Why permission is never enough

Something we cover on this blog and in our help over and over again is the importance of having explicit permission before you email someone. However, just having that explicit permission is not enough. Recently the FTC Spam Summit 2007 was held in Washington, subtitled "The Next Generation of Threats and Solutions".

According to Jordan Cohen of Epsilon , some of the top ISPs and email providers are moving to a looser definition of spam than is currently held. According to Jordan, a Yahoo representative said:

Operationally, we define spam as whatever consumers don't want in their inbox.

Other influential people were heading in the same direction - it's not enough that someone originally asked you for email, they have to actually keep wanting to receive it. Getting someone onto your list is not the end of your job. You have to work at keeping them happy too.

So what does that mean for you as a designer? One key point is to recognise that some percentage of people on your list probably don't want to be on it. You should make it much easier for them to unsubscribe than to mark it as spam. So don't hide your unsubscribe link in tiny font or bury it in a paragraph.

Every campaign needs to be absolutely relevant for your subscribers. Secondly, keep encouraging your clients to concentrate on list quality instead of list size. Work on making the content more valuable to your subscribers so they want to keep getting it. That's your best ongoing protection against spam complaints.

Read this post Posted by Mathew Patterson - 2 Comments

There are typos, and then there are typos!

I sent out the Campaign Monitor newsletter to 30,000 or so of our customers and subscribers last night, which you can check out here. Before I send each newsletter, I normally run it through most of the popular email clients to make sure it still looks fine, plus forward it around to a few members of the team for a good old proof read.

Yesterday was a busy one, with the launch of our t-shirt store and some pretty big feature updates happening behind the scenes. By the time the newsletter was good to go, I was the only one left in the office. Wanting to get the newsletter out, I worked through my standard tests, gave it another quick read, got over the famous send button anxiety and sent it out.

It took a good 3 minutes after the newsletter was sent before the first email came in. I tell you, send button anxiety is nothing compared to knowing you've just sent an email with the word "ass" in it to all your customers. I've already received 40 or so hilarious emails from you guys - here are some favourites so far...

That's been making me laugh all morning. Perhaps in your next newsletter you could explain how we can learn to ass our content.
That's the funniest typo i've seen in awhile! Thanks for lightening up my morning!
Can someone over there show me how to "ass" content?
"Just tweak the colors, ass your content and your all set." Reason #89234 why spell-check is never enough ;)

So why am I rubbing this in my own face? Just a friendly reminder from the Campaign Monitor team about making sure you proof-read every newsletter you send. Not everyone needs to learn the hard way.

Read this post Posted by David Greiner - 10 Comments

Campaign Monitor tees - flaunt the nerd within!

It's been a long wait but the Campaign Monitor t-shirts have finally arrived. A big thanks to everyone who voted and left comments in our quick survey. We had hundreds of votes cast and decided to go with the top 3 designs as voted by you. Once the tally was complete, we hired designer Trent Agnew to turn your ideas into a thing of beauty. We're super happy with the results and are pretty confident you guys have helped produce the coolest email nerd shirts the world has ever seen.

Without further adue, the winners are...

Security! by Mark Brownlow

Security! by Mark Brownlow

Receiving almost half the total votes, a big congratulations goes to Mark Brownlow from Email Marketing Reports for the winning tagline. Not only does he have one of the best email blogs on the web, but turns out he's damn funny too! We'll be sending Mark a copy of each shirt along with some other cool prizes.

The Counter by Jason Dancisin

The Counter by Jason Dancisin

Coming in at second place was Jason Dancisin's simple but effective "This shirt has been viewed 4782 times". We instantly loved this one and were glad to see it voted in. We're sending Jason a copy of each shirt, the awesome SitePoint email marketing kit and loading his account with some free email credits.

I'm single by our own Mat Patterson

I'm Single by Mat Patterson

Someone in the office thinks they're pretty clever! We were stoked to see Mat's early design we used when begging you guys for help come in at third place. Here's the redesigned version.

The final voting tally

For those of you that made the final round but missed out on getting printed, thanks again for the hilarious suggestions. Here's a pretty graph showing the vote counts for the top 10 designs our team selected.

T-shirt votes

Finally, we're still overwhelmed with the response we've had to this and are so glad we could involve you all in the process. There are two things we've taken away from this.

