Feb 24, 2006

HTML Email Design, Coding, and Delivery “Survival Guide”


We just posted the 2nd edition of our "HTML Email Design Guide." It’s a whopping 50-page document that covers everything a beginner needs to know about delivering email newsletters and promotional campaigns.

We wrote the 1st edition back in 2001, and it’s been downloaded over 50,000 times since (whew!). But 5 years have passed, and things have changed in the email marketing world. We thought it was time for a re-write (and at the very least, a snazzy new cover)…

So what’s changed?

For starters, HTML email pretty much just works now. As long as we keep email designs nice and simple, most email applications display HTML email fine these days (just stay away from complex tables, CSS-positioning, JavaScript, Flash, or DHTML). There are tiny little quirks here and there in some email applications (we detail them in the PDF) but those problems can be avoided easily with simple, straightforward design.

New Challenge: Accidental Spam Filtering

A lot of people would have you believe that "email deliverability" is a huge problem that plagues email marketers, and you should be scared out of your wits (and they just so happen to be selling "deliverability services" on the side). Deliverability is indeed something to be concerned about, but we don’t think you need to lose any sleep over it.

As long as you take some time to understand how spam filters think, and avoid making simple mistakes  that make you look like an outright spammer, your emails will be delivered just fine (see blog post: "Let’s Dissect Some Spam!").

Take a holistic approach. Learn the basics about anti-spam technology, and don’t spend all your time obsessing over every single word and element in your email to "avoid the spam filters." For instance, the phrase, "click here" looks suspicious to some spam filters. Should you instead say, "Apply Pressure to Left Mouse Button Here?" That would be ridiculous (and ironically, even more spammy). Just know that spam filters look for little clues, and they often use a points-system to "grade" your email. One little "click here" isn’t going to hurt you. But say it 10 times in your email, in ALL CAPS, and colored bright red, and you can kiss your open rate goodbye.

In the new guide, we go over the different spam filtering technology out there, how they work, and what you need to consider when creating your email campaigns.

HTML Email Design and Coding

Back in the old days, you had to worry about email applications that would break your designs, delete hyperlinks, remove HTML tags, or display gobbledy-geek code all over the screen. We’re happy to report that nowadays, HTML email is pretty well supported, except for some CSS stuff here and there.

The new design covers the following HTML email design and coding topics:

  • The tools you’ll need to get it done right
  • Keeping designs simple
  • Rigs and hacks to make your email display correctly
  • What works, what doesn’t
  • Email applications to test your templates in
  • Known issues with each email program

Email Marketing Basics

After figuring out how to design and code your own emails, what next? We included some "getting started" information on how to measure your campaign performance, segmenting your list to send more focused campaigns, and how to experiment with different variables to increase your open and click rates.

Other Useful Resources in the Guide

Even after you’ve learned to design your email, code it, choose an email vendor (ahem, like MailChimp), learn all the best practices, and before you learn how to experiment and maximize ROI, there’s even more stuff you need to set up and prep before you send your first campaign. For instance, has your company setup an abuse@ email address? And have you registered it with anti-spam organizations? Have you setup a feedback loop with AOL? Have you prepped your organization internally? That’s why we included our "My First Email Campaign Checklist" in our guide. It lists all the little tiny details you should square away before you start email marketing.

Finally, we listed a bunch of our favorite email marketing tools, sites, blogs, and newsletters in a big, long list of resources.

Download the guide here (along with free HTML email templates, if you like)…