contentgrrl

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Posts Tagged ‘email’

Poll: Email Newsletters or Onesies?

Posted by contentgrrl on April 11, 2010

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Posted in citizen, community, marketing, office, persuasion, publishing, reading, tools, Uncategorized, writing | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Best Advice on Coding HTML Email Templates

Posted by contentgrrl on October 22, 2009

Sometimes, HTML emails just don’t work the way you expect. In my day job, I distribute HTML emails using a variety of applications, including Marketo, GroupMail 5, and a proprietary app integrated with our software issue tracker. Sometimes, despite my painstaking validation and link-checking, when I use the latter I get recipient feedback of broken links with all styles stripped, my link href URLs stripped and replaced with “/”, and other design nightmares.

The solution? You may have guessed the proprietary app, but it’s not necessarily the problem.   You have to design HTML email templates as if you’re stuck in the mid-90’s, ‘cuz that’s how standardized email clients are.

Anand Graves’s simple WordPress blog includes the most straightforward and comprehensive HTML Email Guide I’ve ever seen.

For everyone who sends HTML emails, here are a few highlights:

  • Much as we love/hate Microsoft Office — do not use Word or Outlook or even copy & paste from them. Office inserts a ridiculous quantity of hard-to-remove mso formatting tags. Thankfully, the WYSIWYG Adobe Dreamweaver ($$$) has a command to clean up Word HTML. If you don’t have the Adobe option and are collaborating with someone who insists on working in Office or Outlook, it’s worth it to paste into Notepad, which strips out all formatting, and then copy and paste into an HTML editor that affords highly clean markup. I invested in Adobe’s Creative Suite, but if i had to go without WYSIWYG, I also like Notepad++ (free). I also like the online WYSIWYG http://www.online-html-editor.org/ in a pinch.
  • Use tables for layout, nesting a narrower 580-pixel-wide table within a 100% table, where the outer table’s cell has a white background. This is to accommodate recipient email clients that ignore the body tag where you usually define the background, as well as email clients that will display your email in a narrow preview (like Outlook 2007, Hotmail, Yahoo, and the like, to accommodate their banner and skyscraper ads.
  • For images, specify both title and alt attributes for cross-browser display of the image description in case your recipient client doesn’t display images by default.
  • Get several Webemail accounts for testing, including Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo!, and AIM (AOL), and get desktop clients including Outlook Express, MS Outlook 2003/2007, & Mozilla Thunderbird.

Things I didn’t think of that Anand did:

  • Remove unnecessary HTML tags that will be ignored or removed between you and the recipient. Surprisingly, these include Doctype, HTML, body, meta, head, base, link, script, title, frames, and comments.
  • Instead of stylesheets (Unfortunately, body and head stylesheets are often ignored and replaced with client-specific styles over which you have no control), use inline styles in table cells to define the default font, font color, and font size for your content:
    <td style="font-family: Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 10px; text-transform: uppercase; color: black">Content</td>
    
  • Use similar inline font/size/color styles in hypertext links, and use short URLs (extensively long URLs tend to get wrapped and broken):
    <a href="http://www.tinyurl.com/####/" style="font-family: Verdana, font-size: 11px; color: blue">blah</a>
  • Send the email as multipart/alternative, one part HTML, the alternative part plain text for the remaining recipients out there whose email clients don’t display HTML. I would rely on the email delivery software or service to be able to handle this (as advised by GroupMail and MailChimp), but Anand Graves’ HTML Email Guide has included instructions for doing it with PHPMailer, available under LGPL license.

Related Links:
http://spamcheck.sitesell.com/
http://www.mailchimp.com/articles/stupid-html-email-design-mistakes/
http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2007/10/16/best-practices-for-bulletproof-e-mail-delivery/

Posted in marketing, persuasion, publishing, writing | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Email Disclaimers Can Make Signatures Silly

Posted by contentgrrl on July 10, 2008

Many emails in the business-to-business world discuss how to solve a business problem, information that could be dangerous in the hands of a competitor. So I’ve been a stickler for the confidential & proprietary disclaimer:

This electronic transmission contains information that may be confidential or proprietary. If you are not the intended recipient, be aware that any disclosure, copying, distribution or use of the contents hereof is strictly prohibited. If you have received this transmission in error, please notify [email address here].

The “email address here” for my employer is an email alias for an admin assistant. When the former admin left, we had trouble defining exactly what should happen if the new admin got any notifications to that address. It looks like we never actually got any such notifications. I suppose we could send it to our legal advisors, but hopefully they wouldn’t find a way to punish the whistleblower.

In my employer’s exercise of rebranding, we’re instituting a common look for our email signatures. I was looking for a disclaimer much shorter and simpler (better not be too sweet about it).

What I found was this:
http://www.goldmark.org/jeff/stupid-disclaimers/

The Goldmark article discusses why they’re stupid, gives a list of the most stupid disclaimers, along with some silly ones. My favorite:

Your eyes are weary from staring at the CRT. You feel sleepy. Notice how restful it is to watch the cursor blink. Close your eyes. The opinions stated above are yours. You cannot imagine why you ever felt otherwise.

The Goldmark article also makes a suggestion…

Email from people at your.domain.here does not usually represent official policy of Your-Organization-Here. See URL-Of-Policy-Document-Here for details.

… with the caveat that perhaps it’s so weak it’s not worth having at all, but at least it doesn’t make silly unsupportable claims.

I like the reference to the policy online, because the legal counselors can say whatever they need, and it’s just the one page.

Let’s try something even simpler:

This message may be subject to nondisclosure, copyright and privacy policy (URL here).

What do you think? Better than having a signature that’s so long it overwhelms a simple response of “OK.”

Posted in marketing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »