is available. Hover over a formatting option to view its function.

 

 

Additional formatting options are in the Content Properties on the right side of the screen. These content properties control formatting for the entire item.

 

 

The Text content has the following properties:

  • Locked/Unlocked - This feature is currently disabled by default. Instead, access to items are controlled by the Admin tools in Accelerator. 
  • Text Color - Choose the color of the font.
  • Link Color - Choose the color of hyperlinks.
  • Line Height - Select the amount of whitespace between lines.

There are two options for padding. Padding is the amount of whitespace between items. To set the size of padding for each side separately, use the More Options toggle. To apply even padding to all sides of an item equally, change the All Sides value.

Every piece of content can be hidden based on the form of contact. The last options under the Content Properties window selects which form of contact will not see the selected content.

 

Special Links

MessageGears has provided two common pieces of functionality often wanted by customers. Under the Special Links drop-down, there are two options. These options apply a hyperlink to selected text that provides the following functionality:

  • Unsubscribe - a function that will prohibit further contact to customers that click the link.
  • View this email in a browser - opens the email on a new page, displaying the email content in a dedicated HTML view.

Merge Tags

Merge Tags are present in multiple locations through the Template Builder. It is the recommended way to add Personalized content to your template. If an Audience is configured for the Template, Merge Tags will display the data fields from the Audience. Selecting a data field from the Merge Tags list will input that field as a variable.

Variables follow a special format: ${Data Source.FieldName}

Variables from the connected Audience will be presented as: ${Recipient.FieldName}

It is possible to type the variable name directly through text. It is recommended to use Merge Tags to avoid errors. Typing variables directly as text must be done carefully. Column names must be entered exactly as listed in Audiences. Any errors will result in the variable not rendering information correctly.

 

Image

The Image content places an image on the Template. Clicking Browse opens the Image File Manager. This interface loads images onto the MessageGears environment for use in Templates. Images are organized by folders. Select an image to use as a background image or upload a new image.

To create a new folder, click the New Folder icon in the top right of the screen.

If uploading a new image, navigate to the desired folder before selecting one of the upload options at the top of the screen.

 

 

Upload prompts the user to select an image from their personal computer. Import prompts the user to connect accounts from other platforms to the MessageGears environment.

 

 

Once an account connects to the MessageGears environment, images will be imported and available for use in Templates.

Search Free Photos opens a search for Creative Commons images. Images found through this search are quickly imported for use.

Click the Insert button for an image to use the image in a Template.

Click the X in the top right to close the Image Uploader.

 

 

Adjust the size of the image in the Content Properties. The Auto Width toggle will fill the available space in the row with the image. Turning off Auto Width allows the user to adjust the size of the image with percentage values. The Full Width on Mobile checkbox displays the user-defined percentage value image size on desktop, but shows a larger image on a mobile display.

The Align tool functions floats the image to the left, center, or right of the content space.

The Dynamic Image toggle option, when enabled, will direct the Template to a URL to source the image to display. When using this option, the standard URL field will display a placeholder image in the editor. The Dynamic URL displays to the customer.

 

 

Button

The Button is a simple method of creating functionality and interaction in the Template. The functionality of the button is controlled by the Action in the Content Properties. There are four methods of functionality:

  • Open Web Page - Open a specified URL address in a new browser window. Special Links are available for buttons. Special Links are the MessageGears provided functions of unsubscribing or viewing the email in a new browser window. Additionally, files can be uploaded and linked to the button in the same way that images are uploaded.
  • Send Email - Opens the default email program on the device of the user that clicks the button.
  • Make Call - If opened with a cell phone, prompts the device to call a specific number.
  • Send SMS - If opened with a cell phone, prompts the device to text a specific number.

Other properties (Auto Width, Background Color, Text Color, Align, Line Height, Border Radius, and Padding) all work the same as with Text.

An optional border can be added to the button. This border can have a custom color and style. Styles include Solid, Dotted, and Dashed.

 

Divider

The Divider serves one purpose. It is a line that can be placed between content to visually separate information. Dragging the Divider onto the Template will draw a line.

The Content Properties control the style of the line (Solid, Dotted, or Dashed), the color, and the thickness. Width can be modified by changing the percentage value. 100% width occupies all available content space. Align, Padding, and Hide options function the same as in Text.

 

Social

The Social option is an easy method to link social media links to an email. The Social Media icons can be displayed in multiple styles. By default, adding the Social content displays icons for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

To link social media, provide the correct link for the correct icon. These icons serve as a hyperlink to the address provided in the Content Properties.

The Icon Collection controls the display style of the social media icons.

 

 

Each social media option directs the customer to another web page. Provide the web address in the URL field for each social media option.

The More Options toggle expands the properties of the selected social media icon. The Title field displays text when the mouse hovers over the icon. The Alternate Text only displays if the social media icon cannot display. The URL field is the same URL field that could be modified before expanding the More Options toggle.

 

 

Click the Delete text to remove the social media icon and properties.

