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Can I Include a Print Stylesheet in My Campaign?

We’ve published a follow-up post with more recent results – view it here. We recently had a few customers approach us about print stylesheet support and whether or not they can include them in their campaigns. We weren’t sure either, so we did some testing to get to the bottom of it once and for all. What is a print stylesheet? Quick background, print stylesheets basically allow you to set a different set of CSS rules when you print the page to the one you see when viewing it on screen. By specifying a print stylesheet for our newsletters, we could ensure when a subscriber prints our email they see a much more print friendly email that might use simpler formatting and even hide some elements of the email itself. The test Because most email environments won’t let us link to an external CSS file, we used the @media rule to specify our print only styles (more on this here). Here’s a quick sample of the code we used: <STYLE type="text/css"> @media print { p.printme { font-size: 10px; color: #f00; } } @media screen { p.printme { font-size: 40px; color: #000} } </STYLE&gt The results Email client @media print { … } media=”print” Apple Mail 4 Yes Yes Outlook Express/2003 Yes Yes Outlook 2007/2010 No No Thunderbird Yes Yes Yahoo! Mail No Yes Gmail No No Windows Live Hotmail Yes No As you can see, the results were quite varied. None of the web-based email environments supported the print-friendly version, but most of the desktop environments did. Ultimately, we can put this down to lack of support for the @media rule. Unfortunately, since none of the web-based environments support the use of the link element for embedding external stylesheets, the @media rule is the only option available. Conclusion From our quick tests it appears that including print styles via the @media rule doesn’t do any harm in email environments that don’t support it (as they are ignored completely). If you’re sending an email like an invitation with specific details or any other kind of email your recipients are likely to print, you may want to consider adding a few print specific styles if it will make your email easier to read. If any of you guys have had other experiences with print stylesheets and have anything to share, I’d love to hear it.

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HTML Emails – Taming the Beast!

I recently put together an article on email design for the awesome web design resource Vitamin. This was a combination of ideas I’ve covered in previous articles in this blog and some new recommendations to boot. Check it out and while you’re at it be sure to take a peek at the top notch content on the rest of the site.

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New Payment System Good, Amex Problems Bad

Yesterday we finally moved our payment system over to a US based provider, doing away with messy currency conversions and that word that scares book keepers worldwide – “approximately”. Unfortunately our merchant provider is having problems processing payments for our American Express customers. They’ve promised us the situation will be resolved within 24 hours (by 6pm CDT on Tuesday) – and we’ll post an update here as soon as that’s the case. Update: The problem has now been resolved, so our Amex customers will have no problems sending campaigns or buying credits. Thanks so much for your patience and understanding throughout this issue. Now, I need a beer.

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Ruby on Rails API Wrapper Class

We’re always pretty happy when we push a new update live or make improvements to Campaign Monitor, but nothing’s more flattering than when a customer does all the hard work for us. Jordan Brock of Australian based Spin Technologies has just announced the release of an open source Ruby on Rails wrapper class for the Campaign Monitor API. If you’re developing in Rails, this makes it a piece of cake to interface with our API from your own applications. They’ve set up a RubyForge project with documentation, as well as a trac install for bug tracking and to browse the source. A huge thanks to Jordan and his team for getting this project off the ground. We’ve also got some significant updates planned for the API real soon.

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A Guide to CSS Support in Email

