Quick tip: Don’t keep me hanging on!

The Supremes had it right all the way back in 1966 when they warned against leaving people hanging. Although they weren't strictly speaking about email newsletters (I'm pretty confident about that), we can still take a lesson from them.

Too many email newsletters have fantastic design and useful content, but then they just suddenly...stop. The designer and author have put all that work into building interest, getting their readers involved, but then forget to give people something to do once they are finished reading.

Now in some cases, you just have the one big link you want people to click on, so it makes sense to end with the proverbial big red button. In other cases though, your email itself contains the value, whether it be an article, an announcement or whatever.

In those cases, once your reader has taken in the message, you've still got their attention. Instead of leaving them to wander off in their own time, why not give them something useful to do?

A recent Campaign Monitor gallery entry has a fantastic example of doing this really well:

Footer with links to previous newsletter and next issue information

The footer of the My Secret Playlist newsletter has two big sections - one linking to last weeks newsletter on their site, and one promoting what's coming up, also linking to news on the website.

So readers who have enjoyed the email can build on that by reading back issues, or checking out upcoming features. It's not intrusive or annoying, just a simple way of offering a way to get more information.

You might not take this exact approach for your designs, but what about a 'recently on our blog' feature? At the very least, make sure you link prominently to your website. It's amazing the number of designs we see that make it hard to get back to the sending site.

So next time you're designing a newsletter, remember: Don't leave your readers hanging.

Read this post Posted by Mathew Patterson - 2 Comments

Pimp your favorite web group

The native environment of the common-or-garden nerd, traditionally, is behind a monitor in a quiet room. However, sometimes the greatest experiences and best opportunities to learn come when getting together in meatspace.

We hear from a lot of new designers looking for general advice on design, and from designers wanting to build up their businesses. We'd love to able to direct those people to an awesome local design group, meetup or event, and that's where you come in.

Leave us a comment about your favorite local design group or event, and link it up! Tell us where it is, who it is for and where to find out more. To kick things off, here's a couple local to Freshview:

  • Sydney Web Standards Group — for web designers & developers who are interested in web standards and best practices. There are groups in many countries, but the Sydney one has regular meetings that are informative and great fun.
  • Web Directions South — The premier web design conference in Australia is coming up again, and every time we attend we meet awesome new people and learn something we can use.

Now, pimp that group!

Read this post Posted by Mathew Patterson - 8 Comments

Free t-shirts to a good home (or design studio)

We just received a big shipment of new Campaign Monitor tees this week, so I figured it was a good a time as any to remind you all about how you can get your hands on one.

Of course, there's the easy way, but instead of selling them we'd much rather reward you guys for doing what you do best - great design. We make the habit of sending a shirt to every designer that makes it into our design gallery, as well as those of you that help others and keep the conversation rolling in our forums.

So, if you're in the market for some email marketing nerd tees, get designing. We review every single email that's sent through Campaign Monitor, so if we spot anything special, we'll be sure to get in touch. Alternatively, if you've been putting the finishing touches on your own design and you think it should be in the gallery, let us know. And finally, don't forget to poke around the forums and help your fellow designers or start a conversation of your own.

Read this post Posted by David Greiner - 2 Comments

Using conditional comments to target Outlook 2007

The clever team over at SitePoint recently discovered a neat way to target Microsoft Office, and most importantly Outlook 2007 using conditional comments in your CSS.

For those new to the concept, conditional comments are a Microsoft only technique historically used to target specific versions of Internet Explorer. For example, you can write a separate set of CSS rules that will only be applied to Internet Explorer 6. You can read all about them and see examples here.

Importantly for us email designers, James Edwards from SitePoint has discovered that using the following conditional comment, you can actually target Outlook 2007.

<!--[if gte mso 9]>
 // This CSS will only be seen in Outlook 2007
<![endif]-->

Why would I use this?

Most of the time you probably wouldn't. As Mat recommended back in May, you really should be coding your email newsletters using tables and inline CSS to get the best results across the board anyway. This approach generally leads to a good result in Outlook 2007 without the need for special hacks (see exactly what CSS properties and selectors Outlook 2007 supports here).

However, there are plenty of times when every email client plays nice with your design, but for some reason Outlook 2007 just won't come to the party. We see plenty of examples of this when helping our customers with coding issues and in our forums. If you're in this frustrating position, this conditional comment method is a handy way to add Outlook 2007 specific code to try and fix the rendering issue without messing your design up in all other email clients.

An example of the method in action

To illustrate how handy this technique can be, I created a simple test email shown below. If anyone has tried to design an email with unordered lists , you'll know that Outlook's support is shaky at best. Here's the code for my test:

The CSS

<style type="text/css">
ul {
   margin: 0;
   padding: 0;
   list-style-position: inside; 
}
ul li {
   font: normal 12px arial, helvetica, sans-serif;
}
</style>

The HTML

<p>Here is a list:</p>
<ul>
   <li>List item 1</li>
   <li>List item 2</li>
   <li>List item 3</li>
   <li>List item 4</li>
</ul>

The screenshot on the left is how my email rendered in Outlook 2003, and on the right in Outlook 2007.

Outlook 2003 and 2007 without the conditional CSS

As you can see, Outlook 2007 refuses to show my bullets, whereas Outlook 2003 (and all other email clients) show them just fine. Using the conditional comment, I'll add some extra CSS for Outlook 2007 only that fixes the issue by adding an additional left margin to the unordered list.

The updated CSS with conditional comment

<style type="text/css">
ul {
   margin: 0;
   padding: 0;
   list-style-position: inside; 
}
ul li {
   font: normal 12px arial, helvetica, sans-serif;
}
</style>
<!--[if gte mso 9]>
<style>
ul {
   margin: 0 0 0 24px;
   padding: 0;
   list-style-position: inside;
}
</style>
<![endif]-->

With the new Outlook 2007 only CSS, I get the following results. Notice that the bullets are now visible because it recognizes the conditional CSS and applies the required left margin.

Outlook 2003 and 2007 with the conditional CSS

Impact on other email clients

When running these tests I also had a look at the impact of the conditional comments on other email clients including all flavors of Outlook, Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, Lotus Notes, Thunderbird, Apple Mail, Hotmail and AOL. From what I could gather, they didn't have any negative impact on these clients, but I recommend testing against them with your version before sending.

While the unordered list bug was the first example I could think of that would take advantage of this hack, I'm sure there are plenty of others. I think it's also worth echoing that this certainly isn't something you'll need to use all the time. But, for those odd occasions that Outlook 2007 is making life difficult, this could just be your saving grace.

Read this post Posted by David Greiner - 14 Comments

Web Design World in Seattle, WA

Web Design World, SeattleNext week is Web Design World in hopefully sunny Seattle, Washington.

There will be some great speakers, including Jared Spool, Steve Mulder and Dan Rubin

I'll be there both Monday and Tuesday to enjoy it and I know some of you are from Seattle and might be there as well. So if you are going to be attending Web Design World, we'd love to hear from you and try to arrange some kind of meetup.

Leave a comment or fire through an email to let me know! There will be a few Campaign Monitor shirts to be had, and you'll have a chance to sell me on that great feature request you've been dying for.

Read this post Posted by Diana Potter - 1 Comment

“The best, most intelligent web application I’ve ever used”

I'd like to say that Campaign Monitor is the best, most intelligent web application I've ever used. I've also just started using MailBuild and it looks just as impressive.

Brian Qualls

Read this post Posted by David Greiner
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