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A Guide to CSS Support in Email: 2008 Edition

In the last year, we’ve seen some changes in the email client market. Webmail usage continues to grow significantly while new versions of popular desktop clients have been released. In an attempt to stimulate some improvement on the CSS front, we’ve helped launch the Email Standards Project. While we can hope for future improvements, it’s the present we need to design for. The time has arrived to again poke and prod the major email clients to determine just how much (or how little) support they provide for using CSS with HTML emails. Last year’s report focused on the unique challenges of Outlook 2007. In 2008, Outlook is still an issue, but there are encouraging signs in other areas. The release of Entourage 2008 (the Mac equivalent of Outlook) made great improvements with CSS support, bringing it on par with Apple Mail’s excellent rendering. Proof that perhaps Microsoft has been listening and we can only hope that the next version of Outlook will follow suit. Thunderbird 2 was released with plenty of new features, and continued it’s run of excellent CSS support. Gmail has probably been the most disappointing client of all. One of the advantages of web applications is not needing to wait for new versions to be rolled out. With just basic in the head CSS selector support Gmail would go from bad to good but we’re still waiting for that. Checkout the Email Standards Project post about some support inside Google though, and keep your fingers crossed. We did expand our testing this year — A combined total of 21 email/web clients making this the biggest test we’ve ever done, up from last years 13. The CSS support in email guide is permanently located at https://www.campaignmonitor.com/css/, and that’s the best page to bookmark to ensure you are always seeing the latest version. Read the full report at https://www.campaignmonitor.com/css/

Blog Post

CSS Support in mobile.me Email?

Although the majority of the Freshview team slept blissfully through the WWDC keynote, we were all interested to hear about Apple’s new Mobile Me service, which will replace .mac in July. Once Apple’s new web applications are up and running, we’ll be sure to thoroughly test the .me email client and see how well it supports CSS in HTML email. If you can’t wait for that, you can content yourself with an update to our CSS support chart which will be coming later this week. In thinking about the continuity of email from desktop to web to mobile, one question occurs: How would you change your email newsletters if you new your readers were mobile, not sitting at their desk? Would you make them shorter? Would you have different content? Less images? More links or less links? Your thoughts appreciated! Update: One thing we forgot to mention is that Cameron Moll’s excellent book on designing for mobile devices is on sale for $10 a pop! While not focusing on email design per se, it’s still a great primer for those considering how best to approach designing for mobile devices.

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Hot Ideas for Your Email Designs

More great designs have joined the Campaign Monitor gallery recently. Browse through to pick up some great ideas you can use in your own emails. Subscribe to the email design gallery’s RSS feed to see the latest designs.

Blog Post

Email as Conversation, Not Invasion

Have you ever really thought about the way email campaigns are sometimes described? Have you heard your clients talk about “email blasts” and “mail shots“? Sounds less like we are emailing our subscribers, and more like we are declaring war on them! Without getting too carried away, it’s clear that names are important. If our clients, and we ourselves think about our email campaigns as ‘blasts’, big one way transfers from us to them, we’ll be tempted to act in ways we never would in a real conversation. The more we see our audience as passive receivers of a mass message, the less likely we are to think about what works best for them instead of us. Email is such a personal medium, at least on the receiving end, and it’s a dreadful waste of that intimacy to just throw out the same message to everyone. So what do we do instead? I’m suggesting two courses of action here: Stop using war metaphors like ‘mail shot’ and ‘e-blast’ right away. Encourage your clients to think about their emails as conversation starters and updates. It sounds small but it can really impact on their decision making. Make your emails more personalized by using tools like segmenting, custom fields and analytics. It helps you to stop thinking of your readers as a single mass, and start considering them as individuals. Treating people as individuals flows through to respecting their ability to unsubscribe at any time, and not hiding the link from them. It means wherever possible letting people email you back instead of discouraging two way contact. Email should be a conversation, not an invasion.

Blog Post

2008 Email Design Guidelines

In this article we’ll discuss the technical, design and information elements that make up a…

Blog Post

Email Design Inspiration Time

The collection of great gallery entries continues to grow! If you’re having design block, consider browsing through the gallery for ideas and inspiration. Subscribe to the email design gallery’s RSS feed to see them all.

Blog Post

Campaign Monitor Drupal Module

A completely open source content management platform, Drupal is a popular choice for large scale, flexible websites. A key feature of Drupal is the ability to add on modules, plug in code that extends the core functionality to do any number of different things. Sydney based Campaign Monitor user Stephanie Sherriff has written a cool Drupal module to integrate Campaign Monitor newsletter signups with your Drupal website. Stephanie describes it in this way: a fairly simple module that just adds the ability to subscribe and unsubscribe from a newsletter using the API. It also creates a page that displays prior campaigns Here is how the module’s configuration page looks in Drupal: Once the module is up and running on your site, you can place the newsletter signup easily, creating something like the form shown here. If your site visitors are logged in, then the form will even be pre-filled for them using the details from their user account on your website. This could be an excellent way to grow your list, and also something to implement on websites you are building for your clients. Stephanie is still planning some further improvements to the module, and we look forward to seeing those too. Visit the Campaign Monitor Drupal Module page to find out more, and to download it.

