Help, I can’t copy my Constant Contact email: 2021 edition

A few weeks ago, a friend texted me in a panic for help, because she had gotten this vaguely threatening email from Constant Contact indicating that her email templates were about to go extinct.

At Constant Contact, we’re always looking for ways to improve our tools so that you can get the best results possible. That’s why, on March 10, we’ll be retiring your current editor in favor of our more advanced third-generation editor.

Important: As of March 10, you will no longer be able to copy emails you created in your current editor.

With our third-generation editor, all templates are mobile-responsive—meaning they automatically format to any device (over 50% of all emails are opened on a mobile device).

To make the transition to our newest editor as seamless as possible, we recommend recreating your legacy emails in one of two simple ways.

Next time you log into your account, you can:

1. Choose a new template and fill in the content you want—our third-generation editor makes it easy to customize your template and get the professional look you want.
OR
2. Enter your legacy email or website’s URL into our branded template builder to automatically create an email that matches your website, logo and colors. Watch this short video to see how easy it is to make the change with our branded template builder.
To learn more about recreating your legacy emails, check out this helpful article.

Thank you for being a loyal customer. We’re working hard to provide you with the most powerful editor for better email marketing.

The Constant Contact Team

Note that my friend does exactly what I assume most people producing a weekly e-newsletter do: you copy the previous week’s email, leave in the sections that are relevant, delete the items that are outdated, and add any new information. You don’t start from a fresh template every week, no matter how carefully you customize the base template. So she depends on that ability to copy, and having to build out a whole new template is a nontrivial challenge.

Now, I was a daily Constant Contact user for my previous company, and I had upgraded all their templates some time ago to use the “new” third-generation editor (which at this point can’t really be called new anymore; it was launched in 2018, over three years ago). So I can confirm that the new editor truly is a lot more powerful and flexible once you get the hang of using it. However, for users who are barely comfortable with the familiar second-generation version, it’s daunting.

I told my friend not to worry, I was on the case. The thing is, she didn’t really need to learn how to build a template from scratch. She needed an experienced user (me) to create the new template, and then she’d be back into her rhythm of copying from week to week.

The first thing I did, since it was touted in the email above, was to try out that “branded template builder” to see if it would really automate the process of the new template. Truthfully, though, I didn’t even want to duplicate the design of their old email; having to start over is a good time to refresh the look and feel. Instead, I entered the URL of the organization’s website. And… I was disappointed. The builder used the dullest possible background color and didn’t even pull the logo image correctly. So I scrapped that and built a newsletter template from scratch, starting from the built-in Basic Newsletter template.

For my new template draft, I dropped in all the content from her previous week’s email – manually copying and pasting everything into the new blocks. I had made some design decisions in advance, so then I adjusted the rest of the settings on the fly, like fonts (I settled on the ever-popular Georgia), colors and background images (uploaded more thoughtfully from the organization’s website). I also created a few coordinating variations: standalone emails for short announcements, a different weekly newsletter series, and so on. No before-and-after shots here, to protect the organization’s privacy, but overall it was a definite upgrade.

Once we had her templates ready, I also gave her a tutorial on how to use the cool features in the third-generation editor, like drag-and-drop and mobile preview. Now she’s off and running!

Are you struggling to convert your legacy second-generation Constant Contact templates? Drop me a comment or an email.

New year, new job

Many of you know that in the fall of 2018, I was recruited to the Jewish Federation of Northwest Indiana as Director of Communications & Programming.

Unfortunately, the 2020 Covid pandemic had a major impact on Federation’s budget, and the responsible thing for them to do was restructure my position down to part-time for 2021. Thus, my position at Federation ended as of Thursday, December 31, 2020.

It was my honor to serve the Northwest Indiana Jewish community in this position for the last two and a half years, and my pleasure to get to know so many members of the community better in the process. Of course, I will remain active in the community and will continue to see many people around, especially once we are able to resume in-person events. Please feel welcome to keep in touch with me personally… but if you need assistance with Federation business, call the office at 219-301-0960.

