My readers know that I’m a huge fan of Aweber. I’ve been with them myself for years and I truly think they’re the best option out there.
However, their new message editor is… disappointing.
The Editor Shortcomings
My standard workflow when I send out an email is to write the message in a text editor and then paste it into Aweber. Alternatively, I will sometimes type the email directly into Aweber.
Most of my emails are simple text-only emails. We do have a full HTML newsletter for PCMech, but I have a custom system which generates the HTML and then we just paste that into Aweber.
In contrast to this, the new Aweber message editor works with “blocks”. You drag and drop different design elements into it and assemble the message from scratch. For the right target audience (think “newb”), it sounds good on paper. In practice, however, it is wonky as hell. The first time I brought up the editor, I literally COULD NOT figure out how to create a message. I was totally blocked – and I’m not exactly technically challenged.
Now, you don’t have to use blocks if you don’t want to. They do have an option to paste HTML into the new editor. But, the way it is set up is just confusing as hell. If you click the button to paste in HTML, you get warned with a nastygram saying all your data will be lost. If you proceed and paste in HTML, then switch to text-only view at the top, it again warns you you’ll lose all your work.
Now, I realize that that particular text button is the wrong one to press, but that isn’t obvious AT ALL.
So, the motto here is that the whole message creation process now takes a lot of extra clicks to get to the right screens, dismiss error messages, etc.
With all this clicking and dismissing of errors, you’ve also got general wonkiness with regard to the interface size. For example, if I’m on a laptop, the new block editor almost disappears when I scroll downward. If I’m in paste-HTML mode, when I click on the text view, the screen jumps back up again.
Is Aweber Ignorant Of Their User’s Needs And Wants?
I have to ask. I mean, I’ve had a few discussions with people on Facebook who also use Aweber… and I have yet to find a SINGLE person who prefers this editor. We’re all happy that at least they have the option to still use the old one.
When I complained directly to Aweber, I got this response via email:
The new editor was a project years in the making, and was completely developed off of customer feedback as well as improvements that would eliminate common errors caused by the old version. The Beta version of the editor had been available in your account for several months, and while it is easier to make upgrades during a Beta period, we are still open to any suggestions you may have. I can certainly understand that the new editor is quite different from the old one, however like I have already mentioned, we are 100% open to suggestions if you see room for improvement anywhere.
The part that floored me was that it was “completely developed off of customer feedback.” Really? Because, I can’t find anybody who likes this.
I’m guessing the “customer feedback” they got was from the people who complained – only. The majority of their users (like me) were just silently using the product. I’m not going to bother to tell them I like it. It just… is.
As a long-time customer, I never got any pro-active survey from Aweber. Surely, they must have all Aweber customers in an email list. Couldn’t they proactively email us and get us to provide feedback in how we use it and how we like it? Because, I’ll tell them. But, I’m not very likely to proactively give them feedback unless I have a complaint.
I think Aweber innocently thought they were reacting to customer feedback, but in reality, they weren’t. They were listening to customer support, most likely. And support is for problems and confusions – not the entire user base.
And re-writing the entire editor wasn’t necessary in order to fix a few minor issues. I mean, what’s so confusing to people about a simple HTML window and a TEXT window. That’s what the “old” editor was – and it worked just fine except for a few odd little WYSIWYG quirks. Nothing major.
To the degree that Aweber listens and may come across this post… that’s why I wrote it.
I still like Aweber. I think they’re a great company with great people. I’ve even had the opportunity to hang out a bit with Tom, the CEO of the company. Really cool guy.
I don’t want to see them fall off their pedestal.
In this instance, I think they mis-estimated the “customer feedback” they were receiving with their message editor. And they over-corrected in a huge way.
I’m not one of those people who is opposed to change. Change is normal. But, when it makes a product inherently more difficult to use, it isn’t change for the better.
About 3 hours after originally publishing this, I am re-titling it. I originally called it “garbage” and I’ve changed it to “disappointment”. Here’s why…
Creating this editor obviously took a lot of work. And, the company is trying. Calling it “garbage” in the heat of my battling it is not appropriate. The editor isn’t garbage… and as a guy who used to do a lot of programming, I know what it takes to create something like that.
It does, however, miss the mark. The rest of my points stand. I just wanted to clarify my comments.