Use the Add New Icon selection to add additional social media entries. There are many options available to add to the Social Media content. Navigate through the tabs at the top of the interface to see all of the icons.

 

 

The Align tool will float social media icons to the left, center, or right side of the content. Icon Spacing increases or decreases the amount of padding between each icon. Padding and Hiding work the same as other content.

Create custom icons using the Icon content.

 

Dynamic Content

Dynamic Content requires additional configuration outside of the Template builder. After configuration, the content is available to be added to the Template.

 

HTML

The HTML Content should only be used by HTML experts. This feature allows for the creation of custom content.

Standard Email HTML restrictions apply.
View the HTML Source with the View Source link in the HTML Email tab at the top of the screen. Avoid names already in use.

 

Video

The Video content embeds a video in the Template. Type the URL to the video in the Video URL field. Videos from YouTube or Vimeo will automatically display an appropriate preview image.

Padding and Hiding work the same as mentioned above.

 

Icon

The Icon content creates small images similar to the Social content. Icons act as a hyperlink that can open another web address or use one of the Special Links that MessageGears provides.

Use the Change Image button to select the icon to display. The More Options toggle expands the icon properties to control the Image URL, Alternate Text, and Icon Text. The Image URL can pull an image from a URL similar to a dynamic image from the Image content. The Alternate Text displays if there is an issue with displaying the image. The Icon Text populates text next to the Icon. Populating the Icon Text expands more properties to control the style of the Icon Text.

 

 

The Link Type drop-down selects the functionality of the Icon. The Link Type allows the same options as the function of a Button:

  • Open Web Page - Open a specified URL address in a new browser window. Special Links are available for buttons. Special Links are the MessageGears provided functions of unsubscribing or viewing the email in a new browser window. Additionally, files can be uploaded and linked to the button in the same way that images are uploaded.
  • Send Email - Opens the default email program on the device of the user that clicks the button.
  • Make Call - If opened with a cell phone, prompts the device to call a specific number.
  • Send SMS - If opened with a cell phone, prompts the device to text a specific number.

Multiple Icons can be added through the Add New Icon button. Icons can also be reordered by dragging the Icon panels into the desired order. The first Icon listed is the left-most Icon the Template.

Text with Icons are further controlled with the properties below the Add New Icon option.

 

 

The Font Family option inherits the font of the Template by default. Changing the Font Family will change the font of the text associated with all the Icons. Text for each individual Icon can not be controlled independently. Change the size and color of the font with Font Size and Text Color.

The Align property floats the content to the left, center, or right of the content block.

The Letter Spacing property increases the kern, or spacing, between each letter of text. Icon Size determines the size of all Icon images.

Icon Spacing increases the padding between each icon. Icon Padding works similarly to Icon Spacing, but it also includes padding between other elements around the Icons. The All Sides padding puts padding on all sides of the icon equally.

 

Adding Rows

Adding Rows to the Template is the best way to control the layout of the Template. Rows create content blocks of different sizes. Select the Rows tab to see the different layout options.

 

 

Each Row consists of one or multiple grey rectangles. The light grey border for each rectangle is the padding space around the dark grey content.

To add a row layout, drag the desired layout to the top or bottom of an already existing row. Rows are forced towards the top of the Template. Rows must be stacked together.

 

Row Properties

Selecting the padding space on a row opens the Row Properties. Use the Row Properties to control the appearance of a row.

  • Row Background Color - Change the background color of the full width of the row. Can also be set to transparent.
  • Content Background Color - Change the background color of the area behind the content. Can also be set to transparent.
  • Do Not Stack On Mobile - Toggle between allowing both Row Background Color and Content Background Color to display on a phone or only display the Content Background Color and hiding the Row Background Color. Desktop will display both colors on top of each other with the Content Background Color being displayed on top of the Row Background Color.
  • Row Background Image - Instead of using a color, select/upload an image or provide a URL address to the desired photo. Photos can be displayed in multiple ways. Full Width will scale the image to the full size. If the image does not fill the Row completely, the selected Row Background Color will fill the rest of the space. Repeat will repeat the image continuously if the image does not fill the entire row. Center will align the image to the center of the row.
  • Display Condition - Display Conditions hide rows unless a certain criteria is met.

Background Images

Selecting the Change Image button opens the image uploader. This interface loads images onto the MessageGears environment for use in Templates. Images are organized by folders. Select an image to use as a background image or upload a new image.

To create a new folder, click the New Folder icon in the top right of the screen.

If uploading a new image, navigate to the desired folder before selecting one of the upload options at the top of the screen.

 

 

Upload prompts the user to select an image from their personal computer. Import prompts the user to connect accounts from other platforms to the MessageGears environment.

 

 

Once an account connects to the MessageGears environment, images will be imported and available for use in Templates.

Search Free Photos opens a search for Creative Commons images through common image sites. Select an image to import it for quick use.

Click the Insert button for an image to use the image in a Template.

Click the X in the top right to close the Image Uploader.

