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how to set up an html newsletter

html newsletter design

     
3:13 pm on Nov 8, 2002 (gmt 0)

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I'm am faced with having to design my first html newsletter. I'm mac based and I use Dreamweaver/Fireworks to design web sites.

I've never set up an html newsletter so I was wondering how to approach it. Do I design the newsletter in Dreamweaver and somehow import it into an email provider like Outlook Express. The client is determined to have an html newsletter, even though a plain text would be more practical.

Any help would be appreciated!

3:52 pm on Nov 8, 2002 (gmt 0)

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Welcome to WebmasterWorld! Just set your HTML up as you normally would. If you use OE for the PC, it is quite simple to insert the code into your e-mail. From my Mac days, I remember that OE for the Mac was always a little more advanced (no kidding!) than the PC version, so I suspect you have the same functionality.

You do need to decide if you want to include your images or keep them on your server - make sure the links are appropriate. And think small - lots of your recipients may be dialing up.

You will find there are some people who HATE HTML mail. I'm not one of them, but I guess we all have our opinions. But those who don't like it, really don't like it.

Good luck.

4:15 pm on Nov 8, 2002 (gmt 0)

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Thanks Mardi_Gras,

So I take it that I can Design my newsletter in Dreamweaver and then somehow embed the graphics and then import it into MS Outlook?

I've been trying to play around and figure out how to import the html from Dreamweaver into Outlook but I haven't been successful...any tips?

Thanks so much,
Zoe

4:17 pm on Nov 8, 2002 (gmt 0)

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Thanks Mardi_Gras,

So I take it that I can Design my newsletter in Dreamweaver and then somehow embed the graphics and then import it into MS Outlook?

I've been trying to play around and figure out how to import the html from Dreamweaver into Outlook but I haven't bee successful...any tips?

Thanks so much,
Zoe

4:40 pm on Nov 8, 2002 (gmt 0)

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I would use Outlook Express - keep in mind that Outlook and Outlook Express are completely diferent programs.

I'm not sure how this works on your Mac. On the PC, at least, create a new message in
OE. Click in the message pane, and select "insert text." There will be an option for HTML files. Select that, and navigate to your HTML file. Then, if you are including images, go to "Insert Picture." Insert each of your images.

Or, just open up your file in your HTML editor - select all - then paste into your OE message.

You can preview to make sure you've got everything. Your Mac OE might be different - these directions are for the PC version.

4:52 pm on Nov 8, 2002 (gmt 0)

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I should add that on the PC, both OE and Outlook will require that you put the names in the bcc field (or show the address list to everyone who recieves it - not cool). You can get around this by using a mail list manager or using a mail list program that your ISP may set up.

On the Mac, I think you can put the group name in the "To" field and OE will only show the name of the individual recipient, not the whole list. Check that before you send it out, though!

4:53 pm on Nov 8, 2002 (gmt 0)

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Create the email as you would any other page for your site.

The only embedding you have to do for images is make sure the img src's go to [yoursite.com...] wherever you put them) and a html client should download them.

Do some stuff, play with it, then grab the source, paste it in an email app, and send it to yourself. You'll then see what works, what doesn't, and the kind of form factor you're going to be looking at.

Remember, an email client generally only samples about 2-4 inches of a message in it's preview pane, so you should consider that space as premium, (muy importanto!), and fill it with something that will make the recipient want to open the email(or scroll it) to see the rest.

Mario11779

10:35 pm on Nov 8, 2002 (gmt 0)

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There are also some great bulk mailing services out there that you can design in their templates or add your own HTML into pre-defined fields. One of them is Constant Contact. I used them in the past and will probably use them again in the future. I think they give a free 60 day trial. Best of luck.
12:23 am on Nov 9, 2002 (gmt 0)

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Plain-text email messages have the following line in their headers:

Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii

For an email message to be interpreted as HTML by the recipient's email client, the above needs to be replaced with:

MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/html; charset=us-ascii

If you send HTML code with the "text/plain" header, the recipients will probably see see the HTML code and not your message as intended.

IMO, the easiest way to manage your own HTML newsletter is to simply pay a small monthly fee for an HTML friendly autoresponder if the list is small... or use a professional list hosting provider if it has 10,000+ subscribers.

A search at Google for autoresponders+HTML will provide plenty of potential solutions.

If you're intent on doing it yourself...

Depending on your email client and list hosting platform, you'll need to do different things to accomplish the insertion of the proper header.

Without getting into the individual details for the numerous clients and softwares packages, I'll go over the solution most often used by HTML publishers... Lyris.

With Lyris, you just paste the above two lines into the "Append SMTP Header:" field of your list information screen in the list admin area. Save the settings and any message you send to your list will be sent as HTML.