In the meantime, I’m happy to report that I found a new position as Website & Content Coordinator for BerylMartin, a design and printing company in nearby Griffith, IN. Interestingly, they specialize in funeral and memorial printing, with an extensive full-time staff of artists that create personalized tribute programs, biographical booklets, memorial portraits, photo collages, banners, keepsakes, and much more. It’s an unusual niche (which is good for competition after all) but very meaningful to the clients and families they serve. Coming to the end of my second week, I’m getting good feedback about my progress so far and my ability to contribute, which feels great. I’m very optimistic about this new chapter.

Shabbat shalom, everyone!

The time my custom webfonts stopped working in Chrome and Firefox

When I last rebuilt erica-schultz.com back in 2012, I decided to incorporate a custom webfont in my Design and Judaica sections. In the interest of cross-browser compatibility, I used FontSquirrel’s free Webfont Generator to export EOT, SVG, and WOFF files, which I then called in my CSS @font-face declaration.

Fast forward to late 2016: I discovered that while my font still looked nice in Safari, it had stopped working in Chrome and Firefox. They had apparently gone and changed their font rendering in a way that broke my site. THANKS DUDES.

This week, I finally did a little research into the issue.  Continue reading

Website launch: Training Insight

Who doesn’t love a good referral? In this case, Dianna Sanchez was so happy with her new site design, she referred one of her neighbors to me for some website work.

Training InsightChristine McKay runs her own consulting practice, Training Insight, doing custom training and computer setup for financial software (specifically QuickBooks and Sage Timeslips) in Cambridge, MA. She’s been in business for many years, which is great for her clients. On the downside, her website www.trnginsight.com hadn’t been updated since 2004, and it was time for an overhaul. (Skip to the end of this post for the before-and-after slideshow… because, also, who doesn’t love a good before-and-after?)

Christine already has an established visual identity that is serving her well, and she wasn’t looking for rebranding or significant changes to the look of her site. What she mostly wanted help with was search engine optimization, in order to enhance her site’s reach and visibility to potential new clients. However, I told her that SEO would be best served by some structural adjustments to her site: Continue reading

New website project launch: DiannaSanchez.com

On Friday, I officially launched my latest website project: an author website for children’s book author Dianna Sanchez, whose debut novel A Witch’s Kitchen is forthcoming in a month from indie YA publisher Dreaming Robot Press. Check out the site!

Backstory: Two months ago, I put out a call to the Universe (via Facebook) for some freelance work. Among the respondents (and there were a few, thank you, Universe) was an old friend from my MIT circles who needed a spiffy new website to go with her first book’s upcoming publication. She had set up a starter website back in April, in WordPress, but it was… rudimentary. (I’d say “basic” but that word has acquired problematic cultural overtones in the last ~5 years.) I never took a screenshot of it, but now I wish I had for posterity, because like most people I love before-and-after stories!  Continue reading

New website project launch: Growing Minds

A good friend and colleague in the Boston area, Dr. Anya Dashevsky, is launching a private psychology practice, and I had the privilege of assisting her with her marketing materials.

She had already decided on a name for her new practice: Growing Minds. She made sure that the domain name growingmindspsych.com was currently available, so we moved forward with that. She specializes in assessment of children (starting as young as 18 months) through adolescents, so she had come up with a name that conveys both the objective (minds that are growing) and the process of assisting those minds to grow and develop.

My first task was to come up with a logo. I wanted to capture that same duality, so I used two contrasting typefaces:

  • a script face known as Banshee with a dynamic, organic feel, and
  • Book Antiqua (Microsoft’s knockoff of Palatino), which will also be suitable for general text use in her website and business materials.

For her branding colors, I chose green to represent optimal growth, and blue to connote a calming, supportive, and trustworthy presence for the presumably-anxious parents seeking her services. (Note that blue is a common choice among medical practices as well as financial institutions.) I provided a wide range of alternative concepts, but this jewel-toned scheme was the one my client was drawn to, so I knew we were on to something!

[Growing Minds]

The two-sided business card featuring the final logotype.

