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Feb. 17, 2011 By

Creating An Email Masterpiece

Creating An Email Masterpiece

So you've decided that your company quite simply, has to send an email to your plucky subscribers, no doubt all sitting eagerly with their noses pressed against their monitors in the hopes that some cracking piece of marketing will flicker through and smash their puny mortal mind across the office.

How do we achieve this? If we're putting scalps into orbit through the medium of email, we need to consider a range of things at this stage. When will the email receive maximum effect? Does your audience work nights? Maybe they work on the move and use their mobile to check emails more often. As much as it sounds like a primary 7 punishment exercise, you need to get to know your audience. Get to know them like you would get to know an eighteen year-old you met in a bar and subsequently found on Facebook. The more you know about them, the better. Their age, their jobs, their daily pressures, how they check their email, what time they take a shower, how close you can get to their bathroom window etc.

So you've decided that the best time to email them is 4am on a Sunday morning, because they're professional clowns, and this is their only moment to escape countless buckets of confetti. You've also found out that their only means of checking email is with Squirrel-mail, on a PC found in the back of a grimy caravan belonging to an incestuous trapeze family. Excellent! Now it's time to get designing.

Low and behold, as you design your email there are yet more things to bear in mind. You'll soon come to realise the entire process from conception to receipt of sending is much like running the gauntlet. Naked.

Email build restrictions are countless (and since this is an overview, I won't bore you with the details), so when designing your masterpiece, remember you won't be able to use any complex CSS or fancy animated spinning globes, you'll be building the whole thing like it's 1995 complete with nested tables, font tags, in-line styles and the soothing sound of the Outhere Brothers (optional).

There's no escaping this sadly (limitation that is, not the Outhere Brothers), since email clients are still using rendering techniques from the dark ages, and just to help, companies like Microsoft seem to be regressing their email rendering technology with every version. It's down to you to push the boundaries here. See what email clients support CSS, and how much they support. Find out if you can use images to replace a complex CSS problem. Maybe there's room for a few more nested tables. Will that animated gif of David Blaine doing the moonwalk work after all?

Once you're comfortable with how it looks as a web page in your browser, it's time to get sending, which brings me nicely to the topic for my next blog: Delivering the pièce de résistance.

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