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Step in the Right Direction for .Mac

For 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.

Blog Post

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.

Blog Post

Payment Gateway Back Online

Just under 8 hours ago (at around 1am Sydney time) our payment gateway decided to go offline without notice. Because we don’t charge you until you actually send your campaigns, this meant that no campaigns, either scheduled or being sent immediately could be delivered. After working with them for the last few hours, we’ve just received word from the gateway that the issue has been resolved, and can confirm that your campaigns can now be delivered. We realize this situation is completely unacceptable. Please rest assured that we are now accelerating our plans to move to a new payment gateway (it was happening later this month, but will now happen a lot sooner). We are also looking at extending our monitoring system to ensure we’re alerted about a payment processing error and are also looking into adding a layer of redundancy to our payment processing to ensure you’re never bothered by something like this again. Of course, I realize this explanation does nothing to curb the frustrations you and some of your clients must be feeling right now. If you feel you were significantly impacted by this issue, please get in touch with support and we’ll credit you for the cost of the campaign you were delayed in sending.

Blog Post

“Just Wanted to Say How Fantastic the Campaign Monitor Experience Has Been”

Just wanted to say how fantastic the Campaign Monitor experience has been, you really do have an excellent tool here. I used to manage the mailing list for a big high-street retailer here in the UK and I wish we’d had something like this back then! I’ve used other tools in the past, and none of them are near your software for convenience and ease of use. We’ll definitely be spreading the word about your service. Iain Roberts Vapourised

Blog Post

Do Forms Work in HTML Emails?

Over the years we’ve received loads of inquiries about the use of forms in emails, such as newsletter subscribe forms, event registration and surveys. So we decided to run some tests to get to the bottom of just how well forms are supported in all the major email environments. Is it okay to use forms in emails? It’s not the best idea. But what do you say when your client asks you to put one in an email? You can either tell them “no” for reasons which may not make sense to them, or you can back up your defiance with some hard evidence. The short of it is that email clients consider email forms to be a security risk. While some email clients simply warn you of potential danger, others outright disable the forms. So if your client wants to send out a form, they should know that most of their recipients will never be able to use it. And for those who can, they’ll think twice about submitting data when they see a warning from their email client. Results Summary Common email clients share a propensity to distrust forms in email messages. But they differed greatly in how they handled the intruding forms. Following are some notable oddities. External data submission Upon submitting a form in many webmail clients, a JavaScript alert announces that the form is submitting data to an external page and asks if you want to continue: Scam alerts Thunderbird recognizes that the form may be malicious but doesn’t strip its functionality. Instead, it warns you of potential danger: Odd behavior Windows Live Hotmail shows the form. However, the form functions in an odd way; and certainly not correctly. If the form is submitted by keying the “return” key, the page is refreshed but no data is sent and the process is not completed. If the form is submitted by clicking the submit button, nothing happens. Outlook 2007 also exhibits some unique behavior in that it custom renders the form. Inputs are replaced with brackets and the submit button is replaced with the button’s value enveloped in brackets. So it’s a plain-text version of what the form would look like, even though the HTML is being displayed. Complete Results Client Form is displayed Form is functional .Mac Yes No Yahoo! Mail Yes Yes Yahoo! Mail Classic Yes No AOL Webmail Yes No Gmail Yes Yes Windows Live Hotmail Yes No Apple Mail Yes Yes Thunderbird Yes Yes Penelope (Eudora 8) Yes Yes Outlook 2007 No No Outlook 2003 Yes No Outlook Express Yes Yes Windows Live Mail Yes Yes Lotus Notes 8 Yes Yes Entourage Yes Yes The Recommendation Given the sporadic support for forms in emails, we recommend linking to a form on a website in an email rather than embedding it therein. This is the safest, most reliable solution to pairing an email message with a form. More people will see it and be able to use it, and as a result participation will increase.

Blog Post

Why Don’t I Get My Own Test Messages?

