Over the years we’ve had a lot of bad press about HTML emails. Descriptions heard by this reviewer have gone from ‘bad idea’ to ‘unholy’.
And there’s a good reason. Unless you want little animations of dogs with wagging tails, huge floral borders and everything in 18pt hot pink Comic Sans (travesties for which Microsoft is almost wholly responsible for making it so easy to do in Outlook), the best person to engage to create one is a professional web designer.
Since web designers are now used to the latest standards in HTML and CSS, it’s surprising to learn that most email clients require such old programming and is no wonder standards-aware designers hate them. Forget referencing an external CSS file, putting everything in standards-compliant div tags or giving control over font size to your user. The only way to make sure your HTML email works in all major emails clients (and there are far more of them than web browsers) is to use tables. Yes, you read that right.
That’s enough to put most people off, but Patterson — of Australia-based marketing email service Campaign Monitor — does a great job explaining not just why that doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but how you can turn it to your advantage and stand head and shoulders above your competition.
Create Stunning HTML Email That Works is full of sage advice you can use from the absolute outset of your project before you even write a word of text or save a single jpg file, right down to semi-legal advice about opt-in permissions. There are also plenty of screenshot examples of companies that do it right.
Patterson’s very clever — the book is by no means an ad for Campaign Monitor and nor is he only trying to talk about services the company offers so as to lead you there. It just so happens that both he (and the company he works for) knows what to think about in the process. An example is the very sensible idea to test your email in a bunch of different clients to see what the result looks like. It’s a service Campaign Monitor happens to offer, but he’s up front about others that do the same.
It’s all written in Sitepoint’s signature accessible style, and the layout, attention icons and structure mean you’ll be through it in a jiffy and raring to go.