Blog Post

Quick Tip: Choosing Google Analytics Tags

Now that you can automatically add Google Analytics tags to your emails, we wanted to remind you how you can easily edit the tags used for each campaign. Once you have setup Google Analytics integration (see the help topic) you will have an extra option when importing your HTML for a campaign. You can change the tag used for the source of traffic, and for this specific campaign. If you are using Analytics for yourself, you might use “Campaign Monitor” as the source, so you can tell which people came from your Campaign Monitor emails. However, if you plan to show the Analytics reports to your clients, it would be best to choose something more generic like ‘Newsletter’, or the name you use when rebranding the software. When you login to your Google Analytics account and browse by traffic source, you’ll see the name you set when sending the campaign: We recommend keeping the source the same for each campaign you send so you can easily see an aggregate for all Campaign Monitor campaigns in your Analytics account. Of course, you can also tweak the campaign name tag to make things easier to recognize too – for example, to remind you this was the campaign where you changed the subject line, or sent later in the day. That can make it easier to understand the impact changing different elements has on your eventual results. Let us know if you have any of your own Google Analytics tips and tricks for use with Campaign Monitor.

Blog Post

Video in Your Emails?

<!––> The growth of services like YouTube and Vimeo, and the availability of cheap video cameras and editing software has created an explosion in the use of online video. Your clients will start asking you soon if they can put their video into your emails, if they have not already. So can it be done? The answer is “no, not really”. Technically, videos just don’t work in email – most of the video players use Flash, which won’t play in your email client. That’s probably a good thing in reality, because email inboxes are already very crowded and busy, so adding even a genuinely fascinating video is not going to be welcome. However, email can be an excellent way to encourage people to visit your website and watch a video. Instead of trying to embed it right in the email, just take a static screenshot, and link that to your video page. This really works – in the recent Email Standards Project newsletter, we did exactly that for our Gmail Appeal video (see the image above). We linked the screen grab, as well as providing a text link in a couple of other prominent places. In our reporting, we can see that the screen grab was clicked on more than 5 times as often as the text link. People love to click on images, particularly images that look like they do something. This is a really simple technique, but it can be a great way to convince your clients not to keep trying to embed the videos directly.

Blog Post

Some Pepper with Your Email List?

Recently we mentioned our Google Analytics integration, which is excellent for keeping up to date with what your subscribers do after they read your emails. How about knowing when people signup to your lists though? You can already grab the new subscribers RSS feed (find it at the bottom of each list’s details page in your account), but today we’ve spotted a great way to keep an eye on your lists, while watching the rest of your sites vital statistics. Campaign Monitor customer Mark J Reeves has developed a plugin for Shaun Inman’s popular Mint software. Mint is a tool for seeing recent page visits, referrals, searches and all kinds of statistics about your website right now. We use it ourselves on all our sites. With Mark’s plugin (called ‘Peppers’ in Mint terminology), you can see a list of people subscribing to a specific list in the last 24 hours. All you need to do is plugin your API key and ListID to get started. Checkout the Campaign Monitor subscribers Pepper to download it. Thanks go to Mark for his development, it looks like he has plans to do more in the future.

Blog Post

Redefining Spam

Not long ago, spam was reasonably easy to define as unsolicited commercial email. Advertisements for things you never asked about, email from companies you had never heard of. Offers to increase the size of various parts of your body and claims of missing millions, yours for the asking. However, as the amount of email we are all receiving continues to grow, our tolerance level for each individual email falls. The definition of spam seems to be changing to something more like that old definition of ‘art’ as “I know it when I see it”. We’ve posted before about ISPs using a broader definition of spam, measuring not just permission but relevance. A recent survey by Q Interactive and MarketingSherpa has confirmed that this is a growing definition, not just for ISPs but for individuals. “underscoring consumers’ varying definitions of spam, respondents cited a variety of non-permission-based reasons for hitting the spam button, including “the email was not of interest to me” (41 percent); “I receive too much email from the sender” (25 percent); and “I receive too much email from all senders” (20 percent).” From an email senders perspective, this can seem unfair: We gather permission legitimately, they know who we are, and yet they still push the spam complaint button. Features like the Hotmail unsubscribe button can make it easier for people to get the result they want (less email) without having to accuse a sender of spamming, but until they become more common, we all need to be wary. It’s not good enough to have their permission, you also need to put yourself in your subscribers shoes. They signed up for information about one of your products, but does that mean they want email about your other products? Not necessarily. Also, making sure that you send emails soon after signup, and consistently can help subscribers remember who you are. If they do not get an email for 6 months after visiting your booth, it’s easy for them to call it spam. Finally, a clear permission reminder and prominent unsubscribe link will make it easier for a subscriber who is no longer interested to unsubscribe rather than reach for that spam button. As part of our approval process, we try to make this clear. If we hold up your campaign to check on the relevance of your emails, we are trying to help ensure you don’t end up with spam complaints, even if you are not sending unsolicited email. How do you define spam personally? How do these findings fit with you as an email recipient, and as an email sender?

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