Next, we worked together to create a website for her practice that would provide substantive information as well as basic logistical details to inquiring new clients. We settled on a clean white background and a simple page template that would perform just as well for iPad visitors as for desktop browsers. All the text is in Book Antiqua to match her brand identity.

[GrowingMindsPsych.com]

The finished website frontpage. Look at that smile! Click to browse the full site.

This site build uses pure CSS, no JavaScript, to achieve both the dropdown main menu tabs and the click-to-expand bullet points on the front page. The menu code was adapted from this simple but effective version on CSSMenuMaker.com. The bullet point code was substantially adapted from this vertical accordion on sitepoint.net — they made use of CSS3’s built-in :target selector, and I had to change around the code to make it function under CSS2, but the basic structure remained the same.

The site is hosted on 1and1.com (Mr. Y’s recommended vendor for basic, economical web hosting). I had my client set up her own customer account, then went in myself to set up the domain name (growingmindspsych.com), post a placeholder page, and eventually transfer the files for the full site once the design and content were complete.

My client’s new practice officially opened this week in her Lexington, MA, office. Congratulations and best wishes for much success! (We’re still working on the coordinating brochure. I’ll post that as a follow-up when it’s completed.)

Don’t forget this essential finishing touch on your webpage!

Webmastering pop quiz time:

  • Raise your hand if you’ve ever seen the word “favicon”.
  • Keep your hand up if you actually know what it refers to.
  • Now keep your hand up if you already know how to produce one and add it to your own website.

… OK, you awesome folks with your hands still raised can go grab a coffee. The rest of you, read on!

What is a favicon?

Go to your Bookmarks or Favorites menu in your web browser. Right now. (Readers who aren’t well acquainted with bookmarking can probably go grab a coffee too and skip the rest of this post… but let me know and I’ll do a separate post on that, seriously. It is the key to managing your Internet life.)

[sample bookmarks menu]

A snippet from my own bookmarks menu, showing 9 visually distinctive favicons… and the dreaded “blank page” default icon in the highlighted 10th item.

See those little icons next to every item in the menu? Some of them are plain “blank page” document icons, but the majority of them are colorful little images that tell you at a glance exactly what site they’re referencing. This is a favicon, short for “favorites icon” (because it shows up in your Favorites list, get it?). It’s your site’s brand identity boiled down into 16×16 pixels (or 32×32 or more, depending on your operating system). And since it’s the only piece of your visual identity that gets stored along with a user’s bookmark, neglecting to supply one is like leaving your business cards in your other pants.

How do I make one?

There’s a special file type called “.ico” reserved for just such uses as these (also, say, desktop icons for Windows application files). Most browsers will also accept a PNG file as your favicon image, but not all. (For the technical specs, I commend to your attention this excellent 2013 article, “Understanding the Favicon” by Jonathan T. Neal.) So it’s best to use a dedicated .ico file.

Here’s the trick: for some reason, image editors do not include “.ico” in their repertoire of file types. So to convert your desired image (PNG, GIF, JPEG, even BMP) to .ico, you have to use one of the many online file converters. Here are a few:

  • http://realfavicongenerator.net/ – If you want heavy-duty performance, this site will take a 260×260 file and produce a single icon that correctly embeds all the different sizes any modern icon set requires, then check your usage once you’ve installed it.
  • http://favicon-generator.org/ – Quick and dirty for 16×16 pixels.
  • http://tools.dynamicdrive.com/favicon/ – As a happy medium, this one will embed 32×32 and 48×48 versions of your image, as well as 16×16, into a single .ico file.

You can certainly use a solid square image, but if your logo is natively any shape other than square, your favicon will look more slick and professional if you use a transparent background.

Once I have the image, how do I set it as the favicon for my website?

If you have named your file “favicon.ico”, all you really need to do is place it in the root directory of your site. Browsers are hard-wired to look there and do the right thing with it. Presto!

You can also place it in another directory (such as /images) or use a different filename, but then you have to place a little extra code in the headers of your pages. Just add these two lines for your .ico file.

