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Optimizing CSS Presentation in HTML Emails

This article is a sequel to one that appeared on A List Apart shortly after…

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The Campaign Monitor API – Get Your Hands Dirty!

Today, after loads of testing and feedback from some dedicated early adopters, we’re excited to announce the release of the Campaign Monitor API. It’s now all too easy to integrate your Campaign Monitor account into another application. You might want to: Integrate Campaign Monitor with your favorite CRM software, automating the process of adding new customers to your subscriber lists. Drop an opt-in checkbox for any of your lists into an existing form on any web site. Put together a dashboard widget to get real-time updates on how many people have subscribed to your list today. We’ve put together plenty of documentation on each method as well as a quick overview on getting the required details from your own account. We’ll be launching a few more methods real soon, plus a few sample wrappers for different languages. What are you waiting for? Dig in and get your hands dirty, then tell us all about it!

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Update: Synchronize Unsubscribes with Your Own Database

A few customers have contacted us asking how they can access the email address of someone the minute they unsubscribe from a list. This is usually for customers who want to synchronize a local database with their Campaign Monitor subscriber list. We’re launching a big upgrade to our API in the coming days, but this is a great solution for those less familiar with web services. This is now as easy as adding a single [email] tag to your unsubscribe confirmation URL (the address your subscribers get redirected to when unsubscribing from a form or an email). For example, you could change your unsubscribe URL to: www.mysite.com/goodbye.php?emailaddress=[email] The email address of the individual who unsubscribes will then passed into the query string of that page. For example, the subscriber johnsmith@aol.com will now be redirected to: http://www.mysite.com/goodbye.php?emailaddress=johnsmith@aol.com This technique will work for anyone who unsubscribes via a campaign or an unsubscribe form.

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Update: Recommended Width for Text Emails

Based on Mark Brownlow’s recommendations for formatting plain text emails, we have added a recommended width background to the textarea you guys use to enter the text content for each campaign. This makes it much easier to keep each line under the recommended 65 characters, ensuring your newsletter is easy to read in the majority of email environments. Unfortunately background images for form elements are not supported in Safari, but it has been tested successfully in Firefox, IE and Opera on the PC and Firefox on the Mac.

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Using Forms in HTML Emails

Sometimes it can be very handy to include a HTML form in an email campaign. Whether it’s a quick customer survey or a subscribe form for another list, they can be a good way to interact with a recipient right there in their email client. We even use them occasionally to get feedback off you guys. While they can be useful, there are a number of precautions you need to consider before using them.

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Maximum Width for HTML Emails

You’ve probably noticed that the majority of email newsletters you receive these days are designed with a fixed width as opposed to a fluid layout. This is because the majority of email clients and web-based email providers don’t use the full width of your screen to display an email message. Whether it’s ads on Gmail, a menu in Hotmail or your Inbox in Outlook, a chunk of screen real estate is often already being used. Remember, your recipients are busy and impatient, so horizontal scroll bars are even more of a no-no in email than a web page. Because of this, it is a good idea to keep your emails to a fixed width of no more than 550-600 pixels. This should ensure that in most cases, your subscribers can view your email as you intended. What about height? Obviously the height of each email you send will vary depending on the amount of content. At the same time, it’s good to keep in mind that a lot of your recipients may scan your email in a preview pane before they decide to read the entire thing. The average preview pane is around 300-500 pixels high, so make sure you include any important bits of your email in this area. First impressions count.

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New Feature: Create an Unsubscribe Form

We’ve had quite a few requests for the ability to add an unsubscribe form to your own or a client’s site. We’re listening. As of today, just copy and paste the supplied HTML into your site and you’re done. When a subscriber completes this form, they will be instantly removed from that subscriber list. You can even specify a page they should be redirected to so you can display your own confirmation message. You can find the unsubscribe form HTML code in ‘Unsubscribe Settings’, when viewing a subscriber list in your account.

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New Feature: Forward to a Friend

Today we have launched the much requested ability to easily add forward to a friend links to your campaigns. These links encourage your recipients to pass your campaign along to other friends and colleagues. When a recipient clicks your forward to a friend link, they are taken to a simple page where they can specify the names and email addresses of up to 5 friends at a time to send your campaign to. This page is non-branded and located at our forwardtomyfriend.com domain. The best part is, you can track how many people are forwarding your campaign and who they’re forwarding it to from your campaign reports. How to do it? Adding a forward to a friend link is as simple as adding the following tag to the content of your campaign: HTML emails <forwardtoafriend>your link text or image here</forwardtoafriend> Text emails [forwardtoafriend] When your campaign is sent, these links will automatically be converted into a custom forward to a friend link when you import your campaign content. How do I measure these forwards? If you send a campaign with a forward to a friend link, a Forward to a Friend Activity Report is available in your campaign reports. This report, picture below, lists all the recipients that forwarded your email, as well as who they forwarded it to. Please note that this report will only be available after a recipient forwards your campaign.

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Using Style Sheets in HTML Email Newsletters

Update: Mark has published a comprehensive follow up to this article which takes a more accessible approach and includes a sample template to help you get started. Most people who’ve attempted to recreate a sophisticated design in HTML email have run into a wall when using CSS, either in the form of inexplicable mangling by email clients or a pronouncement by an email administrator stating that CSS is “against the rules”. If you’re not content to roll over and use font tags in your HTML emails, read on. Despite prevailing wisdom to the contrary, you can safely deploy HTML emails styled with good old-fashioned CSS. Yes, we really just said that. Not all attributes will be invited to the party, but many of them work flawlessly with this method.

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