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The Art and Science of Creating Something New

Our first Change with Confidence newsletter launched this week after six weeks of development.

This initiative is part art project and part science experiment. The selection of the articles that Mel, Tim and I made is the art; our commentary explaining why we selected them is the science. 

The most interesting part of creating the first issue was its design. Kro, my website developer, designed the template from rough drawings made in Powerpoint. He also added layout and design elements. Mel, Tim and I made revisions the same way we do on our consulting assignments – quickly, building on each other’s thoughts.

We selected MailChimp as the vehicle to create, send and track our newsletter. It was Kro’s program of choice. Also, I remember Michael Hyatt, an excellent business blogger, recommending it. 
MailChimp’s website boasts 6,000 new users a day and we decided to become one of them.

MailChimp is powerful, flexible and easy to use, at least when you use it correctly. I had neglected to fill in the first and last name fields in the distribution database which resulted in blank salutations during our test run. It was an easy fix that required two hours of typing. It didn’t feel easy at the time.

I really appreciate the feedback we received. Most of the notes were sent the day of distribution. There were many thanks, good ideas for future issues and offers to forward it to friends and colleagues. Some people even noted the articles they read.

Like all ongoing, repeatable projects, I am intrigued by how it will evolve. Will we make any immediate design changes, what articles will we select next time, will the tones of our commentary change? I know that each issue will be shaped by our interests, experiences and learnings, like all art and science.

Phil

What would it take for you to subscribe to a newsletter?

One of the simplest and most important design elements of my web site is the newsletter registration form.

Kro and Mel, the designers of my site, and I discussed how it should look and where it should be located to maximize subscriptions. Our goal was for everyone who advanced past the home page to have the opportunity to sign up. We agreed to put the form on every page that had space for it. 

I have always been a fan of newsletters. They provide relevant information in short, easy-to-read articles. The content is tailored to one of my interests and sourcing them myself would be difficult and time consuming. 

The Change with Confidence newsletter needs to offer these attributes to people delivering change. Our aspiration is to create a clipping service of change-related articles that have caught our eye. Each one will include an introduction explaining the reasons for selecting it and how it could be helpful to the reader. Given this context, readers will decide whether each article is worth reading (if any of them).

The format of the newsletter is important too. It needs to be a clean design that is easily scanable. It should take less than a minute to identify what is worthy of someone’s time.

Digg and  Stumbleupon are inspirations for the look of the newsletter. They are simple, easy to read and visually appealing. 

Newsletter Format Prototype

Kro created a prototype that we are populating for the first issue. Each monthly newsletter will begin with a summary blurb of the articles we select followed by the articles and commentary. We will launch a six-article format because nine seemed too long and three seemed too short. Ultimately, the readers will decide what is the best length for the newsletter. 

The first issue will be distributed in less than two weeks. My hope is that readers will find the articles current, eclectic and thought provoking. Ultimately, they will decide what types of articles are best for them.

I am excited by the launch. Our newsletter provides one more way to help people deliver change. If interested, you can subscribe here.

Phil

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