Andrew Maxwell

Email Newsletters, Do They Really Matter?

February 22, 2011

For the past few weeks I have been working on Email Newsletters and it got me thinking, do Email newsletters as they currently exist even matter?

Many people will answer yes, especially large companies and established bloggers and I do agree to some point, but the way that we currently have to develop HTML newsletters feels like something out of the stone age.

Why I think the current model of Newsletters will Change:

Current Email newsletters are an ancient model in terms of the web. The current model was built in the late 90’s and early 2000’s and has yet to really change. We are still building email newsletters with table layouts. By being limited to table layouts, coding emails takes hours longer than it really should.

What We Should Use For a Simple Header:

<div id=”header><img scr=”header.jpg” /></div>

What we have to write:

<table><tbody><tr><td><img src=”header.jpg” /></td></tr></tbody></table>

Now if you want to change the height of the table model, you have to adjust the height on not only the main <table> element, but every element inside, causing you to change 5 elements instead of 1 or 2. This may not sound like a lot at first but time adds up, and when, invasis on when you run into a bug, you have to trouble shoot multiple items instead of just adjusting what needs to change.

Some Support, But NOT Enough:

Some email clients do support the use of DIV’s for structure and CSS for layout, but the problem is that not all of them do, causing us to use legacy code that we know works. Take a look at this list of CSS that is supported in current email clients, you can see that the supported elements are spotty, some email clients such as Yahoo Mail support many elements, but then other clients don’t, so instead of using the method that we should use, we have to use something that will work in all clients.

Email Clients Need To Update As Fast As Browsers:

Since Google Chrome came out in September of 2008 we have seen a rapid pace of innovation by the browser makers, including Microsoft’s internet Explorer. We have seen things such as HTML5, CSS3, and even hardware acceleration being added to browsers with something new coming out each month, yet email clients still use the same code from the late nineties? Do you see the problem here?

What Needs Can Change This:

There isn’t a lot that any one person can do, we need to get the big 3 companies; Microsoft, Yahoo and Google to update their email clients using modern standards. The biggest hurdle will be for Microsoft to update their client since it is built around large companies who use Outlook (Microsoft Word) as their email client, which accounts for hundreds of millions of people.

If you know someone who works at Yahoo, Microsoft or Google who works on the email clients please pass this on.

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