Update: This study has since been superceded by the new and improved 2008 Edition Since the rise of Internet Explorer, web designers have had to test their designs across multiple web browsers. No one likes it, but we’ve all copped it on the chin, written a few hacks and moved on with our lives. After all, 3 to 4 browsers aint that bad – and they finally seem to be getting their act together. If Internet Explorer is the schoolyard bully making our web design lives a little harder, then Hotmail, Lotus Notes and Eudora are serial killers making our email design lives hell. Yes, it’s really that bad. Inspired by the fantastic work of Xavier Frenette, we decided to put each of the popular email environments to the test and finalize once and for all what CSS is and isn’t supported out there. We’ll dig straight into our recommendations based on what we found, followed by the results themselves with a few more details about our findings. Recommendations Because of the huge variation of support across each email environment, there really isn’t any one design approach that will guarantee consistency. Instead, you should take a couple of things into account. 1. The consistency demands of your client If you have a client who understands the challenges you face and realizes that some email environments are just plain old broken (we can always dream), I recommend going for broke and following Mark Wyner’s recent article on CSS design in email (we even include a free template to get you started). This allows you to code your email using moderns standards based design that degrades gracefully for these “broken” email environments. On the other hand if your client demands consistency no matter what, or the CEO’s using Lotus Notes, you’ll have to dull down your design, stick with tables for layout and use only basic text formatting via CSS. You may even have to go down the inline CSS route. 2. The potential email environment of your recipients You’ll probably need to generalize a little here, because most of us have no idea what email environment each recipient is using. Business to Business If you’re sending Business to Business (B2B) emails, you’re definitely going to have to support Outlook and to a lesser extent Lotus Notes. In a recent survey of B2B readers, EmailLabs found that more than 75% use a version of Outlook and a further 9% use Lotus Notes. The good news is that Outlook’s support for CSS is quite good, but Notes’ certainly isn’t. You’ll need to weigh up the trade-offs yourself there. Business to Consumer If you’re sending Business to Consumer (B2C) campaigns, then you’ll definitely need to have Yahoo!, Hotmail and possibly AOL covered. Gmail’s still purring under 5% total penetration, but if you’re targeting early adopters then this percentage will likely be significantly higher. Yahoo and AOL offer very respectable CSS support. Hotmail isn’t too painful provided you include your <style> element in the <body> and not the <head>, while Gmail gives you no choice but to use inline styles only. Further to these concerns, there’s also the issue of image blocking and preview panes, but that’s a whole other article. Results Down to the nitty gritty. To cover each email environment, we’ve split our results up into web-based, PC and Mac email software. Use the links below to jump straight to the respective findings. Web-based results – Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo! and Windows Live Mail PC results – Outlook 2003 and Outlook Express, Lotus Notes, Thunderbird Mac results – Mac Mail, Entourage, Eudora Web-based Xavier covered the web-based email environments perfectly, but we decided to throw Microsoft’s new Windows Live Mail into the mix to gaze into the crystal ball and see if Hotmail may have a brighter future. The biggest improvement we found being support for the <style> element in the <head> of your page. The <style> element The standard place for the style element is in the <head> of the document, but to ensure the styles appear in Hotmail, you can also insert