Ian Hoar – Passion for Technology – Geeking Out - Technology, Web, Toys, Games, Design, Entertainment, Gadgets, & Geeking Out

Do your email newsletters look right in Gmail?

Gmail logoThe world of email clients is constantly changing, especially when it comes to webmail. Google recently updated Gmail and it’s pretty cool. The UI is super clean, and you can set themes which have different backgrounds. I’m a huge fan of Gmail as a user, but it’s not always fun to build email newsletters for it. The newest issue is due to the semi transparent background which allows users to set backgrounds. It looks great, and really allows us to customize our email experience, but it can leave you email newsletters looking a bit odd if you have not taken the right steps.

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Creating email newsletter margins with tables

Creating email newsletter margins with tablesThis may seem painfully obvious to some, especially the more seasoned old school table based web designers out there, but I’m still amazed at how many email newsletters don’t render properly in my inbox. Remember when it comes to email newsletters tables are king and web standards go out the window! It sucks, but that’s the way it is, so lets move on.

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Outlook email newsletters and the AutoPreview pane

Cranking out email newsletters for Microsoft Outlook can be a pain, but if you are in the web business you may have to crank out the occasional email newsletter, and of course Outlook has a major market share. If you use Outlook you may know of the AutoPreview feature. This is a preview pane below the actual title that gives you the first few lines of content within the email. In many email newsletters you will get something like “View the online version of our newsletter”. This is probably not what you want to show up in the Outlook AutoPreview, and the way around it is quite simple. It’s also another chance to entice your audience into opening your email newsletter.

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Creating OFT templates for Outlook 2010

I wrote an article a few years ago on creating OFT files for Outlook. This was written for Outlook 2007, and since then, Outlook 2010 has been released and things have changed. The ability to view web pages within Outlook 2010 has been removed and the UI has also been redone, but fear not, the ability to make OFT files still exists, although it’s not as straight forward as it used to be.

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Email newsletters in Lotus Notes and table width

Lotus NotesLotus Notes, or Locust Notes as some of my colleagues like to call it is probably the hardest email client in wide use to code for. Depending on which version you are trying to support, you may be in for a real nightmare. I recently marked up a very basic email newsletter that had to work in Lotus Notes 6.5 and I still had a lot of trouble getting it to work. The same rules apply to Lotus as that of Outlook 2007, build your emails with a slew of tables and spacer gifs and use as little CSS as possible, this is especially true for older versions of Lotus notes. I wanted to share one particularly nasty bug that I squashed, and that is how Lotus deals with table widths.

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Outlook 2007 losing font-family declaration

Email clients are one of the pinnacle frustrations for web designers. The limitations are far greater than those of web browsers and you can always count on Microsoft’s Outlook 2007 being at the forefront of compatibility problems and bug issues. If you create emails that have to support Outlook 2007’s wonky Word rendering you may have noticed on occasion that your specified font-family disappears. There’s a few ways to fix this, but some are better than others.

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Anchor links in Gmail and email newsletters

I usually recommend against using anchor links in email newsletters; the reason for this is twofold.

First, when someone is viewing a newsletter their attention span is probably extremely short. They probably want to get onto their next email, but something has triggered their interest in your newsletter. Why waste that interest on jumping them further down the email, this is your chance to grab their attention and hook them into your website. It may be your last chance before they click onto their next email and your website is probably a much richer web experience anyway.

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Yahoo! mail paragraph spacing still broken

Yahoo broke it’s paragraph spacing in HTML newsletters a long time ago and still hasn’t fixed it. Usually it’s Hotmail or Outlook 2007 that get all the flack for their wacky email newsletter behavior, but dropping paragraph spacing all together really takes the cake, that’s just bizarre. There’s the age old debate on email newsletters and whether they should even exist, but like it or not they are here to stay and there’s obviously a demand for them. Email clients should at least show the basic tags properly. That said if you make email newsletters like I do, you probably want to know how to fix this.

Styling the paragraph tags

Luckily at least with my tests you don’t need inline styles, so you can use an embedded style sheet at the top of the newsletter. If you have worked with email newsletters for awhile you probably already know that most styles should be made inline, but inlining paragraph tags can be tedious depending how man you have. This fix should work either embedded or inline, so it’s up to you which method you choose.

p {
      margin-bottom:1em;
}

Option 2:

<p style="margin-bottom:1em;">Your paragraph</p>

This should fix your Yahoo mail paragraph woes, at least until they break change something else.

The mailto syntax; A comma may not work in Outlook Web Access

The mailto syntax is pretty simple, but sometimes you might run into problems with some mail clients (AKA Outlook Web Access). Most of them are very forgiving and you can drop a comma for example right into the body of the mailto and have no problems, but it’s better not to do that. It’s much safer if you use hexadecimal numeric values for your special characters. For example a comma is %2c and a space is %20.

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Outlook 2007, inline styles, and links

I recently discovered yet another weird Outlook 2007 bug with email newsletters. Every web designer has probably gone through the nightmare of Internet Explorer and then tried to explain to non-web people why it just plain sucks. Outlook 2007 raises the bar to a whole new level of awfulness, but enough with the ranting.

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