 

Templates include access to an image editor. After selecting a Row Background Image, click the Apply Effects & More button.

 

 

MessageGears offers multiple image editing options:

  • Filter - Use the filter presets to change the colors of the image. Filters can change an image to Grayscale or Black and White. Additional options modify saturation, sharpness, hues, and exposure.
  • Resize - Modify the size of the image to better scale it for the Template. Resizing does not destroy any part of the image.
  • Crop - Hide and resize parts of the image.
  • Transform - Rotate or flip the image.
  • Draw - Use multiple brushes or colors to add illustration to the image
  • Text - Add text to the image. Fonts and colors can be changed.
  • Shapes - Apply basic icons like arrows, stars, and lines to the image.
  • Stickers - Add more complex icons to the image.
  • Frame - Layer a decorative border around the image.
  • Corners - Round the corners of the image.

 

Customize Columns

Each Row Layout option is a pre-configured set of columns. The columns are sized based on 12 divisions. A Row that only has one column for content, that column has been given all 12 divisions. Two columns can be divided any number of ways. The below example is given 4 divisions to one column and the remaining 8 divisions to another column.

 

 

Add new columns by selecting the Add New button within the Customize Controls field.

Custom layouts can be created by dividing a row in different combinations. Modify the size of each column by dragging the area between columns.

 

 

Each column has properties that can be modified independently. These properties include:

  • Column Background - Select a color for the background of the row or set it to transparent.
  • Padding - Create whitespace between the selected row and the surrounding rows. Padding can be added to all sides equally or, by enabling the More Options toggle, padding can be applied to each side of the row individually.
  • Border - Using the Border tools, a border can be applied to all sides or, by enabling the More Options toggle, each side can be set individually. Select the color of the border or set it to transparent. The color and thickness of the border can be adjusted using the Width value and the color picker. Borders can be Solid, Dotted, or Dashed.

 

Saving Rows

The Drag and Drop Editor also has the ability to save rows that you build so that you can reuse common elements to streamline content creation. Once a row is configured with content, click to the left or right of the content block area, then click the save icon.

 

You will be prompted to enter a name (required), tags, and category for your row.

 

After clicking Create, your saved row will be available when selecting ‘All Saved Rows’ from the row dropdown. You can drag and insert it into your email template just like you would a blank row.

 

Template Settings

The last tab in the controls of a template are the Template Settings. This tab controls the settings of the entire template.

 

 

The first option, Content Area Width, controls the width of the content. By default, the content on the Template occupies a centered 320 pixels. Modifying the Content Area Width will expand or shrink the area that content can fill. The Content Area Alignment floats the content to the left of the Template or, by default, to the center.

The Background Color option sets a default background color across the entire Template. The Content Area Background Color sets a default background color to all content in the Template.

A Template's background image or background color will be overwritten by any other background image or background color options defined at the Row or Content level. 

Default Font controls the chosen font across the Template. Link Color sets a default color for all hyperlinks in the Template.

 

Testing the Template

After creating a Template, preview the result with the Quick View link in the top right.

 

 

 

Use the Desktop or Mobile tabs to switch the Quick View mode.

 

 

 

The Quick View option works differently from the Preview option. Quick View will display the content as the customer will see it, but will not populate any dynamic or personalized data.

 

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To view the dynamic information, save the Template and use the Preview button at the top of the screen.

 

Preview Template

In the Preview state, all dynamic information will populate in the same manner that the customer will view it. If an image or personalized data isn’t rendering correctly, double check the setup of that content.

 

 

The Preview interface displays the email header at the top of the screen. The right side of the screen displays customer information from the Audience associated with the Template. Using the left and right arrows, more customer information can be accessed and displayed. The Pencil Icon expands an interface for the user to edit the Audience. 

Any changes made to the information in the Sample Data interface on the right of the screen is for testing purposes only. Changing sample data does not edit the Audience associated with the Template.

Selecting the Configure Sample Data option in the top right expands the Audience Selection interface. Any previously created Audience can be selected. A CSV of sample data can also be uploaded for testing purposes.

Click on the Select Audience drop-down. Remove any existing Audience by deleting the text or clicking the red X in the selector.

 

 

With the previous text removed, the first option is to import customer data through CSV or XML. This is a quick way to upload curated customer data for testing purposes.

 

 

The last four columns of the Audience records are:

  • XML - View the Audience information in XML format. Modify the XML to change customer data.
  • Edit - A method of changing customer data without modifying XML.
  • More - Modify, duplicate, or delete a record from the Audience for preview purposes.
  • Sort - Reorder the records.

 

 

The Show Launch Variables link beneath the Select Audience drop-down allows the user to manually populate Launch variables for testing.

The Send button has two options. Send This prompts the user to enter an email address and send an example of the template, populated by the selected Sample Data. Send All prompts the user to enter an email address send an email for each Sample Data. Additional email addresses can be added to the recipients of the sample emails.

 

 

Select Edit Email Template to navigate back to the Template Editor.

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