them within the <body>. We tested both, just to make sure. Web-based support for the <style> element Gmail Hotmail Yahoo! Mail Windows Live Mail <style> element in the <head> No No Yes Yes <style> element in the <body> No Yes Yes Yes The <link> element The <link> element is used to reference a separate CSS file. Web based email environments offer no support for this element, so I recommend playing it safe and sticking with the <style> element for your CSS. Web-based support for the <link> element Gmail Hotmail Yahoo! Mail Windows Live Mail <link> element in the <head> No No No No <link> element in the <body> No No No No CSS Selectors Selectors are used to “select” specific elements on a page so that they can be styled. Besides Gmail, most web-based email environments offer pretty good selector support. Web-based support for CSS Selectors Gmail Hotmail Yahoo! Mail Windows Live Mail * No Yes Yes Yes e No Yes Yes Yes e > f No No Yes No e:link No Yes Yes Yes e:active, e:hover No Yes Yes Yes e:focus No No Yes No e+f No Yes Yes No e[foo] No Yes Yes No e.className No Yes Yes Yes e#id No Yes Yes Yes e:first-line No Yes Yes Yes e:first-letter No Yes Yes Yes CSS Properties CSS property support ranges from very good (Yahoo!) down to so-so (Gmail). If you want results in Gmail, you’ll need to do your styles inline (<p style="...">this is pretty now</p>) rather than via the <style> element. Web-based support for CSS Properties Gmail Hotmail Yahoo! Mail Windows Live Mail background-color Yes Yes Yes Yes background-image No Yes Yes No background-position No No No No background-repeat No Yes Yes No border Yes Yes Yes Yes border-collapse Yes Yes Yes Yes border-spacing Yes No Yes No bottom No Yes Yes No caption-side Yes No Yes No clear No Yes Yes Yes clip No Yes Yes No color Yes Yes Yes Yes cursor No Yes Yes Yes direction Yes Yes Yes Yes display No Yes Yes Yes empty-cells Yes No Yes No filter No No Yes Yes float No Yes Yes Yes font-family No Yes Yes Yes font-size Yes Yes Yes Yes font-style Yes Yes Yes Yes font-variant Yes Yes Yes Yes font-weight Yes Yes Yes Yes height No Yes Yes Yes left No Yes Yes No letter-spacing Yes Yes Yes Yes line-height Yes Yes Yes Yes list-style-image No Yes Yes No list-style-position Yes No No Yes list-style-type Yes No Yes Yes margin Yes No Yes No opacity No No Yes Yes overflow Yes Yes Yes Yes padding Yes Yes Yes Yes position No No No No right No Yes Yes No table-layout Yes Yes Yes Yes text-align Yes Yes Yes Yes text-decoration Yes Yes Yes Yes text-indent Yes Yes Yes Yes text-transform Yes Yes Yes Yes top No Yes Yes No vertical-align Yes Yes Yes Yes visibility No Yes Yes Yes white-space Yes Yes Yes No width Yes Yes Yes Yes word-spacing Yes Yes Yes Yes z-index No Yes Yes No PC Aside from Lotus Notes, all our PC-based email clients behaved very well. All versions of Outlook, Outlook Express and AOL 9 use Internet Explorer to render their emails, so some selectors weren’t supported. This also means you’ll still need to allow for the range of CSS problems IE introduces. Thunderbird scored beautifully. The <style> element Perfect support except for Lotus Notes, which ignores the <style> element altogether. PC support for the <style> element Outlook 2003/OE AOL 9 Lotus Notes Thunderbird <style> element in the <head> Yes Yes No Yes <style> element in the <body> Yes Yes No Yes The <link> element The <link> element is very well supported on the PC, the only shortfall being that your remote CSS file will not be loaded if images are also disabled. Once images are enabled, your CSS will also load correctly. PC support for the <link> element Outlook 2003/OE AOL 9 Lotus Notes Thunderbird <link> element in the <head> Yes Yes Yes Yes <link> element in the <body> Yes Yes Yes Yes CSS Selectors Thunderbird scored highly, but because the majority use IE to render your email, selector support is limited. PC support for CSS Selectors Outlook 2003/OE AOL 9 Lotus Notes Thunderbird * Yes Yes No Yes e Yes Yes No Yes e > f No No No Yes e:link Yes Yes No Yes e:active, e:hover Yes Yes No Yes e:focus