  1. Our customers are damn funny.
  2. Penis jokes are alive and well.

Moving forward, we plan on sending a shirt to anyone who makes it into the design gallery and any customers who we spot doing something special with Campaign Monitor or helping out in our forums.

Grab your own copy

We've set up a small online store where you can check out the shirts in more detail and grab one in your own size. On a side note, the store was built in less than a day with the awesome Shopify - one of the most impressive web apps I've used in a long time.

Head on over to the store and flaunt the email marketing nerd within.

Read this post Posted by David Greiner - 9 Comments

Tables in HTML Emails: Nesting, Padding and Widths, Oh My

I would like to preface this article by stating that I use standards-based markup to build my HTML emails and my websites. But for those of you who are familiar with other articles posted here at Campaign Monitor about HTML emails will know that standards-based markup results in formatting not unlike rich-text format (RTF) in many popular email clients. I’m comfortable with this and so are my clients. Well, they are once they learn about how web standards ensures accessibility and cross client/platform/device content-compatibility and helps emails reach legitimate subscribers without being eradicated by spam filters.

But not every web designer has the grace and charm of Mark Wyner, and therefore many face clients and bosses who demand they build HTML emails for design integrity at any cost. (Oh how this reeks of the “browsers vs. web-standards” battles of old.)

So for those of you who must use tables in your HTML emails, I have some information about how they perform across the board. I ran some tests and discovered that, while I couldn’t find a perfect solution, I did manage to collect some useful tips to make your tables behave for the most part.

Table Math, Meet Box-Model Math

So it turns out that when one places table widths, td widths, td padding and CSS padding into a blender, the results are quite chaotic. Inconsistent, to the say the least. Take, for example, the following table:

<table cellspacing="0" cellpadding="0" border="0" width="400">
<tr>
<td width="100"></td>
<td width="300"></td>
</tr>
</table>

Just as intended, the resulting width of this table is 400 pixels and the width of the columns are 100 and 300 pixels:

[screen shot]

But when some padding is added—via either CSS or HTML—the widths of the columns are compromised:

However, when table width is kissed good bye, the results are not unlike a CSS box model. If padding is added to the original example and the table width is removed, the code looks like this:

<table cellspacing="0" cellpadding="10" border="0">
<tr>
<td width="80"></td>
<td width="280"></td>
</tr>
</table>

And, as intended, the resulting widths are correct for both the table and the columns:

But note how the td widths were reduced to accommodate the new padding. This is just like the CSS box model in which 100 pixels wide + 10 pixels padding = 120 pixels total.

Nested Tables

If a table is nested inside another, the aforementioned rules apply with the exception of a couple important variances:

  • Yahoo Mail (new), Gmail, Outlook 2007 and Eudora apply extra width to account for borders. But only when they are nested, as the parent table behaves appropriately.
  • Applying widths to td tags that also have CSS or HTML padding creates confusion across the board. Nearly every client renders the widths in its own unique fashion.
  • Even without any borders there are variances in width by 2–4 pixels for a nested table with two columns. My tests were inconclusive as to the rhyme and reason behind this unnatural phenomenon. Just know that pixel perfect isn’t an option (unless there is some hidden secret behind this).

Clients Tested

Webmail

  • Yahoo Mail
  • Yahoo Mail Beta
  • Windows Live Hotmail (old)
  • Windows Live Hotmail (new)
  • Gmail
  • .Mac
  • AOL

Desktop

  • Apple Mail
  • Thunderbird
  • Outlook 2007
  • Outlook 2003
  • Outlook Express
  • Eudora
  • Lotus Notes

So there you have it. Please do your best to educate your clients/bosses about how the benefits of standards-based markup far outweigh design integrity across the board. But if you fall short of convincing them and are forced to use tables for layout, take note of the lessons outlined herein. You’ll save yourself a nasty headache.

Read this post Posted by Administrator - 19 Comments

Campaign Monitor forums — join the discussions

You're a web designer, you live on the web. You already know a hundred different places you can get a fast answer on your IE6 bug question, or some handy javascript snippets for your forms.

Maybe you've tried asking for help with html email though - half the replies are flaming you for even considering sending it, and most of the rest recommend sending it in one huge image. Just not helpful.

That's why we are launching the Campaign Monitor email design forums as a place for designers to discuss the unique problems and opportunities designing html and text for email. If you're wondering how Lotus Notes goes with forms, or how high your email header should be, this is the place for you.

