Gator Mail Hints’n’tips April 2007

Please check out the Communigator file manager here for load of usefull things to steel.

1. Take advantage of the preview pane
Always include preview pane friendly code in your designs, this uses basic HTML to render colour, branding and information before the email has even been opened.

2. Code emails by hand if you can
Programs such as Word / FrontPage are not ideal for designing HTML emails, because these “WYSIWYG” editors typically add extra code that causes havoc with certain email clients. Although CommuniGator cleans this code when pasted into your design, it is better to have an HTML programmer code your email template by hand to keep it clean. Otherwise, use programs such as HomeSite or Dreamweaver and remove any unnecessary code by hand.

3. Do not use canvas background images (they don’t display in most email clients) and have always been a problem with Lotus Notes. Now Office 2007 uses Word to render email this is more of a problem.
See January’s hints & tips

4. Avoid pixel spacer gifs – pixel spacer gifs are used to force widths in table data cells to aid formatting, spammers use them, so you shouldn’t.

5. Avoid using Cascading Style Sheets
CommuniGator does support CSS but, as far as best practice is concerned, inline styling is a better option. Your designs will be delivered exactly as they should be. CSS on a Website can simplify the coding process and ensure a consistent style, but in HTML email, they can cause incorrect rendering in some email clients or simply get stripped out or overwritten. CSS can still be used in all its glory on landing zones.

6. Keep HTML emails from 500 to 650 pixels wide
HTML messages that are wider force the recipient to scroll horizontally to see the whole message.

7. Validate and check your HTML content – using the Validate HTML button built into CommuniGator you can quickly validate your email design code ensuring its conformance to W3C recommendations and other standards. CommuniGator has a spam checker allowing you to check your content before you send your campaign.

8. Avoid scripting in your emails
Do not use scripting in your email designs, take advantage of the built in functions of CommuniGator. Save any bespoke scripting for your landing zones, including Java Script.

9. Link to a Web version and text version of your email message
This benefits recipients whose email clients don’t render your email properly, no matter how carefully you format it. To create a link to a copy of your email just simply link to landing zone ‘0’. As CommuniGator is capable of sending a 2 part Mime message don’t forget to include a text version with your design.

10. Use image alt tags
These show one or two words describing an image or an action when the image doesn’t display because of slow loading time or default image blocking.

11. Use horizontal layout rather than vertical
This allows readers who scroll down in the preview pane to see more content in the pane. Eliminate story layouts and “skyscraper” ad formats that are more than the pixel equivalent of 4 inches deep.

12. Don’t overuse HTML functions
Keep the use of HTML functions to a minimum, for example, layout items such as layers are a bad idea. Don’t use any scripts in your emails other than the built in CommuniGator functions.

13. Personalisation
It is always a good idea to personalise your emails. ‘Custom Links’ enables you to merge data into your designs.

14. Text Version
Always include a text version of every email that you design, CommuniGator will automatically send a 2 part MIME message, if the HTML version is blocked the text version will be delivered in its place.

15. Good subject lines
Writing subject lines for promotional emails and newsletters is made much harder by the huge amount of spam sent on a daily basis. More and more people are becoming less and less patient when it comes to scanning their inbox.
You need to write a subject line that appeals to your readers and immediately lets them know that your email is not another piece of spam. Using CommuniGator’s ‘Custom links’ you can personalise your subject lines.
Many thanks for reading, we welcome your feedback: Submit a topic for the next bulletin (end of May)