Then to send HTML messages with Lyris you just paste the HTML code into the "Create a New Message" form. Making sure to un-check the "Word-wrap on" box before sending.

Many of the larger list hosting services use Lyris such as SparkList, Lyris.net, Dundee, and sjMail.

A much bigger issue was mentioned above...

Some people despise HTML mail.

I cannot recommend highly enough offering an option of plain text when subscribing, even if the default is set to HTML.

Unless your offering is indispensible, you'll get far more subscribers that way.

Other miscellaneous issues to consider:

1) File size.

I definitely recommend serving your images from your web server. Granted, some people read their email while offline, but generally these are the same folks that hate HTML email and are probably not reading your newsletter anyway. :)

If you're using a WYSIWIG editor your file sizes are going to be unnecessarily large. While this is an issue in page load times on the web, it's an even bigger issue in email since it greatly increases email download time. It's one of the primary reasons that many people despise HTML email.

After you've designed your HTML ezine, be sure to strip any extraneous code to get a "lean" template to work off of.

There are tools that can help you with this, many of which are free like HTML Shrinker. Once again, a quick search online should yield a myriad of options.

2) Handling subscribers that do not have HTML friendly clients.

If they receive your HTML ezine with a non-HTML-savvy client they will see the actual HTML code.

To salvage a potentially lost subscriber insert an explanation right after the opening HTML tag in your message contained in a comment tag.

In this comment tag you can tell them that they are seeing the HTML code because of their email client, and you can suggest that they unsubscribe from the HTML version and resubscribe to a plain text version of the newsletter (if you have one)

At the very least offer them unsubscribe information, since they won't be able to find it in the HTML code.

3) Screen Width

You'll need to test the look and feel of your ezine in as many clients as possible. (Keep in mind that even different versions of the same client may yield different results. Many people are not using the latest version of Outlook, Outlook Express, or AOL for example)

While most people use an 800x600 screen resolution, the window they read email in is generally much smaller. Many people only read their email in the preview pane without opening a separate window.

Many suggest publishing in a 400 to 600 pixel width table.

You can also use a percentage width table, which will allow your ezine to be resized when viewed in different windows. This is quite a bit more complicated and can cause a very confused display in certain sizes. You'll need to test yourself to see whether your design resizes in a favorable manner.

4) Forwarding

If your readers just use their email client's standard forwarding feature all of your HTML forwarding is likely to plunge into the digital abyss.

If you include a "forward this to your friends and associates" type message in your newsletter, be sure to link it to a web form that will automate the process and send it directly to their target with HTML formatting intact.

4:05 am on Nov 9, 2002 (gmt 0)

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Granted, some people read their email while offline, but generally these are the same folks that hate HTML email and are probably not reading your newsletter anyway.

Both funny and accurate :) I'm not sure about the advantages of using a hosted mailing list (I'm trying to work through this myself right now).

Advantages to a hosted list - requires little to no action on your part, works 24 hours a day, speedy e-mailing.

Advantages to locally hosted list - ease of back up, ease of management, easy control of welcome messages, options to extract addresses from local files, etc.

Pair, Westhost, and Earthlink all offer hosted lists as part of their packages (and all host sites for me). I'm experimenting with their lists and have also purchased (today, in fact)Maillist King for managing lists locally. I like the control the local solution gives me; I like the "set it and forget" aspect of the hosted solutions.

I guess I'll see which solution I'm using in six months :)

6:34 am on Nov 9, 2002 (gmt 0)

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I have found the Mach 5 email software to be a totally awesome solution. It is so easy to use you don't have to read directions. I didn't. It's totally intuitive.

Only $99. Totally worth it. Convince your client to buy it... Or buy it yourself and write it off on your taxes as a business expense if you live in the U.S.

The email list has to be in comma delineated format or Excel. You take your html and paste it in. Then hit the send button.

Mach 5 are the same people who do the Stat Analyzer software. Great stuff. I convinced one of my clients to buy both of them.

1:44 pm on Nov 9, 2002 (gmt 0)

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I have found the Mach 5 email software to be a totally awesome solution.

It does look pretty nice. Different feature set from Mail List King. I think MLK's strengths are extracting e-mail addresses from your computer, monitoring folders for subscribe/unsubscribe messages, and creating and maintaining a simple database, including groups.

MAch 5 seems to have less in terms of most of those items but much more in terms of database integration and mail customization. I will give it a try.

2:54 pm on Nov 9, 2002 (gmt 0)

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Advantages to a hosted list - requires little to no action on your part, works 24 hours a day, speedy e-mailing.

Advantages to locally hosted list - ease of back up, ease of management, easy control of welcome messages, options to extract addresses from local files, etc.