No No No Yes e+f No No No Yes e[foo] No No No Yes e.className Yes Yes No Yes e#id Yes Yes No Yes e:first-line Yes Yes No Yes e:first-letter Yes Yes No Yes CSS Properties You can have a field day as long as you’re not sending to Notes. It offers dismal property support that includes only very basic text manipulation. PC support for CSS Properties Outlook 2003/OE AOL 9 Lotus Notes Thunderbird background-color Yes Yes No Yes background-image Yes Yes No Yes background-position Yes Yes No Yes background-repeat Yes Yes No Yes border Yes Yes No Yes border-collapse Yes Yes No Yes border-spacing No No No Yes bottom Yes Yes No Yes caption-side No No No Yes clear Yes Yes No Yes clip Yes Yes No Yes color Yes Yes Yes Yes cursor Yes Yes No Yes direction Yes Yes Yes Yes display Yes Yes Yes Yes empty-cells No No No Yes filter No No No No float Yes Yes No Yes font-family Yes Yes Yes Yes font-size Yes Yes Yes Yes font-style Yes Yes Yes Yes font-variant Yes Yes No Yes font-weight Yes Yes Yes Yes height Yes Yes No Yes left Yes Yes No Yes letter-spacing Yes Yes No Yes line-height Yes Yes No Yes list-style-image Yes Yes No Yes list-style-position Yes Yes No Yes list-style-type Yes Yes Yes Yes margin Yes Yes No Yes opacity No No No Yes overflow Yes Yes No Yes padding Yes Yes No Yes position Yes Yes No Yes right Yes Yes No Yes table-layout Yes Yes No Yes text-align Yes Yes Yes Yes text-decoration Yes Yes Yes Yes text-indent Yes Yes No Yes text-transform Yes Yes No Yes top Yes Yes No Yes vertical-align Yes Yes No Yes visibility Yes Yes No Yes white-space No No No Yes width Yes Yes No Yes word-spacing Yes Yes No Yes z-index Yes Yes No Yes Mac While Mac Mail and Entourage offer fantastic support across the board, I wasn’t surprised to find that Eudora refused to come to the party. Basically, Eudora sucks. The <style> element Go for it, just ignore Eudora. Mac support for the <style> element Mac Mail Entourage Eudora <style> element in the <head> Yes Yes No <style> element in the <body> Yes Yes No The <link> element Same old story, no Eudora. Mac support for the <link> element Mac Mail Entourage Eudora <link> element in the <head> Yes Yes No <link> element in the <body> Yes Yes No CSS Selectors Mac Mail support was fantastic and Entourage was a close second. Mac support for CSS Selectors Mac Mail Entourage Eudora * Yes Yes No e Yes Yes No e > f Yes Yes No e:link Yes Yes No e:active, e:hover Yes Yes No e:focus Yes Yes No e+f Yes No No e[foo] Yes No No e.className Yes Yes No e#id Yes Yes No e:first-line Yes Yes No e:first-letter Yes Yes No CSS Properties Property support was also top notch, except for Eudora, with no property support whatsoever. Mac support for CSS Properties Mac Mail Entourage Eudora background-color Yes Yes No background-image Yes Yes No background-position Yes Yes No background-repeat Yes Yes No border Yes Yes No border-collapse Yes No No border-spacing Yes No No bottom Yes Yes No caption-side No No No clear Yes Yes No clip Yes Yes No color Yes Yes No cursor Yes No No direction Yes No No display Yes Yes No empty-cells Yes No No filter No No No float Yes Yes No font-family Yes Yes No font-size Yes Yes No font-style Yes Yes No font-variant Yes Yes No font-weight Yes Yes No height Yes Yes No left Yes Yes No letter-spacing Yes Yes No line-height Yes Yes No list-style-image Yes Yes No list-style-position Yes Yes No list-style-type Yes Yes No margin Yes Yes No opacity Yes No No overflow Yes No No padding Yes Yes No position Yes Yes No right Yes Yes No table-layout Yes Yes No text-align Yes Yes No text-decoration Yes Yes No text-indent Yes Yes No text-transform Yes Yes No top Yes Yes No vertical-align Yes Yes No visibility Yes Yes No white-space Yes Yes No width Yes Yes No word-spacing Yes Yes No z-index Yes Yes No   We hope you find these results helpful. Let’s hope that as browsers move forward, ISP’s and email client developers follow suit. It’s our sanity at stake here, right? UPDATE: After an oversight pointed out by Lachlan Hunt, we’ve scaled back Eudora’s CSS support to nil, zilch, zero.

