Having recently created an HTML email newsletter campaign (make sure you sign up to our updates from the box on the right!), I thought it was perhaps appropriate that I share some of my experiences in creating such campaigns. Designed well, HTML email is, debatably, a very powerful and cost-effective way of reaching your target audience. Many web purists believe that HTML email is, indeed, the work of Il Diabolo himself. I, however, don’t share that view and think that customers and clients respond much more positively to colour and interest against plain text. That is, of course, my personal view. HTML emailing is hard work, and the margin for error is slim. Because different email clients render incoming mail differently, you have to minimise the pitfalls rather than maximise the impact. In other words, don’t assume that if it looks fantastic and pretty when leaving your Microsoft outbox that it will look tip-top when it arrives in your recipient’s Gmail or Mac Mail inbox.

There are a plethora of great guides out there, more specifically the ones offered by MailChimp so I won’t go into any minute detail about the ins-and-outs of HTML email design when there is a great guide sitting there on the Mail Chimp server already which, no-doubt, will be written more eloquently than this! All I want to say is this:

  • Don’t underestimate the skill required in creating a well-designed campaign – if you’re not sure, seek professional advice. It may cost you but it’s nothing compared to what it would cost you if the campaign you sent isn’t right for your audience.
  • On a technical note, if you DO kind of know what you are doing, design with <table>s and not <div>s and css. Many email clients strip out a lot of structural <div> styles resulting in a right royal mess! Also, keep all your code within the <body> tag, including CSS for the same reason as above – unruly email clients doing their own thing. Tsk.
  • Use a campaign management solution. DON’T do it yourself. You could end up being blacklisted by your ISP. We recommend Mail Chimp. It’s easy to use for the first timer and comprehensive enough for the power user.
  • One more technical note (and I’m done, promise!). Make sure there is a good ration of text-images. This not only helps with spam scores but if you hold a lot of your content in imagery, it is more often than not not downloaded and therefore your message is lost. Give your email credibility and let the recipient see what’s in it without having to do the dangerous thing and download images on good faith.

In these times, it is tempting to think “how hard can it be, I’ll give it a crack myself”. I’d urge you to just perhaps stop and think. I know from emails I’ve received that look a mess, it has done irreversible damage to the brand that has been worked so hard upon to uphold. I once read a blog post somewhere that said “there’s nothing professional about email”. I disagree, a well-thought-out email with a solid design style is the height of professionalism in a digitally-dominant workplace.