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Sending HTML Emails
Advice for a beginner wanting to send HTML e-mails?
Danawalt




msg:3976536
 5:57 pm on Aug 21, 2009 (gmt 0)

Hi All,

My company would like to offer HTML e-mail marketing design for our clients - and possibly performing the e-mail blast for them as well.

I've searched Google and have compared a few different bulk-email programs, most of which have simple WYSIWYG editors included.

Can anyone recommend some things that I should look for while researching which software to buy? I don't have much experience with databse languages and I'm unsure how much that would factor into the aspect of e-mail list management. I'm hoping I can find software that will manage this for me. Thanks!

 

mack




msg:3977333
 7:25 pm on Aug 23, 2009 (gmt 0)

One thing to take into account is your clients userbase. When a user signs up you should provide the option of html mail, or plain text. Some users can't or won't accept html mail. Offering the choice of plain text will prevent mails being sent that can't be read.

Mack.

Danawalt




msg:3977884
 6:21 pm on Aug 24, 2009 (gmt 0)

Didn't think of that - thanks!

Danawalt




msg:3977887
 6:38 pm on Aug 24, 2009 (gmt 0)

Another question - is it possible to create an HTML e-mail from scratch (i.e. in plain text) and then migrate it into your Outlook or Mac Mail? If so, is it also possible to use CSS in the header?

tangor




msg:3977941
 8:24 pm on Aug 24, 2009 (gmt 0)

mack's suggestion is the one you want to run with. My suggestion is don't do it. The number of plain text email programs is gianormous and those folks will not be happy to receive a code laden message they can't read, and of the small percent that can figure out how to copy/paste to a file then open in a browser is vanishingly small.

Personally... and this is my opinion... I thoroughly dislike html formatted messages hitting my inbox. Nine times out of ten I'll delete them unread, and the one I might read could get a reply "Don't send me any html/rich text messages..."

Usually I just add the sender's address to my filters and never worry about it again. And I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one out there who does that.

rocknbil




msg:3978417
 6:23 pm on Aug 25, 2009 (gmt 0)

Another question - is it possible to create an HTML e-mail from scratch (i.e. in plain text) and then migrate it into your Outlook or Mac Mail? If so, is it also possible to use CSS in the header?

CSS in an html formatted email is unreliable at best, use inline markup. Also, if you don't send images as attachments (very.bad.idea to do this) be sure to indicate the full URL to the image in the src.

There are ways of "doing it right" involving multipart emails and tweaking on your server/email program, but using the method you describe, a down and dirty email for both would be this.

<html>
<body>
<!--
You are seeing this plain text message
because your email program does not support
html. Please ignore the code at the bottom
or set your email program to read HTML emails.
-->
<p>This is the html portion of the message</p>
</body>
</html>

The HTML comment <!-- --> is invisible to html viewers.

Like it, dislike it, html email is firmly ingrained in the output of emails, we have to deal with it.

In some forms, it's actually an improvement if not abused - you can format receipts in nice columns (tables, of course) instead of merrily dancing the order receipt down the left of the email.

Danawalt




msg:3979518
 2:52 pm on Aug 27, 2009 (gmt 0)

Thanks for the responses! I'm still not following how this process works in the first place. For instance, I received an HTML marketing e-mail this morning. I can right-click it and view the HTML code. If I reply to the message, the HTML is preserved in my new message window, unless I turn the HTML off. When I do, the HTML is replaced by a plain text message that contains all of the content of the original e-mail, but there is no code anywhere to be seen.

I guess I'm curious about how this whole process is done. Where is the HTML code stored that is being referenced in my mail program? Do I need special software to do this, like I mentioned in my first post, and does that software normally give me the option to do both plain text and HTML?

These are questions that I need to answer to intelligently go about implementing the service for my company.

Philosophically speaking - whether we like HTML e-mail marketing or not, I have to agree with rocknbil - it's here to stay and our customers are asking for it...

rocknbil




msg:3979602
 5:18 pm on Aug 27, 2009 (gmt 0)

If I reply to the message, the HTML is preserved in my new message window, unless I turn the HTML off. When I do, the HTML is replaced by a plain text message that contains all of the content of the original e-mail, but there is no code anywhere to be seen.

These are functions of your mail program, nothing to do with the way it's sent. Experiment with a few emails on various platforms, and be sure to include web-based programs - Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc. - in your testing. If you think cross browser compatibility tests your resolve, you will see what a can of worms it is to get html emails to render similarly in all programs. :-)

arieng




msg:3979613
 5:42 pm on Aug 27, 2009 (gmt 0)

I'd highly recommend looking into hiring an ESP (Email Service Provider). There are some really good ones that are very inexpensive for low quantity mailings (under 10,000 or so). They'll be able to help you with best practices (all of the feedback here is great, but there are volumes of knowledge about emailing you need to know, especially if you are sending commercial messages). Most systems can send email in both text and html format. If the email client can display html, that is what will be shown.

BTW - Rocknbil's 'comment' approach is another elegant solution to the problem.

Another thing to think about with html emails is the use of images. More and more email clients by default do not show images from new senders. Make sure you look at your email with images turned off and try to avoid placing important information within the images.

Danawalt




msg:3980090
 4:15 pm on Aug 28, 2009 (gmt 0)

Thanks Rocknbil and Erieng for your comments - very helpful! I think we're going to look into an ESP for now and hopefully get educated a bit along the way. ;)

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