The all new billing system for MailBuild

We refrain as much possible from discussing other product news in the Campaign Monitor blog, but this one was just too juicy to resist. Late last week we pushed out a big update to MailBuild that allows your clients pay for campaign delivery with their own credit cards.

Not only that, but you can even set your own marked-up rates for each client and that's what we'll charge them. We'll then take our cut, put your profit aside and send it to you each month via PayPal. Here's a quick screenshot to give you the idea.

Create your own fee structure and pocket the difference

This new update makes it so much easier to manage how your clients use their account and is also a great way to create a new revenue stream without lifting a finger. If you've got any clients that would like to send their own emails based on templates you design, now's a better time than ever to create your own MailBuild account.

Read this post Posted by David Greiner

If Cupid had email…

SolDesign's Valentine's emailWell it's Valentine's Day again (we'll pause here for all those people who forgot...we're in Australia; there might be enough time left for you to get to the shop). If you've seen enough chubby babies and puppies with red ribbon bows to get you through the rest of the year, you'll be relieved to see that there are better options out there. We've been checking out the Valentine's Day emails, and we've found a couple that are worth checking out. The first is from SolDesign in Georgia, USA. They've put together a great email of creative ideas for Valentine's Day, in a beautiful, minimal design. Check out the links for some afternoon-eating fun.

Web 2.0 ValentineThe second email is a Web 2.0 Valentine from the team at Social Signal. Somebody really needs to start a Web 2.0 Scrabble tournament!

Finally, if you are one of those people with large numbers of Valentine's, we have a suggestion for you: Nothing says "Love" like a thoughtful, individual email.... put those personalization tags to use!
Read this post Posted by Mathew Patterson - 2 Comments

Creating and using segments

Something you may not have used in your Campaign Monitor account is segments. A segment is a subset of one of your existing subscriber lists. For example, instead of emailing to everyone on your 'Alpaca owners' list, you might just want to send an email to the Huacaya Alpaca owners. That's a perfect job for a segment. Instead of paying to send your email to everyone on the list, send it to just the people who are most interested in your particular topic this week. You save money, and you can make your email much more specific, hopefully leading to better response rates.

Creating a segment

Segments link on the 'Manage Subscriber List' page

To get started with segments, jump into your account. Hit the 'Manage Subscribers' tab, and then pick the list you want to work with. You'll find the segments link at the bottom of the right column.

Now you can hit the big green button to create a new segment.

You'll need to give it a sensible name that describes the segment so you can use it later. So, in my example, 'Huacaya owners'. Create the segment, and you are ready to add some rules.

Using rules with segments

Adding a rule

Rules are what you use to select the addresses you want. For every list, you can create rules that are based on Name, Email address and date subscribed. If you have custom fields in your list, you can make rules based on those too.

In my case, I want to create a segment of subscribers who have an 'Alpaca Type' of 'Huacaya'. So I drop down the select box and choose 'Alpaca Type', and hit Go.

Selecting the type of rule to use

Now I can create my Alpaca Type rule. I would select 'Alpaca Type equals Huacaya'. (It's not case sensitive)

The full list of possible rule types is:

Value:
Equals Does not equal Is provided Is not provided
 
Number:
Is greater than
Is less than
 
Email address:
Contains
Does not contain
Date subscribed:
Is before Is after
 
Campaigns:
Campaign was opened
Campaign was opened - Any link clicked
Campaign was opened - Specific link clicked
Campaign was opened - No link clicked
Campaign was not opened


You can combine any number of rules to split your segment as far as you like. Not all of them are available for every field or list. You can also add multiple rules for the same field. For example "Email contains hotmail or Email contains gmail"

Segment currently contains 6 active subscribers (view)

Each time you save your segment, the count at the top right will show you how many people you are selecting with all the rules applied. You can also hit the link there to see who is in your segment.

Segments are smart!

Once you've finished tweaking your rules, you'll have a set of subscribers. Every time you come back to check out your segment, and every time you send a campaign to your segment, the rules will be re-applied to your list, and the segment will be updated.

New segment is available to send to

So now you when you create a new campaign and select some recipients, your new segment will show up as an option. Huacayas owners will rejoice with their own individual email!