Blog Post

Tip: Weird Hotmail Formatting Tip

One of our customers recently spotted a strange and very annoying Hotmail bug that modifies the appearance of your email. If you include the word News in your campaign followed by a colon, so News:, Hotmail will automatically convert this into the following JavaScript link. javascript:ol('News'); When you think about it, this term can easily appear in tonnes of emails. Can anyone say Latest News:? The worst part is, clicking it will take you to a Hotmail 404 error page. We assume Hotmail is doing some kind of conversion thinking this is the news: protocol for newsgroups, but this doesn’t seem to actually work anyway. We’ve been in touch with Hotmail about his issue, so hopefully it’s something they resolve soon, but in the mean time, avoid using News: anywhere in your email content if you’re sending to Hotmail recipients.

Blog Post

Tip: Capturing Subscribers from an Existing Form

We’ve made it very simple to create a form on your web site where new subscribers can sign up to your list (we provide the code, you just have to copy and paste). But what about when you’ve already got a form, and you simply want to add a checkbox where customers can opt-in to your newsletter? This isn’t quite a copy and paste job, but it’s not far off. Lets take a look at a simple example. Your client’s site has a ‘Contact Us’ form, which sends an email to your client with the details of a customer enquiry. They’ve just decided that they want to add a little ‘Subscribe to our newsletter’ checkbox. How are you going to integrate this with Campaign Monitor? Here’s a few ways: 1. Use an extension or plugin This is the simplest of all if you happen to be using a suitable CMS or shopping cart. We’ve got a bunch of downloadable plugins, extensions and modules for systems like Expression Engine, Joomla and FoxyCart. Over on the right of this page you’ll see direct links to some of them. Check there first because it may be someone has already done the hard work for you. 2. Using the API Lots of you already know about (and use) the API, and this is the obvious way you can achieve this. In our example, when a user submits the contact form on your clients web site, your already going to have some code in place to gather the contents of the form, and send them off to your client in an email (usually in something like PHP, ASP.NET, Perl etc). We just need to make a slight addition to this. Using your programming language of choice you can check to see if the user has checked the ‘Subscribe to our newsletter’ checkbox, and if they have, make a call to our API to save this person to your subscriber list. And don’t worry if they’re already in there – we won’t add them twice. 3. Redirecting to specific URL’s If your not too keen on the idea of calling our API, there’s another method you can use, which works by redirecting to a URL on our server which will save the user to the list, then send them back to your server. So just like before, you gather the contents of your form, and send the email to your client. Now, to get the users name and email address into Campaign Monitor, we need to redirect the user to a specific URL. What this redirect stuff you keep mentioning? All server side languages should have an easy way to send the user to another URL. In PHP you would use something like: header( "Location: hhttp://www.urlhere.com" );and in ASP.NET it would look likeResponse.Redirect("http://www.urlhere.com"). So let’s get down to specifics. The URL that we need to send the user to, is the same URL that we use in the Create a Subscribe Form code. Check out this code and you’ll see something like: <form action="http://myclient.thisapp.com/p/a/t/tos/" method="post">. The action URL is what we’re after, so in this case http://myclient.thisapp.com/p/a/t/tos/. We’re almost done, but when we redirect the user to the URL we need to include their email address (and optional name). We do this by adding them to the URL in a format like this:?cm-4841-4841=sample@test.com&cm-name=Joe+Bloggs. So the full code in PHP would beheader( "Location: http://myclient.thisapp.com/p/a/t/tos/ ?cm-4841-4841=sample@test.com&cm-name=Joe+Bloggs" );. The important points to note are the question mark (?) to show the start of the variables, the ampersand (&) to separate the values we’re passing in, and the plus sign (+) which should be used to replace any spaces in the name. Of course, you’ll need to grab the name and address values from your existing form, and plug those in where we have sample@test.com for example. When the user is redirected to the above URL, they will be added to your list, but what happens next? Well, hopefully you’ve added a custom subscribe page (and if you haven’t, just jump into the “Create a Subscribe Form” options in your list and add one), and the user will be redirected back to the subscribe confirmation page you’ve specified. The best part is, both of these approaches happen so quickly the user won’t notice a thing.

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What Are Some Good Methods for Avoiding Spam Filters?

We often get asked about any simple steps that can be taken to reduce the…

Blog Post

The Truth about Flash in Email

Planning to use Flash in your newsletter? Honestly, don’t do it. To this day, we…

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The Best Christmas Emails of 2005

Check out some of the coolest and most original Christmas emails we’ve ever seen delivered.

Blog Post

What Does It Mean When a Subscriber Has Opened My Campaign Multiple Times?

There are several reasons why a subscriber may appear to have opened your email many times. It’s most often the case that your subscriber simply opened your campaign multiple times. If you’re sending interesting content, then more often than not your recient has come back to look at it multiple times. A subscriber could have a “Preview Pane” feature enabled in his or her email client. In this case, every time the campaign was clicked or scrolled to in the “Preview Pane”, the subscriber’s address displays as having opened the campaign. Find out more about how to design for preview panes. If the subscriber uses the email client to “forward” the email campaign instead of using Campaign Monitor’s Forward to a Friend feature, any subsequent opens by those recipients show as another “open” by your subscriber. The Unique HTML Opened count in your Campaign Snapshot indicates the total number of unique opens for that entire campaign and does not take multiple opens into account.

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How Does Campaign Monitor Handle Duplicate Subscribers?

We often get asked if Campaign Monitor checks for duplicates when importing subscribers, so we thought we’d cover it here once and for all. The short answer, yes. We never allow duplicate emails to be imported into the same list and if someone tries to subscribe to a list that they already belong to, they won’t be added again. This way a recipient will never get the same campaign twice and you’ll never be charged for sending the same thing twice. Even if a recipient is a member of two lists and you send a campaign to both lists, they’ll still only receive one version.

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