You don't even have to be using Campaign Monitor, just have some passion for making email a better experience for everyone. We'd love to hear how you use html email, what works for you and what doesn't. Share your knowledge with other designers, and get help with your own problems.

We won't be tolerating pointless flame wars there, it's all been done before and there are better places to vent your spleen. Just good solid information, and a chance to have a chat with other people working in the same area as you. We would love to here from you all - we've kicked off with a welcome post, so take a minute to register and jump in and introduce yourself.

We'll be giving away one of our very-nearly-ready t-shirts to someone introducing themself in that thread too. Look out for more t-shirt news shortly.

Join the Campaign Monitor forums today!

Read this post Posted by Mathew Patterson

Forward to a Friend reporting updates

We've always had a very strict permission policy at Campaign Monitor with clear-cut rules about what does and doesn't constitute permission. There was however one piece of functionality which perhaps relaxed our high standards a little - forward to a friend reporting.

To date, we not only store which of your subscribers forward your email to a friend or colleague, we also told you exactly who they forwarded it to. We certainly didn't add these friends to a list or anything nasty like that, but we did expose their details nonetheless. To compound the problem, it wasn't crystal clear on the Forward to a Friend page that your friend's details were even being captured. Another slap on our wrists.

While we never had any negative incidents or complaints around this issue, it's clearly not best practice and we've gone ahead and stopped capturing exactly who forwards to who. Instead, you'll now see which subscribers forwarded your email and how many people they forwarded it to. This change has also been applied to any previous campaigns you've sent.

From personal experience, I know how interesting this data was, but individual's details were being exposed to the campaign sender without their permission. We need to put the privacy of these people first. If you're hoping to capture new subscribers via the Forward to a Friend feature, we recommend adding a prominent link in each email encouraging new subscribers to sign up, then link right to the subscribe form on your site.

Read this post Posted by David Greiner - 8 Comments

Quick update to the Campaign Snapshot

One problem we always had with the Campaign Snapshot is that it wasn't immediately clear which subscribers you sent that campaign to. Sure, you can see the total number of recipients, but not which lists those subscribers came from.

Today we did a little reshuffling with the Campaign Snapshot to make it easier to see exactly who you sent that campaign to. Even if you sent it to multiple lists, some segments and even manually added a few recipients, we'll show it all here. Here's a quick screenshot of the updated snapshot for a campaign sent to 3 different subscriber lists:

Preview and download the templates

By Clicking on the 3 subscriber lists link in the Sent to row, we reveal exactly which lists were sent to, including the number of subscribers in each:

Preview and download the templates

Finally, to make it a little clearer, we also moved the date sent under the Campaign Snapshot title.

Read this post Posted by David Greiner - 1 Comment

Recent designs from Campaign Monitor users

Benton Nyce Presents Dumbo Feather PPR Monthly Photographic Journal

The gallery of great designs by Campaign Monitor users continues to expand, showcasing lots of different email design approaches for your inspiration.

Follow the gallery's RSS feed and don't forget to check out our new free base templates.

Read this post Posted by Mathew Patterson - 5 Comments

Quick template update

Preview and download the templatesAfter some great feedback from a few customers, we've made some further tweaks to the 30 pack of email templates we released last week. These changes improve the results in Outlook 2007 even further, while still maintaining a consistent look in all the other email environments.

Along the way we learnt about a number of key quirks in the Outlook 2007 (um, Word) rendering engine, which we plan on posting about in the next few days. We recommend downloading the latest pack to make sure all your recipients using Outlook 2007 get the benefits of these tweaks.

Read this post Posted by David Greiner

“Quite honestly one of the best tools I’ve ever come across”

Campaign Monitor is quite honestly one of the best tools I've ever come across. Having been asked by one of my clients to research this area for them and having spent hours Googling for information and becoming more and more confused and frustrated, I finally spoke to one of your existing customers who put me on to you - thank God he did.

Your service is a credit to the industry and I only wish that more companies would take the same approach. I'm not exactly a novice to web technology (but no expert either) and your clear and concise explanations made what is a potential minefield for someone like myself extremely easy to understand and to use.

Many thanks, and keep up the good work. I'll be taking full advantage of your service in the near future and have already recommended you to others.

Alex Barker, Alex Barker Design

Read this post Posted by David Greiner
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