More ideas for using segments

As well as picking your favorite Alpaca owners, segments can be used in lots of different ways to increase the effectiveness of your campaigns. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

  • Send a special thank you offer to your old school members, who signed up before a certain date.
  • A second chance offer to people who did not click through on your last campaign
  • Target campaigns to certain geographical areas
  • Offer special prices to frequent purchasers
  • Send emails to people interested in certain topics

FAQs about segments

Is sending to a segment charged like a normal campaign?
Yes, each time you send to a segment of your list, you will pay the normal rates (USD$5 delivery fee and 1 cent per recipient).
Do I have to update them manually?
No - segments are automatically updated before you send to them, and each time you view the segment details. They don't update 'live' because of the amount of processing that would require.
Can I do a 'contains' rule for custom fields?
Sorry, no. At the moment, you can only use 'Contains' and 'Does not contain' rules for the email address.
Read this post Posted by Mathew Patterson - 10 Comments

How ALT Text Renders in Popular Email Clients

We've got an updated blog post on ALT text display in email clients - read it here.

So off I went to test how ALT text displays in common email clients, only to find that many of them don’t display any ALT text whatsoever. Unbelievable. And to top it off a couple clients replace the author-defined ALT text with their own idea of ALT text should be (tsk tsk). But before we look at the “how,” let’s look at the “why” in ALT text.

Why ALT Text?

Any web designer attentive to accessibility understands the benefits of ALT text. It’s cardinal purpose, of course, being that it briefly describes an image to someone who is visually impaired via a screen reader. Screen readers read all of the text on a page, denoting lists, links, headlines and ALT text in images. For example, when loading markwyner.com a screen reader would read something similar to the following:

Webpage: Mark Wyner Design, Web Design Studio—Portland, Oregon.
Link 1: Navigate directly to content.
Page headline, link 2: Mark Wyner Design.
Sensible design. Accessible content. Usable interface.
Global navigation.
Home.
Link 3: About.
Link 4: Services.
Link 5: Portfolio.
LInk 6: Contact.
[…]

Note how the screen reader announces the page headline and all links, referencing the latter with numbers. Image ALT text is also read aloud, prefaced with the announcement that the forthcoming text is a text alternative to an image. So the following image:

<img src="file.jpg" width="528" height="405" alt="[photo: bowler picking up a Greek Church]" />

May be read as:

Image: Bowler picking up a Greek Church

A secondary purpose, however, is to describe an image to someone who can not or chooses not to view images in their browsing device or email client. Sadly, the latter doesn’t always work out because many browsers/clients either do not render ALT text when images are disabled or render their own variations thereof. In this article I’ll outline how common email clients display (or don’t display) ALT text.

Clients Used in Tests

Webmail

  • Yahoo Mail
  • Yahoo Mail Beta
  • Windows Live Mail
  • Gmail
  • .Mac
  • Hotmail

Desktop

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

Results

A trait shared among all email clients—webmail and desktop—is the ability to disable or enable images by default. And nearly every client in my test suite enabled me to load images directly from the message if they were disabled by default. The exception is Windows Live Mail in which images are loaded for known senders and disabled for unknown senders, the latter scenario exhibiting a link to enable them on the fly. These preferences may be more robust/flexible, but I just tested the basics.

ALT Text Display in Common Email Clients
Client Renders ALT Text Comments
Yahoo Mail No N/A
Yahoo Mail Beta Yes Applies CSS font-styling to ALT text
Windows Live Mail No N/A
Gmail Sometimes Contingent upon text length
.Mac Sometimes Contingent upon text length
Hotmail No N/A
Apple Mail No Replaces ALT text with question-mark icon
Thunderbird Yes Applies CSS font-styling to ALT text
Outlook 2007 Sort of Replaces ALT text with security message
Outlook 2003 Yes Applies CSS font-styling to ALT text
Outlook Express Yes Applies CSS font-styling to ALT text
Eudora Sort of Replaces ALT text with URL to image

Yahoo Mail

Displays ALT text: no

[screenshot of ALT text rendering in Yahoo Mail]

Yahoo Mail Beta

Displays ALT text: yes

The interesting thing about Yahoo Mail Beta is that applies contextually relevant CSS to the ALT text itself. So although it displays ALT text, the potential problem is that large font sizes can push the information beyond the visible border of the image box, rendering it unreadable. But this is, of course, a naturally occurring problem across the board, especially with smaller images and larger descriptions.

