A Hat Tip to Campaign Monitor

A few weeks ago, a few members of the Campaign Monitor team teased us with a cheeky picture of a mysterious purple box winging its way to us. “What might it contain?”, we wondered.

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This week, the box arrived containing an absolutely gorgeous handmade wool bowler hat to celebrate Alfred’s 4th birthday. It’s even got Alfred’s purple ribbon!

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It’s difficult for me to write about Campaign Monitor without sounding like an advertisement, but there aren’t many tools out there I look forward to using as much as their email platform. You see, for many years, before Alfred was born, I sent campaigns every day using badly designed, antiquated tools – and I still bear the scars! Switching to Campaign Monitor has made creating and sending email campaigns so much more pleasant that I haven’t looked back in about 8 years.

My favourite part of the newsletter process comes after I’ve hit the “send” button (holding my breath, hoping I haven’t forgotten anything). I’m rewarded with the Worldview report, where I can watch pins drop all over the world as you lovely people open our email and click on links. It never gets old to see real-time stats – and yes, I do wave as I recognise the names and faces of our long-time users popping up!

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Beyond the technology, the people who are behind Campaign Monitor are inspiring, fun and mighty clever – something you can sense through every interaction with them and the product.

On the subject of newsletters, you’re already subscribed to our Alfred newsletter, aren’t you? You can subscribe to our newsletter here or in Alfred’s General preferences tab in-app. We only send a few emails a year, and I promise, we’ve got some very nice surprises for you this year.

Cheers,
Vero

Making Your Users Happy: The Business Tools We Use

Every company has its own processes, numerous little cogs that work together to give a more or less smooth user experience. When one little cog doesn’t work, it’s like having a stone in your shoe; only tiny but incredibly annoying. Over the past two years, we have tried to refine the processes we use to keep Alfred users as happy as possible, whether they use the core version or the Powerpack.

When a few fellow small business founders asked me what tools we used when we were at South by Southwest Interactive earlier this month, I thought I should share more widely some of our favourite ones, in the hope that they can help others keep a happy community.

Cachefly

While we also use the Mac App Store for distribution, a large number of users choose to get Alfred directly from our website. With hundreds of thousands of downloads for every release, we needed a fast, solid delivery network we could trust to always be available when you needed your Alfred fix. This is where Cachefly came in.

The download comes in lightning fast so don’t blink or you’ll miss it! :D

Campaign Monitor

There are a few tools that, once discovered, stay with you for a lifetime. Campaign Monitor is one of those; it’s an email marketing platform that allows you to send newsletters to your ever-so-precious list of customers. Their templates system make your life easy from one send to the next, and the support is friendly and second-to-none.

It’s super simple to add a signup box to your site (like the Alfred newsletter one here) and the process of sending a newsletter couldn’t be more straightforward.

Campaign Monitor have recently launched the Worldview feature, which allows you to see in real-time when your emails are opened. Inevitably, it makes me look like a complete lunatic as I say “Hi Stig! Oh hello Paul!” to my screen as I see Alfred users opening our newsletters. (Just think of me next time an Alfred newsletter lands in your inbox!) Every time, it’s a pleasure to use and pretty affordable for small businesses.

FoxyCart

Those who bought the Powerpack in the early days will remember that we used Google Checkout as our payment process. It was straightforward to set up but the user experience was… not brilliant. Google Checkout customer service was non-existent so if we or a user had issue, Google wasn’t there to help us resolve it as quickly as we like to.

A few months ago, we switched to FoxyCart, an e-commerce platform that was recommended to us by a few Alfred users. With a little bit of customisation, the Powerpack purchase process was fully branded in lovely Alfred colours and ready to be rolled out. We could now offer credit card and PayPal options to make buying the Powerpack a pleasant experience. The platform has been rock solid from day one so, conversion has increased and we’ve received many compliments on the friendlier process.

Twitter app

Every day, we receive dozens of tweets from you and we love reading each and every one. Andrew also tries to reply to as many of you chatty tweeters as possible.

Originally, we used Cotweet, a very useful if slightly hiccupy platform for responding to and archiving tweets. Unfortunately, a few months ago, Cotweet became a paid-only product with a high price tag, so we looked for alternatives. After experimenting with various apps, believe it or not, Andrew settled for the official Twitter app for Mac. This wouldn’t be suitable for larger teams where many people tweet, or for fancy tasks like setting posts to publish automatically later, but we use Twitter to talk to you so the simplicity suits us just fine!

On iOS, we both use Tweetbot for iPhone and iPad, which has the most pleasant UI out of the flurry of iOS Twitter apps out there.

WordPress

WordPress needs no introduction these days, but we fly their flag high and proud. It’s nice and simple to use, the WordPress.com hosted platform is stable and fast, and it’s a tried and tested solution. Through the highest peaks of traffic we’ve had, it’s never let us down so we can sleep easy.

Tumblr

Andrew picked Tumblr for his Alfred development blog, and so did Anna for the Alfred tips one. Tumblr is quick to publish to, and a lightweight solution when you just want to get those tips out there!

Wikidot

One of the most important assets for an app as flexible and complex as Alfred is a good knowledge base and FAQ. Around a year ago, we moved to Wikidot, a wiki platform, for our help site. The objective was to make it as easy as possible to add new knowledge base items and edit them, to keep them up to date.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be 100% satisfied with the way we handle FAQs. I’ll keep adding and refining content every day, but this platform makes it easier!

Get Satisfaction

One thing we’ve learned in the past two years is that Alfred users are tinkerers with a lot of ideas. From creating custom themes to sharing their own extensions, it made sense to have a user-to-user forum for swapping those ideas and tweaking extensions to make them just perfect.

Get Satisfaction is a quirky little support forum, which allows us to see the level of interest for certain features, and publicly help groups of users. Of course, it’s no guarantee that a feature will be implemented, but it’s a nice way to gauge interest and a great place for users to share their own extensions.

Ultimately, it’s about more than the tools…

You can have the best running shoes in the world, but if you don’t put them on, the miles won’t run themselves.

It takes motivation, passion and a whole lot of stamina to give your users a good experience . No matter how good the tools are, you’ve got to wake up in the morning with a smile on your face and a willingness to do everything you do as well as it can possibly be done.

Use the tools wisely and get to know what matters to your users. Welcome feedback, listen hard and carry on creating great software!