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Mathew Patterson looks after all the customers at Campaign Monitor, the popular email newsletter web application for web designers, and is currently writing a book on HTML emails. He also speaks at web conferences on related topics.
“We really love this new website you’ve built! Now we’d like to send out an email to all of our customers, friends and anyone, and it should look exactly like the website except with a spinning mailbox at the bottom, and have my photo, and my cat’s photo...” Ever had that conversation with a client? You’ve built plenty of websites in your time and could knock off a blog template in your sleep, but HTML email? Seriously? HTML email has the reputation (often well deserved) of being a horrible design medium.
The mere mention of it sends some designers into physical shock (try it if you ever get stuck in a tedious conversation about XHTML vs. HTML 5). The truth remains that businesses and individuals the world over send and receive email in HTML format by default every day, and many of them genuinely prefer it to plain text. So designers have a choice. We can stick our fingers in our ears, cover our eyes and hope it all goes away or we can learn to make the best of a challenging design medium and produce something that raises the quality level a bit.
This article gives you the information you need to plan, design and build an HTML newsletter that renders well and is actually useful to recipients. It’s a quick and dirty guide to effective email newsletters.