Jun 21, 2008

Automatic Plain-text Email Generator in MailChimp

When you send HTML email newsletters, you should always include an alternative plain-text version of your message (a version with no pictures, links, or formatting).

Email marketers know that’s a best practice, because some people just prefer no-frills email. Some mobile devices (Windows Mobile 5) default to the plain-text version. And some spam filters (Outlook, Roadrunner) will junk your email if you send an HTML email without a plain-text version. So you gotta do it.

But let’s face it. We hate creating plain-text emails. It’s the most tedious step of the entire email marketing process.

So we made plain-text emails automatic in MailChimp.

And we didn’t just use a clumsy, home-made script that simply removes HTML tags. We took it a little step further…

We’re using Lynx, which is an old-school browser invented in 1992 (back before Al Gore invented pictures on the inter-tubes). Since Lynx is used by uber-nerds and the visually impaired, we felt it was a good engine for generating plain-text emails. It does nice stuff, like replace images with alt-text, replace hyperlinks with the URLs, and it even handles tables!

Here’s a demo of how it works in MailChimp