Support for Animated GIFs in HTML Emails

We've updated our results for animated GIF support in email. Check out our latest post.

I’m not one for Flash, but many web designers obviously use it. Some for interactivity and others for animation. In the web environment the latter is a replacement for animation formats of days old: animated GIFs. But Flash isn’t supported in the email environment, so for web designers accustomed to using animation to communicate a message are left searching for alternatives. Enter animated GIFs.

I’m not going to argue about whether animated GIFs are a sufficient replacement for Flash or whether they are the devil or anything else of that nature. Rather, I’m simply going to share what I’ve learned about support for them in the email environment. The results are dizzying, so try to keep up.

The Results

Every single email client I tested supports animated GIFs. Well, except for one: Outlook 2007. Big surprise. Though if you carefully plan your animation, this news may not be so bad. Outlook 2007 displays the first frame of the GIF as a static image. So if your first frame works as a static image, you are in good shape.

Some Advice

I’m like a mother sharing advice you don’t necessarily want but that you do actually need. So I have some helpful tips for you regarding use of animated GIFs:

  • Don’t forget about accessibility. If you use animated images to tell a story, ensure everyone gets the message. Consider those with low or no visibility, slow connections and those who pay per kilobyte on their mobile devices.
  • Learn from history. Blinking, strobing or streaking text or graphics sucked in 1999 and they suck now, too. Leave the annoying animations behind.
  • Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Enough said.
  • Be creative. Just as any tool in web design, we can use animated GIFs to enhance our message in non-invasive ways.

So that’s where animated GIFs stand in the email environment. Enjoy if you must.

Read this post Posted by Administrator - 13 Comments

Fast access to email marketing information

If you have ever tried searching for information about email marketing, you will know that you can be lost in a sea of out of date, inaccurate or just plain dodgy information. That's why Mark Brownlow, the brains behind Email Marketing Reports, has put together OnlineMarketing.info, a custom search engine using Google Co-op.

It lets you search a collection of hand picked sites known to have reliable and useful information about email marketing (including our sites). Next time you are looking for some help with an email marketing issue, save yourself some time and head over there first.

Read this post Posted by Mathew Patterson - 2 Comments

Campaign Monitor in 3 minutes or less

We've just put the finishing touches on a new demo movie for Campaign Monitor. We wanted to put something together that covered all the benefits of using Campaign Monitor in a few short minutes. Check it out now, you'll need Flash installed to watch it.

Preview and download the templates

It's always a tough call to work out what features to highlight and just as importantly leave out for a demo like this. We're really happy with how it all came together in the end. What do you guys think, does it sum up the Campaign Monitor experience?

Read this post Posted by David Greiner - 2 Comments

“I’ve totally fallen for Campaign Monitor!”

I've totally fallen for Campaign Monitor, it has every feature I could ever want! The reporting is so impressive and I love the way my clients sign into their own reports via my website. Your customer service has been fantastic so far too.

Anna Yeaman, Style Campaign

Read this post Posted by David Greiner

30 free great looking HTML email templates

Ensuring your emails look awesome across every major email client out there can be a lot of work. To make your job that little bit easier, we've just put together 30 free email templates that look fantastic and have been tested in all the major email environments. Not even Outlook 2007 could stop these suckers looking great.

Preview and download the templates

The templates range from simple, single column emails through to more complex 2 column newsletters with different types of content. We've also been careful to keep the use of images to a minimum, so the templates look great even when images have been disabled. Changing the color scheme to suit your own brand is as simple as making a few simple tweaks to the code. What are you waiting for? Preview and download the templates now.

Read this post Posted by David Greiner - 12 Comments

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
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