I've been designing/implementing HTML emails for years now, starting off in the heady 90's, where it was common to embed Flash into newsletters - yep, no kidding!
I've seen the possibilities of email marketing gradually dwindle to a point where I'm wondering if we'll all come full circle back to plain old text!
The latest 'blow' to designers/developers is the decision by microsoft to disable background image support.
With that in mind, how do you go about developing your emails?
I've reached the point where I only ever use CSS to *tweak* old fashioned table layouts.
Basically, I *forget* everything I've learned about CSS and go back to those painful old days of table based layouts, using an old copy of Dreamweaver for speed and flexibility.
I get everything as close as possible to the design using that good ol' fashioned HTML and add the final touches using inline styles.
I've downloaded the templates created by Campaign Monitor to have a quick look and while I'm impressed with some of the ideas of incorporating CSS into the layouts, there's still too many issues with various email clients for my liking.
The method I've honed over years results in accurate rendering in every single major email client and webmail client, with the exception of Lotus Notes, which I gave up on.
As much as I'd like to implement some of the ideas Campaign Monitor have come up with, my experience warns me away from anything but inline CSS when it comes to HTML email.
When it comes to newsletters, I tend to use HTML for layout, and CSS for formatting. If CSS support was different, I'd drop the tables, but in the absurd world of HTML email, they're actually "safer".
As long as it degrades gracefully, I'm happy, though.
Our client required that we did NOT use any CSS and that we limit the images in their email. Since they used their own email servers and deployed a strictly Microsoft environment, we found that we had the best results just using MS Word to layout the emails. Word is a fine word processor, but it's a nightmare for page layout. If anyone has any suggestions for alternatives, I'm all ears.
I'm not sure I understood you correct, but are you sending the campaign strictly to your client's employees?
If this is so, and they're all using the same enviroment, I'd say optimize for that enviroment.