Where did the web site go?

Hey guys. First off, apologies for the web site being unavailable the past few hours. You'll be pleased to know this had absolutely no impact on the Campaign Monitor service. Your emails were still being sent and tracked, new subscribers were being added to lists and you could even access your account at app.campaignmonitor.com.

So what happened? We had a serious hardware failure on our web server that needed to be fixed right there and then. As soon as this was identified, our data centre technicians rebuilt the server, restored the backup and the system is now online and purring along nicely.

A big thanks to those customers who dropped us a line about the issue, and thanks also for your patience as we resolved it. We're now making a number of changes behind the scenes to make sure this kind of issue won't take the site down with it moving forward.

Read this post Posted by David Greiner - 4 Comments

Always include the width and height attributes in your image tags

As image blocking in email continues to become the norm, one absolute must is to make sure you include the width and height attributes in your image tags.

When most email clients (especially desktop based ones like Outlook) disable images, they show an empty image placeholder in its place. Because these email clients don't actually download the images from the server, the only way they can figure out the dimensions of that placeholder is to look at the included width and height attributes. If none or only one is provided, they just take a guess, which in almost every case results in completely destroying what's left of your design.

Here's a perfect example of this in action. Just this morning I received an email newsletter that only specified the height for most images in the email, and not the width. When Outlook displayed the email, it got the height right, but was way off on the width side. Here's how the email looked when I first opened it:

The original email with images disabled

To see a comparison of how it's supposed to look, here's a screenshot of the email with images enabled:

The original email with images enabled

By not including the width attribute in any image tags, Outlook had no idea what width to use and its best guess was unfortunately way off. This made an otherwise readable email a complete nightmare that was almost impossible to get anything out of.

To provide a comparison, I checked out the source and added the correct width attribute to each image to see what the new results would be. Here's a screenshot of the new version that took about 5 minutes to update:

The improved email with images disabled

The updated version that includes all width and height attributes is a big improvement over the initial version. It clearly resembles the intended design and I can easily scan the table of contents and start scrolling to read the rest of the content. The email is completely usable even with no images being visible.

While there are certainly better examples of emails designed to look and work well with images disabled, the point is still very convincing. By ensuring width and height attributes are present for all image tags, we give our subscribers a much better chance of getting a usable email, even with images disabled.

Read this post Posted by David Greiner - 3 Comments

What’s been happening behind the scenes

We've been hard at work on a slew of improvements and bug fixes behind the scene the last few weeks, and I figured it would be worth posting a quick summary of these as there are a number of you guys that have been waiting on them patiently.

Internationalization

We've made some further tweaks to handle encoding for non English character campaigns. We now automatically encode the To name for each recipient when it contains non-standard characters. We've also added some smarts to how we encode your subject lines depending on the types of characters used. Thanks to many of our non English speaking customers for helping us get this spot on.

Segments

As well as launching segments functionality in MailBuild, we've also squashed a few annoying bugs in Campaign Monitor. This update brings some big improvements to the does not equal and greater than and less than rules, especially when working with numbers.

Help and API

As we keep adding new functionality, the variety of shortcut tags available (such as forward to a friend, unsubscribe, web versions, etc) can get harder to remember. We've just added a topic to the site and app help database that brings them all together in one place.

For those clever customers using the API to capture new subscribers, we've also made some tweaks so that all confirmation and verification emails sent to new subscribers support the [unsubscribe] tag allowing subscribers to instantly opt-out if they no longer wish to subscribe.

Read this post Posted by David Greiner

Downtime Notice

Some customers would have had a problem accessing their account for up to an hour today due to an apparent power outage at the data centre Campaign Monitor calls home. This not only affected us but thousands of other larger sites around the web. We were back on track not long after the issue surfaced, but wanted to keep everyone in the loop.

We're still waiting for the full explanation, but I imagine whoever was responsible for keeping the diesel in the generator is probably having a very bad day. Our sincere apologies for the downtime, this one was unfortunately out of our control. If we get any more newsworthy details about what happened, we'll add an update here.

Read this post Posted by David Greiner

Updated CSS Support in Email Report

After we posted an update to the CSS Support article last week, a few of you mentioned that the new PDF layout made it hard to make out the results when printed in black and white. Not only this, but it was also a challenge for anyone who was color-blind.

About the same time, Martin Focazio from New York based Magnani Caruso Dutton approached us about taking the PDF version a step further (actually, about 5 steps further). Martin reworked the results to make it much clearer which CSS selectors and properties offered the best support across the board. These were then sorted into Safe, Risky and Poorly Supported to make it much easier to decide which properties to aim for.

Screenshot of the new report

Download the spiffy new results in PDF iconPDF (91kb) or Excel iconExcel (80kb)

To top it off, the new file also includes the percentage of support each email environment offers. We've also updated the original post to include the new version of the findings. A huge thanks to Martin for all his hard work, and to everyone else for giving us feedback on the original version. As usual, we'll keep our eyes peeled for any changes in each environment moving forward. If you spot anything, let us know.

Update: I've added the Excel version of the results so you guys can tweak it to your hearts content.

Read this post Posted by David Greiner - 6 Comments

“You have me sold!”

You have me sold! I have been searching for years on how I can offer stylish email newsletters to my clients, but no one wanted to part with that valuable information without a pricetag. If I knew it was going to be as simple as designing a webpage and uploading it to Campaign Monitor, I would have contacted you eons ago! Thanks for making something so wonderful available to everyone!

Doris Cush, Owner, Fraidy Kat Design

Read this post Posted by Mathew Patterson

How far does permission stretch?

I received an email recently from a well known writer in the IT industry with the subject line 'Please help save my marriage :)'. I recognised his name in the 'from' field, otherwise I would have deleted it immediately.

This is how the email began:

Dear Subscriber,
One way or another, you have found your way into my database of contacts over time, and I hope you have found value in the newsletters you have received. I am now appealing to you as a husband, at the "request" (you know what I mean) of my wife.

Obviously he considered that me signing up at some point for one of his newsletters gave him permission to email me on a completely unrelated topic. This is a mistake that our customers sometimes make too.

When we talk about having permission to email people we are talking about something quite specific. It's an agreement from your subscriber to receive emails about a particular topic, or related to a particular transaction.

Even when you have that permission, there are times when you might decide your message is not actually relevant to the reason people initially subscribed. It's about treating your subscribers respectfully, and not just emailing everyone you are 'technically' allowed to.

A recent post at ReturnPath raises the same issues, and suggests a few times when you should no longer assume you have a subscriber's permission to email them. So when you are explaining permission to your clients, it's important to help them understand that there is different types of permission, and it's always better to err on the side of caution than to risk spam complaints.

Don't forget about our permission handouts either, they are a helpful reminder of what constitutes permission, and what does not.

Read this post Posted by Mathew Patterson
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