Audio from the Future of Web Design

I posted recently the slides from my talk at the Future of Web Design conference. Now the Carsonified team have helpfully posted the MP3 audio for the talks too.

You'll even hear an early pre-launch mention of the Email Standards Project. Here is the direct link for my audio: The future of email design - 22mb MP3 file

Check out the conference homepage for audio and slides from the other speakers too, there are some great talks available there.

Read this post Posted by Mathew Patterson

“I think I’m in love”

I know it isn't healthy for a middle aged man but I think I'm in love with Campaign Monitor. We just sent our first campaign yesterday and I am loving the campaign feedback. It has given me far more insight than the $1,000 I paid a market research company to poll my clients.

Wayne Fowler

Read this post Posted by Mathew Patterson

The Email Standards Project launches

After a couple of months of hard work and some amazing help from others, I'm excited to announce that the Email Standards Project site has just officially launched.

First off, I wanted to say a huge thanks to a few people:

  • Luke Stevens for his awesome hard work on the design and build of the site. Luke's worked incredibly hard, especially in the last few days to make the site a reality.
  • Mark Wyner, our fearless tester and standards guru for being patient enough to test and document every major email client out there.
  • The entire Freshview team, especially Mat for managing the Facebook group and having a hand in just about everything else.

What's on

If you're after a quick background on how the whole idea started, check out my rant from a few months back. Here's a quick overview of what the site currently includes:

How can you help right now?

The most immediate way that everybody can help is to make your voice heard. Use your blog, newsletter or website to mention the launch of the Email Standards Project, and to discuss why you think it is important and worth checking out.

It would be fantastic if we could get as many people as possible posting about this. If you don't have a blog, then you could contribute your thoughts as a comment on our blog or someone else's post, and help to build interest in that way. We've put together some other ideas you might consider.

HTML emails have been languishing for too long, and now it is time to get involved and make something happen. If you have any questions, or suggestions for how we can further the cause, please get in touch or leave a comment on the ESP site.

Read this post Posted by David Greiner - 9 Comments

Optimizing your subscription process in 7 steps

Now that our support for HTML confirmation emails is live, I thought it might be a nice time to revisit some recommendations on the best approach to capturing subscribers via a form on your web site. Here are a few guidelines you should consider to ensure a good experience for your new subscribers and make sure they're primed to receive your first campaign.

1. Make it easy to subscribe

Nobody likes filling in forms. While we make it easy to capture all sorts of information about your subscribers, try not to get carried away. Ask for the bare essentials only. If you do need to capture lots of information, check out these tips on good form design.

2. Ask everywhere

Don't rely on a single page on your site to lure subscribers, such as a Newsletter or Contact page. Try and place a subscribe form on every main page of your site. Again, keep it simple and only ask for the bare essentials. Here are some tips on integrating your list with any current form on your site. Don't forget to also capture permission offline any chance you get, such as events and at the counter.

3. Set expectations

It's extremely important that you align your customers' expectations with exactly what you plan on sending them. Make sure your subscribe form clearly explains the type of content they'll be getting and how often they'll be getting it. Try and do this on the form itself, and then back it up in the confirmation email.

4. Get added to their safe senders/contacts list

When sending a confirmation email we let you specify the from email address you'd like to use. Make sure this address is an exact match to the from address you'll be using when sending your campaigns. This way you can request to be added to their safe sender or contact list in the confirmation email. Once you're in that list, you'll often go through less filtering and your images will be displayed by default.

5. Say thanks and give some gold

Don't forget to say thanks to your subscriber. They've just taken a leap of faith handing over some personal details to you, show them you appreciate it. You might also consider linking to key content on your site they might be interested in, such as a past issue or some popular articles that might be related to the reason they subscribed in the first place.

6. Track where they subscribe from

Follow this little tip on tracking where your subscriber join from. This allows you to do some A/B testing on different pages to see which subscribe offer/design works best.

7. Don't forget about forwards

Be sure to include a forward to a friend and subscribe link in each campaign you send. If you're sending useful content, some subscribers will pass it on, so try and make it easy for these recipients to join your list if they're interested.

Finally, don't forget to keep the tone of your email personal, friendly and avoid lots of email jargon. Lots of these suggestions are easy to implement, but they can make a big difference in that all important first impression.