Any quality (paid) third party list management solution will have a one click export option for backup (as well as daily backups themselves), a web interface that allows complete customization and updating of welcome messages, and easily managed import options.

In my opinion the biggest advantage is that new subscribers will instantly receive their welcome message plus bonuses regardless of whether my computer is connected to the web.

I believe it's crucial to provide value to a subscriber at the earliest possible opportunity.

Being that I work from a home office I wouldn't even consider handling a list locally unless it was under 200 subscribers.

Only if I was dealing with an enterprise level operation with dedicated servers and a staff would I consider taking list management fully in-house.

A 3rd party solution still requires routine administrationtakes,
but being that time is my single most valuable commodity, for under $30 per month I find it well worth it to leave the tech headaches to the pros.

That being said... I do have enormous respect for those that are dedicated DIY folks, *especially* when it's doing something they enjoy. :)

2:58 am on Nov 10, 2002 (gmt 0)

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for under $30 per month I find it well worth it to leave the tech headaches to the pros.

For under $30 per month, I would too.:)

Unfortunately, the entry price for Lyris ListManager (database>1000 members) is $1,500. What are some hosted options in the price range you mention?

4:04 am on Nov 10, 2002 (gmt 0)

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For lists of under 10,000 subscribers I've found a few autoresponder services that offer just about every feature you could ever need.

Here's a short list of the one's I've found to be reputable, feature rich, and affordable...

FollowUpMarketer
ListWarrior
AutoResponderPro
AWeber
GetResponse

A quick search for "autoresponders" will yield hundreds of other options.

A few key points to consider when choosing an autoresponder as a list management solution...

1) While there is an enormous savings in using an autoresponder solution you are trading off a bit of site branding since the subscribe and unsubscribe messages will not be @yourdomain.com

Then again this is true with most of the larger dedicated 3rd party list solutions as well.

One way to work around this is to set up an email forwarding service so that subscribe@yourdomain.com redirects mail to subscribe@yourautoresponder.com

2) Only a handful of autoresponder services offer specific date/time scheduling. This is a feature I couldn't live without since I love automating as much as possible.

3) Be sure that the autoresponder you choose offers a form script that can be integrated into your website without having to take visitors off site for either subsribing, or the thank you page.

Another inexpensive, but slightly more tech involved solution is to use one of the off the shelf scripts that can be installed on your own server.

WillMaster offers a few good ones, and I'm sure there are others.

Using these subscribe and unsubscribe addresses will be @yourdomain.com without a need for redirects.

1:49 pm on Nov 10, 2002 (gmt 0)

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Your point #1 (subscribe and unsubscribe messages will not be @yourdomain.com), is, to me, one of the biggest drawbacks of the hosted solutions.

A package running on my server is probably the best option. I would guess (based on my limited experience with Mailman) that customization and configuration is not as straightforward as a locally-based solution like MailList King or Mach 5 E-Mailer, though. Maybe that would be a wrong guess; I'll have to explore some packages.

3:32 pm on Nov 10, 2002 (gmt 0)

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The free and cheaper solutions might take a bit of coding experience to customize, but if you're willing to invest a bit more, I've seen scripts in the $150+ market that come complete with a comprehensive and easy to manage control panel.
6:37 pm on Nov 10, 2002 (gmt 0)

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If I am not mistaken with Outlook express you can just link to an html page sitting on your server. When Launchcast or Heavy or one of the big guys sends an email to their subcribers they don't send all the images along with it, they just are linking to a html page sitting on their server. What you see in your email cleint looks like an html document. I am not sure exactly how to do it, but I do remember it is very easy. check it out.
6:42 pm on Nov 10, 2002 (gmt 0)

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They might be using iframes.
6:47 pm on Nov 10, 2002 (gmt 0)

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Some more tips..

If you're sending out HTML emails, make sure they are MIME Encoded. This allows people who do not support html to see a text version of the email. You build 2 versions encoded into one email and send it out and depending on what the user supports, they will see it.
Any good email program/provider should be able to handle this. If they can't, find someone else.

If you're sending out separate html/text emails, the above point isn't valid.

DO NOT include images in the message. Nobody wants to receive a 200k email full of images.

Make sure you email is readable w/out any graphics being loaded. This means adding width/height tags so that images retain their shape even if they're not loaded so that your formatting remains in tact. There are alot of people out there still on dialup.

8:19 pm on Nov 11, 2002 (gmt 0)

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I still at a loss. I'm using Outlook Express 5 for Mac and I do not have a stationary option nor can I just copy and paste the code from my Dreamweaver html file into my mail app-I just end up sending myself an email full of html code.

I have no option for insert picture or text. I've tried to see if I could select my html file as the stationary for my email like I have read about, but I can find no stationary option to do that.

Is it because MS Outlook does not have some of the features the PC version does?