[screenshot of ALT text rendering in Yahoo Mail Beta]

Windows Live Mail

Displays ALT text: no

[screenshot of ALT text rendering in Windows Live Mail]

Gmail

Displays ALT text: sometimes

Initially, Gmail only displayed some of my ALT text and I couldn’t figure out why. Further testing yielded the conclusion that text length was the deciding factor. Whereas most clients display what text they can within the boundaries of a box, Gmail decides that if the text extends beyond the said border it will display nothing. Nice.

[screenshot of ALT text rendering in Gmail]

.Mac

Displays ALT text: sometimes

.Mac suffers parallel to Gmail when rendering ALT text, in that it reserves text-length contingencies.

[screenshot of ALT text rendering in .Mac]

Hotmail

Displays ALT text: no

[screenshot of ALT text rendering in Hotmail]

Apple Mail

Displays ALT text: no

The clients which do not display ALT text typically display gray boxes in place of the images. Apple Mail, however, displays open space and adds a little question-mark icon. I’m an emphatic fan of Apple products and have been using them for roughly 15 years now. Their products are always very usable and beautifully aesthetic. But I must admit that for obvious reasons it was an ill decision to replace images with a question-mark icon. While this isn’t perilous, it is something to note nonetheless.

[screenshot of ALT text rendering in Apple Mail]

Thunderbird

Displays ALT text: yes

As with Yahoo Mail Beta, Thunderbird applies contextually relevant CSS to ALT text. Again, there are no paramount consequences of this result, but it’s noteworthy all the same.

[screenshot of ALT text rendering in Thunderbird]

Outlook 2007

Displays ALT text: sort of

I’ll bite my tongue and stick to the facts on this one. Outlook 2007 prefaces all ALT text with its long-winded explanation of why an image was omitted from a message: “Right-click here to download pictures. To help protect your privacy, Outlook prevented automatic download of this picture from the internet.” This falls down in two very specific ways. First, this is the kind of message which should merely introduce someone to a feature. To repeat it for every image in every email indefinitely is a plethora of information. Second, it pretty much wipes out any ALT text which follows it, given the length of the preface and the average image size in an email.

[screenshot of ALT text rendering in Outlook 2007]

Outlook 2003

Displays ALT text: yes

While Yahoo Mail Beta and Thunderbird apply CSS font-size and color properties to ALT text, Outlook 2003 only applies color. I can’t think of a scenario wherein this would have a negative impact, but I feel it’s still relevant to my findings. Outlook 2003 is also the origin of the security-message-replacement woes of Outlook 2007.

[screenshot of ALT text rendering in Outlook 2003]

Outlook Express

Displays ALT text: yes

Outlook Express is parallel to Outlook 2003 regarding CSS font-properties.

[screenshot of ALT text rendering in Outlook Express]

Eudora

Displays ALT text: sort of

Eudora replaces ALT text with an absolute URL to the location of a respective image. I assume this informs a reader where the image can be found, if they feel so inclined to view the image in their browser. But given that the path to the images is truncated, I’m left pondering the value of this system.

[screenshot of ALT text rendering in Eudora]

Lotus Notes

Displays ALT text: ?

I attempted to get results for Lotus Notes but was unsuccessful in disabling images for the test. I found settings to disable images, but the setting yielded no changes in how images were displayed. I even sent a test to one of my clients who I know uses Lotus Notes at work every day. He, too, could not disable images. If someone can share this information, I’ll update the article to include Lotus Notes results and accompanying screen shot.

Read this post Posted by Administrator - 14 Comments

Minor But Notable Obstacle in Yahoo Mail Beta

I was running some tests for another article when I encountered something in Yahoo Mail Beta which caused me some agony. When I uncovered the source of the problem, however, it became clear I could avoid it altogether. Allow me to share…

Yahoo Mail Beta omits all CSS declarations residing after a comment within a selector. Example:

body {
 color: #000;
 background: #fff;
 /* my comment here */
 margin: 0px;
}

Yahoo Mail Beta will render the color and background properties for this body selector while the margin property will be eradicated. I can only assume this process increases the security of this webmail client. (Ryan—if you’re reading and this is not the case, maybe you could bring it to the attention of to your boys in the back room?)

You can see how minor this is and how it can be avoided by simply not placing comments inside of a CSS declaration. But, again, I lost some time wondering why the properties I had in a style were not being rendered by Yahoo Mail Beta. I even cried a little. And no one should be made to cry. So enjoy this hot tip of the week.

Read this post Posted by Administrator - 6 Comments
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