Read this post Posted by David Greiner - 1 Comment

HTML confirmation emails - say thanks with style

Over the weekend we pushed a highly requested new feature live - HTML confirmation emails. It's now easy to send a nicely formatted HTML confirmation email to anyone who joins your list from your subscribe forms or via the API. To import the HTML creative for your confirmation email, you just need to provide us with the URL.

We'll grab the page, import all images and even externally linked CSS into a single email referencing the images on our servers. You can easily preview your HTML version once it's imported and make any changes that suit.

To improve deliverability and ensure the confirmation looks great for those who prefer plain text, you can also provide a basic plain text version of your confirmation email that will be included in the same email. We'll include a sample one to help get you started. If your new subscriber is using a plain text email client, they'll see that version instead.

To set up for own HTML confirmation email, head into your subscriber list and click on "Create a Subscribe Form" to get started.

Read this post Posted by David Greiner - 12 Comments

Email and the Future of Web Design

The Emperor says 'Let the hate flow through you'

Over on the Freshview blog I've just posted the slides and outline of my talk from the Future of Web Design last week in New York city. It focused on the lack of love for HTML email, where that has left us, and what the future holds.

Around 500 people attended, including quite a few of you guys, and it was great to say 'Hi' in person! In case you've ended up here after hearing my talk, I'll link to the resources I mentioned:

Check out the full 'Future of Email Design' slides and outline and if you have any follow up questions or feedback for me, I'd love to hear it.

Read this post Posted by Mathew Patterson - 2 Comments

Step in the right direction for .Mac

The new email standards projectFor those of you closely monitoring support for standards-based markup in popular email clients, you’ll be happy to know that we have recently encountered a nice improvement for the .Mac webmail client. And while we’d love to take credit for having instilled fear in the hearts of Apple, we simply can’t compete with the Soprano family. Still, we’re hoping our countless articles and recent announcement about the Email Standards Project is helping to shape the future of HTML emails. In any case, at least one client is indeed shaping up.

A while back we reported on the new .Mac webmail client. The old version offered amazing support for CSS. Unfortunately, the arrival of bells and whistles in the new version significantly depressed its support of standards-based markup. What’s more, we discovered a gratuitous DIV in the inbox window that eradicated all styles because of an interruption in the Descendant Selectors. The solution was to use Universal Selectors, which helped .Mac and had no inadvertent effects on other clients.

On top of our post, I personally wrote Apple on more than one occasion, asking them to fix this problem. And I asked my partners to do the same. Irrespective of the impact of those emails and our post, they have since remedied this issue by withdrawing the gratuitous DIV. Consequently, our “.Mac fix” is no longer necessary.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that .Mac’s support for CSS is still extremely poor. Let’s hope Apple finds it worthwhile to remedy that. We'll be outlining exactly what changes they'll need to make in the upcoming ESP site, launching in the next couple of weeks.

Read this post Posted by Administrator

Do image maps work in HTML email?

We've revisited these results in a newer blog post on image maps in email clients.

Given current conditions in which images are very often blocked in email messages, image maps seem to be an odd technique to pursue. Because when your source image is blocked, your links are no longer functional. That’s a fundamental accessibility issue. However, the Campaign Monitor team receives frequent inquires about image maps so we decided to test them out for people who are curious. Then you, the web designer, can decide how brave you are when you unleash them into the wild.

The Results

Remarkably, email clients offered good support for image maps. And most surprising is that many clients retain functionality of the links even with images off. Following is a table which exhibits how popular email clients handled the image maps.

Client Functions With Images On Functions With Images Off
.Mac Yes Yes
Yahoo! Mail Yes No
Yahoo! Mail Classic Yes No
AOL Webmail Yes Yes
Gmail No No
Windows Live Hotmail Yes No
Apple Mail Yes Yes
Thunderbird Yes Yes
Penelope (Eudora 8) Yes Yes
Outlook 2007 Yes Yes
Outlook 2003 Yes Yes
Outlook Express Yes Yes
Windows Live Mail Yes Yes
Lotus Notes 8 Yes Yes
Entourage Yes No

The Recommendation

The results indicate that it’s not a good idea to use image maps. Specifically because of the following issues:

  • The frequency in which images are disabled
  • image maps and their respective images don’t marry well and therefore pose accessibility issues for those visually impaired
  • Gmail—a very popular email client—doesn’t support them consistently (they do not work when using Safari)

And with that you have the knowledge you need to discourage use of image maps.

Read this post Posted by Administrator - 22 Comments
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