Why is it that sometimes you send a test message from Campaign Monitor to yourself or other team members in your company, and it doesn’t arrive? Well, most of the time the email does arrive, but is filtered into a junk folder, or just takes a few minutes. Sometimes though, it just never seems to get there. It can be incredibly frustrating, and worrying because you may think your own customers won’t get your emails either. Campaign Monitor is sending them out – where are they going? With love, from me to…me The problem occurs when you are sending an email from Campaign Monitor to yourself, but defining the ‘from’ address to be the same domain as the ‘to’ address. So from clarkk@dailyplanet.com to loisl@dailyplanet.com for example. Some mail servers have built in brains that try to stop spam by checking for emails that claim to have been sent from the same domain as they are being sent to. So the Daily Planet’s email server might say: This email for Lois says it is from Clark, but I did not send any emails for Clark, so this must be a dastardly fake. The email is stopped by the mail server, and never delivered or bounced back. Campaign Monitor can’t tell that is what happened, because no bounce message is sent. This problem will not affect your customers at all, because their email addresses are not at the same domain as your ‘from’ address. How to make sure test emails get through To prevent this problem, you just need to get your mail server administrator to specifically let emails from Campaign Monitor come through. Sometimes this is called ‘whitelisting’. They will need to know the IP addresses we send from, and you can find them in our help page. Then you will be able to receive your test emails and make sure everything is perfect before sending out your campaign, always a good idea.

Blog Post

Getting Better Results from Competition Lists

Campaign Monitor is used by people in all kinds of industries and for all kinds of reasons. Some businesses are more naturally suited to email contact, and some types of email contact are more welcomed than others. One type of list that seems to get a disproportionate amount of spam complaints is competition entry lists. These are the lists where you have entered your email address to win some kind of prize, and at the same time agreed to receive email in the future from the company running the competition. This is completely legitimate, assuming it is made very clear to people signing up that are giving that permission. However, even when it is clear we still see a lot more complaints from campaigns to these kinds of lists. It’s reasonably apparent why that should be the case: There can be a significant time lapse between entering the competition and the first email campaign. A big chunk of entrants only signed up for the competition and never wanted extra email anyway. It’s often easier to hit the spam button than the unsubscribe link. The emails often have no apparent connection the original competition. So it’s not hard to see why some subscribers would have forgotten that they signed up, or not understand why they are on the list at all. Fortunately, these issues are all quite simple to combat with small changes. On the competition entry page, make it obvious what people are signing up to receive. Don’t use vague ‘offers from selected partners’ language if you can avoid it. Send the first non-competition email soon after signup. The longer you wait the less likely people are to remember giving permission. Include a clear permission reminder in each email. It should state specifically that the subscriber signed up by entering the competition (link to the site if it is still available), and also let them get off the list easily. Make the competition list double opt-in, so people have a second chance to understand what they are doing, and take a positive action to give permission. If your clients want to run competitions and send to the entrants, you may need to work with them to avoid getting too many spam complaints on your account. These guidelines will help you, and help them only send to people who actually want to get their messages.

Blog Post

Performance Improvement Update

The changes we have put in place since the slowness and disconnections earlier in the week have made a big improvement. We are still progressing on our longer term changes though, to make sure we can maintain a reliable service as more customers come on board. We know that you need to be able to rely on Campaign Monitor to be there when you want to send your campaigns, and that’s our priority too. Thanks again for your patience, and your feedback.

Blog Post

More HTML Email Design Inspiration

There’s a ton of different ways to approach an HTML email design, and we’ve added a few more great examples recently. If you need some inspiration, check them out! See every new entry on the email design gallery’s RSS feed.

Blog Post

Inline CSS for Mac Users

Following on from our recent post on automatically generated inline CSS for email templates, another customer has come forward with a cool OSX widget to achieve the same goal. It’s called TamTam, and it’s very simple to use. You simply paste in your html with CSS rules in the head, hit “Inline” and TamTam updates all your inline classes, tags and ids. Thanks to Gary Levitt from MadMimi for a practical (and funky) designer tool.

Blog Post

We Do Sweat the Small Stuff – Login Form Tweaked

We love getting your suggestions for new features and big improvements we can consider for the future, no doubt. That’s not all – we also love hearing about those little niggles, things that don’t stop you using Campaign Monitor but that are less than perfect, or just irritate you. One customer at Web Directions last month told us about his pet hate with the Campaign Monitor login form. We try to be helpful by have the page set the focus to the username to save you some time. However if a script like Google Analytics was a bit slow to load, he would be halfway through his password and then the cursor would jump back to the username field. It’s annoying and frustrating, so we fixed it. Now the focus won’t automatically be set if you have already started entering your username or password. Just a little change, but something that smoothes out the experience of using the product. So if there is something that bothers you about Campaign Monitor, let us know, because we keep track of these things and we’d love to hear from you.

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