A company where I’m currently contracting considers me their MailChimp expert. That is frightening to me, considering I’m usually just one step ahead of the hapless website owner and MailChimp user.

Every time I work on someone’s MailChimp issue, I learn something new. This should not be. It’s supposed to be easy and simple, not a brain-stretching learning opportunity: hooking up someone’s website with an email sign-up form. It’s not rocket surgery, but occasionally it feels like it.

I was tasked to replace a sign-up form on a WordPress (.org) site that did NOT go to a MailChimp database, with one that did. Easy enough: Logged into client’s account, found the list, clicked on the list title, then Sign Up Forms, then Embedded Forms. Created a form, copied the code into a text editor, added some styles to match the existing signup form, made it appear on the home page and at the end of every blog post, and thought I was done. Nope, there was also a sign-up page. Much easier than the template insert. All three looked slightly different but they worked, so I wasn’t going to sweat the layout.

Then the client said he wanted the sign up to go into a certain groups. I’d heard of groups, even seen them.. I had worked on another site where people could select the group they wanted to join as part of subscribing to the email. I found a kb article on Mailchimp describing how to do this. It was just a matter of copying and pasting the code with all the groups in it, and writing ‘checked’ next to the one you wanted it to automatically add to. And, making sure the ‘div’ was hidden, so the people signing up had no clue as to what group they were being added.

Only one problem. This code didn’t exist when the html embed form was created. I wasn’t crazy, it simply wasn’t there. And I didn’t know why.

The next day I got on the chat window with someone at Mailchimp (yes! they have chat support!). Now, I *had* gone into the ‘General’ form generator (as opposed to the embedded form generator I’d been using) and seen all these groups. The groups were set upon a blue field with a watermark saying “hidden”. Could it be? That because they are ‘hidden’ in the General form, they won’t generate any code in the embed? Turns out, yes. But I didn’t know how to unhide them to get the code. It wasn’t too hard: just had to click on the item in the blue area, and an option appeared on the right for “Field Visibility.” Making one group item visible made ALL of them visible… so I visibilized (new word!!) them just long enough to switch to the Embedded form, copy the missing generated code, then go back and make them invisible. (You thought I was going to write unvisibilize, didn’t you.)

It only took me two hours of hair pulling and surfing the net to figure out I couldn’t figure it out without help. At least I know now, for future group users of this mail monkey. Of course, this phenom, with the hidden fields, comes up NO WHERE AT ALL in the billions of documents online, some of them regarding MailChimp, nor does it appear in their own documentation, in any docs related to adding signup forms to websites. I think they need a sidebar or something, in that article. IN CASE LIST DOES NOT SHOW, BREAK GLASS. Okay don’t break any glass, but do make sure your groups aren’t hidden, and by the way, here is how to unhide them.

And… by the way again, (by another way?) I don’t recommend using a Mailchimp plugin. You can, but it’s one more plugin you have to keep updated. Why not just use the code from the source! That is, if you can find it.