<link rel="shortcut icon" href="/images/favicon.ico" type="image/x-icon">
<link rel="icon" href="/images/favicon.ico" type="image/x-icon">

(Of course, use the actual path to your own image filename, if /images/favicon.ico above isn’t it.)

If you’re using a PNG file, the code is similar, but you also have to change the specified type:

<link rel="shortcut icon" href="/images/favicon.png" type="image/png">
<link rel="icon" href="/images/favicon.png" type="image/png">

Good news for this WordPress.com blog and everyone else’s: you can now set a custom favicon here, too. Go to your blog dashboard (you can type in /wp-admin after your blog’s wordpress.com URL) and click the “Settings > General” tab. On that page, you’ll see a box in the right-hand column for “Blog Picture / Icon”. Upload something here, crop and save, and it will automatically be set as your “blog image” (avatar), which WordPress will also use as your favicon.

Bonus question: How is it pronounced??

Unsurprisingly, opinions do differ. The top contenders seem to be:

  • FAV-ih-kahn (short a, short i)
  • FAVE-ih-kahn (long a, short i)
  • FAVEEYE-kahn (long a, long i)

Whatever your preference, happy fav(e)-ing!

Free Online ISBN Barcode Generator

My dad says I’ve been “pretty quiet lately”, which is perhaps because I’ve been plugging away solidly for the last month trying to get a book project to press. This is a freelance project on which I’ve been working for over two years at this point, but we’ve been in the home stretch since approximately November 2012.

In the home stretch of the project, as all designers know, come all the nitty-gritty details that you’ve pushed off dealing with until “later”. Guess what? It’s later.

So tonight’s task (while I wait for the copyedited index and last few page corrections from the author) is to get the cover files set up. We’re doing a split bind (about 1/3 stamped cloth case with jacket, 2/3 paperback cover), so I have to do them both ways, according to the measurement templates the printers sent me just this morning.

It also means we have two different ISBNs, and guess what else? I need to create bar codes for them. Back in my early publishing days, we didn’t even HAVE barcodes; then we used to order away for them specially. But I figured in this day and age, there was a good likelihood that the Internet could deliver something instantly, and maybe even for free.

Lo and behold, Google found me the answer:
http://bookcovers.creativindie.com/free-online-isbn-barcode-generator/

These fine folks wrote a slick little utility that will generate an EPS file of your ISBN barcode, complete with the price code add-on (if you have one).

I am grateful, so I’m sharing the love. :-) They also do really nice work on the design side.

Let’s just remember to test both barcodes before we commit ink to paper, okay? And I promise I’ll tell more about the book itself when it actually launches.

Geeking out

Sometimes I think I should really just take up programming. I apparently have a much neater sense of code than plenty of the geeks I know.

Earlier this month I had to take an ASP script and re-write it by hand to be a different script. Gah.

Then I took a ColdFusion page and moved all the bits around to be a completely different page. Cut-and-paste programming my specialty.

Today, for completely unrelated work reasons, I registered myself as an Apple Developer. (No, I haven’t in fact developed anything for iOS, whyever do you ask?)

Right now, I’m downloading the Java SE Development Kit by way of the Android SDK so I can fix the memory issues on my phone.

Yeah.

In which I am easily amused

1. For all you information goddesses out there: A Library Musical!

2. This morning I am building myself a small FileMaker database* (to track my archive materials and submissions). And in mucking around with the tools, I have discovered that you can create a button and assign to it, as its only function, “Beep”. And you can put text on the button that says, simply, “Beep!” And then when you go back to Browse mode, every one of your records has a little button on it that says “Beep!”, and if you click it, it goes, “Beep!”

* While I’m on the topic: Is there any way to set text fields to default to a specific entry on a value list, when a new record is created? I.e., to start with the first radio button selected, instead of my having to manually select it in four different fields for each new record?

[EDIT:] 3. I just had to e-mail someone the fonts for a book jacket. The three font names were Ean, Kievit, and Therm. If those aren’t the names of a trio of space aliens (or possibly Muppets), I don’t know what is.