Re-Launching a 10 year old design digest
Building a weekly curated newsletter to inspire
Let me take you back to when I first started building on the internet. It was 2005 and I was busy with Inspiredology. My first taste of content creation and the world of blogging. This was during the rise of design blogs Smashing Magazine, Web Deisgner Depot, Spoon Graphics, and the Envato collections. In my opinion this was the peak for design blogs! Some classics still exist today as highly successful web properties.
Inspiredology provided me with a ton of opportunities during that time. During the rise of Inspiredology, we had the opportunity to acquire Design Bombs and then later Best Web Gallery.
I think I will devote a blog post about the history of my creative experience back then.
For now I wanted to set the context of Best Web Gallery.
BWG is a CSS/Web gallery showcasing creative examples of web design, think similar to TheFWA and Awwwards. After running it for a few years, along with the other properties we sold BWG and got out of the game.
Fast-forward to 2021
As you can imagine, BWG isn’t in the greatest shape. Overtime the site has continued to collect some followers, but the maintenance has dwindled. Can’t even be sure that the site is active at this moment.
As part of Projekt19 and the popularity of newsletters I wanted to revive BWG, better yet remix it ;)
Taking what we have, which is a small, potentially dormant list of subscribers, and twitter followers. I started reaching out to them to kick the tires on engagement.
Any new projects starts at zero, this provided a decent head start.
Joining the newsletter wave
Since the website is a lost cause, and I don’t have rights to the codebase anymore. Also considering the subscribers and followers. I figured a newsletter would be the best way to target the current audience. Getting design inspiration in an inbox felt appropriate to engage with a new audience.
Launching Best Web Digest
Keeping with principals of Projekt19, I wanted to quickly build and ship out a product without spending weeks building. Originally the subscribers were in MailChimp but I decided to export and shopped around for the appropriate tool for the newsletter.
I needed a simple landing page, sign-up form, subscriber management and email marketing.
I started work on Unicorn Platform and built out a landing page in less than 30 minutes. But…. I didn’t stay there, the monthly cost is $10, which is more then fair. The reason why I decided to pivot is that MailerLite provides a website builder and closer integration with email marketing for a similar price point.
Working in MailerLite, like most no-code tools it’s very easy to get up and running. There are a few limitations that I think should be fixed but for the most part it works.
I spent some time sourcing for a fun 3D character to add to the brand. I spent time designing a logo quickly in illustrator, added a fun colour palette and away we go.
I know I often make it sound like designing is an easy 3 step process. Nowadays anyone can get a brand up and running fairly quickly. For me, I’m not trying create the next innovative brand, my main focus is validating, building and shipping products quickly.
You can read my #buildInPublic twitter thread from a few weeks back. Purchased the BestWebDigest.com domain, renamed the @bwg_official twitter account to @bestwebdigest.
Once I had the public side of things in order, I built out two email templates to get started. Again, very simple process but I wish MailerLite would let you save your “styles” from their site builder to align with their email templates.
If I think back to BWG, it took me an hour or two a week to maintain. This time around I am hoping to cut that in half. The only way to scale this and keep it moving efficiently is to automate.
For starters I created a Zap using the Chrome Extension to store URL, Title and Summary. Then take the URL and use HTML/CSS to Image to create a screenshot. All this data then gets stored in an Airtable.
For now that saves a lot of time. Still working on getting the Airtable data into a decent viewable digest in mailerlite.
Getting the word out
Following this story, I will continue to launch the newsletter through directories and twitter.
BTW: If you are keeping count this is Projekt 3/19 ;)