8:50 pm on Nov 11, 2002 (gmt 0)

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Well, according to Microsoft's Mac site, you should choose Outlook Express if need HTML mail - but I couldn't determine if that meant sending or receiving. I searched every way I could think of and could not come up with anything.

I know Eudora for the Mac supports some HTML in outgoing messages - not sure about Mailsmith. Haven't used my Mac in couple of years, so I may not be the best person to make recommendations here...

9:39 pm on Nov 11, 2002 (gmt 0)

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Nice thread.

I have to agree with Mario11779, Constant Contact is a great option. It's super easy to use and less expensive than the competition. It isn't very flexible and may not suit your needs. It didn't suit mine. But, if one of your needs is ease of use, consider it.

I haven't used Constant Contact but researched it thoroughly once and thought it was in a class by itself.

zoebella, Were you planning to pay for a hosting service (or local software) or were you just going to start by using Outlook Express to send out the newsletters?

1:51 am on Nov 12, 2002 (gmt 0)

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I still at a loss. I'm using Outlook Express 5 for Mac

Unfortunately zoe, you're not going to be able to do it with OE5 for Mac.

That's the client I use, and it doesn't have the ability to embed your own customized coding because it doesn't give you manual access to the headers.

OE5 is just not designed to serve as a newsletter server.

You'll need to look at another solution.

webchickaly

9:57 pm on Nov 15, 2002 (gmt 0)

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along the same lines of having to send out an html newsletter, does anyone know how to do it in eudora? i was also trying to do it in outlook, but couldn't. i have access to eudora so i'm wondering if anyone knows if it's even possible to do and if so...how? i'd imagine there has to be SOME way for mac users to send out html newsletters....right?
4:50 am on Nov 17, 2002 (gmt 0)

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Without selling the service that I work for, I can tell you that it is possible to send from any domain. Your from address can be from you or your client when you send through the company I represent.

We are permission only, no third party.

However, what I want to talk about most is multipart/alternative messages.

You have mostly talked about sending html or text, without talking about sending both at the same time and allowing the client software and personal settings to determine which will be viewed.

All images must be on a server somewhere. Part of this is a cost reason also. Most companies will upcharge by the size of the message. Sending HTML messages with image files as attachments just ups your cost.

Multipart/Alternative can also be scripted. Basically a boundary between the text and the html is defined so that the client software can pull the version for display.

10:08 pm on Nov 18, 2002 (gmt 0)

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One option to consider is your own routine using PHP and MySql.

It's a relatively simple bit of coding to receive a form in PHP and write it into a MySql table. In fact, it's less than a page including HTML for a basic version. From there, PHP's Mail() function can easily email a reply instantly (Welcome!) with no trouble at all (just one command) then display a confirmation message.

And finally, running through a MySql table and firing off an email to all those listed is also less than a page of code. There's a brilliant script by Jason Rottman (Jason's Mass Mailer) that will run through any MySql table and fire off a HTML email of your choice to everyone it finds. Not only that, but it will run through the list in predefined quantities, auto-refreshing itself after each block, in order to avoid time-out issues.
It's also only a page of code.

[hotscripts.com ]

Personally, I think it's one of the easier jobs to attempt if you want to learn PHP and MySql so I suggest you just give it a try. As it runs on your server, the signup and welcome mail is fully automated. The mass mailing is done just by calling a single script (though I suggest some form of password check at least!).

12:10 am on Nov 19, 2002 (gmt 0)

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I would agree with kcartlidge. It's extrememly easy to do it yourself in php.

I would add though to use the HTML Mime Mail class that's done by phpguru. Do a search on google for it.
You can easily encode multipart MIME emails with that to include both html and text into one email.

12:51 am on Nov 19, 2002 (gmt 0)

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I recently added a newsletter to my site. I decided on plain text after looking around the forums - but my newsletter is information based not graphical. I don't mind getting HTML newsletters, they look good but then I keep up to date with software and have broadband access ;)

I used a free PHP script called MyMail, available from CodingClick.com. I got it working ok with not too much trouble and I am NOT a PHP guru by any stretch. There is a forum on the site that can help you out with any trouble you may have. The latest version can do HTML mail and all versions have an easy front-end GUI for administration.

4:02 pm on Nov 19, 2002 (gmt 0)

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I have designed my E-mail newsletter at 415 pixels wide. Now the client says they want no white space at all surrounding the email.

I have a thin grey border around the newsletter and when it comes in it is centered and has about and inch of white space around the outside of it. I personally see no problem with this but the clients wants NO WHITE SPACE!

Is there a simple way to fix this? They want me to design it at 600 pixels wide. I think that is too wide, everything I've read says 400 or a little over is the right width.

Any suggestions!

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