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Many times, e-mail marketers attempt to use heavily image-dependent creatives for their e-mail campaigns to try and preserve a very specific style, or simply for ease of design. Some even wish to use an HTML creative that is composed of one image, containing almost no text content.

We advise our clients to use images to supplement their copy, as opposed to replace the copy entirely. Many e-mail clients will block images by default, requiring the recipient to take action to see the images. If your creative is almost entirely image-based, the recipient is going to be presented with nothing but a header and/or footer and some alt tags. It is generally more effective & successful to have more text copy in your HTML, and use your alt tags to explain what is not being seen when the images are turned off. This will give the recipient more incentive to take action and view your full e-mail.

Our experience has also shown that many email filters will measure the image-to-text ratio of your e-mail, and are more likely to classify it as junk email if judged to be too image dependent. Many malicious senders attempt to use images to mask certain keywords that would otherwise raise red flags with these filters, and this ratio test helps to safeguard against this.

If a recipient has already opened your message, based on a compelling subject line or recognition of the branding in your sender name, it would be unfortunate to lose their interest because of some initially disabled images leaving them with nothing to be enticed by. With some careful managing of your image to text ratios, you can make the most out of your image content without relying too heavily on it.

For more information on Applied Info Group’s database and email marketing service capabilities, please contact Mitch Rubin, President of Applied Info Group at (908) 241-7007. Visit www.appliedinfogroup.com to learn more.

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This article will take a close look at a number of issues that some of our email customers have encountered regarding compatibility issues with your HTML email creatives and Outlook 2007. We will offer some useful tips on the best way to format your emails to combat these issues.

Microsoft’s® latest version of Outlook utilizes Microsoft® Word to render HTML emails. Unfortunately, Word offers limited support of HTML and CSS, due to the potential security flaws that could occur by rendering HTML emails in Internet Explorer 7.

Fortunately, there are formatting tweaks you can employ to address this. The upside is that making your HTML email Outlook 2007 compatible can decrease the chances that it will end up in a recipient’s junk folder. The downside is that you may have to change the way in which you approach formatting parts of your emails, thereby impacting the look and feel of your creatives. Below is a list of key items to look out for, and possible alternatives that are Outlook 2007 compatible.

– Background images – Background images will not display in Outlook 2007. This can leave a big, unintended void in your email. You should avoid using background images altogether. Whenever possible, you should use inline image tags instead. If you feel you must use a background image, set an appropriate background color to fill in for the potentially missing image. If you have text overlaying a background image, you can edit the image to include the text and use an image map for any links.
– Division tags – “Div” tags are not fully supported in Outlook 2007. Some of the more commonly used attributes that have been omitted are: float, clear, position, and padding. Without these attributes, positioning with div tags is virtually impossible. Instead, you should control the positioning of your email with a standard table.
– Forms – Forms are not supported in Outlook 2007. Outlook 2007 recipients will not be able to submit any forms embedded in an email. If you wish to give recipients the option to fill out a form, place a link to an online version of it within the email.
– Flash & JavaScript – It is recommended that you do not attempt to utilize Flash or Javascript on your HTML emails, due to their lack of support in email browsers (including Outlook 2007) and the fact that some filters will tag emails that contain Flash or JavaScript code. Also, most email readers will automatically disable this content as a security measure.
– Bulleted list with images – While both ordered and unordered lists are fully supported, lists that use images as bullets instead of standard bullets are not. If you need to use an image for your bullet points, one possible solution is to put your list into a two column table, using the left-hand column to place your bullets.
– Animated GIFs – Animated GIFs will not animate in Outlook 2007. The image will appear, but only the first frame of the animation will be displayed.
– Alt tags – Alt tags are also not supported. This is the text that is shown when an image does not load upon opening an email. However, most email readers do support alt tags, and there is no adverse effect to having them in your Outlook 2007 compatible email (other than the fact that they will not display,) so you can continue to include these in your emails if you wish.
– Table definitions – As we detailed above, Outlook 2007 renders HTML emails in Microsoft® Word, which is very sensitive to extra <tr> or <td> tags and does not adjust well to poorly sized tables. Previous Outlook versions would open emails in Internet Explorer, which is very forgiving of poor table definitions. You should ensure that your table definitions are correct and that the data you are placing inside the table fits properly within the defined table width.

In addition to the tips above, Microsoft® has also provided an HTML and CSS Validator that can be used in:

Microsoft® Office SharePoint Designer 2007
Microsoft® Expression Web
Microsoft® Visual Studio 2005
Macromedia Dreamweaver MX 2004
Macromedia Dreamweaver 8

This tool can assist you in identifying portions of your HTML source code that may not adhere to Outlook 2007’s standards. You can download the appropriate version here.

By following the above tips, you will be able to address most of the known compatibility issues posed by Outlook 2007. To view a full listing of HTML and CSS rendering capabilities in Outlook 2007, you can go to Microsoft’s® webpage for more information.

For more information on Applied Info Group’s database and email marketing service capabilities, please contact Mitch Rubin, President of Applied Info Group at (908) 241-7007. Visit www.appliedinfogroup.com to learn more.

With the many issues posed by various email programs as to the correct rendering of your HTML email, it is wise to leave as little to chance as possible. A vast number of HTML emails are not W3C compliant, which can cause these rendering problems and potential delivery issues. Most email filters check for valid code, since many malicious senders attempt to use invalid and potentially dangerous HTML code to mask harmful components of their message.

It is advisable to make sure your HTML is free of errors before sending. Clean HTML code will follow the W3C HTML guidelines — you can use The W3C Validation Service to see if your code is compliant. You should also refrain from using scripting, such as JavaScript or VBScript, in your code. Most email readers strip these out of messages due to the possible security risks caused by script inclusion, and some may block your message completely if scripting is detected. If there are scripting components that you feel are vital to your marketing campaign, use your email message to drive recipients to your web site, where dynamic scripting components are easy to implement.

For more information on Applied Info Group’s database and email marketing service capabilities, please contact Mitch Rubin, President of Applied Info Group at 908-241-7007. Visit www.appliedinfogroup.com to learn more.

Cascading style sheets (CSS) are utilized by many web designers to simplify their design process and maintain a consistent style throughout a site. However, as useful as they are in the web design environment, they are equally troublesome when designing HTML for use in an email campaign.

Many email clients, including free providers such as Yahoo, Hotmail, and Gmail, will not render style sheets correctly, or will just strip them out completely. This is especially true for linked style sheets, where the creative attempts to load the style definitions from a hosted style sheet on your server. Embedded style sheets are almost just as troublesome, although some users have reported having better luck defining their style sheets between the body tags, as opposed to the common practice of defining them between the head tags, since many email clients will truncate or strip out the header.

We strongly recommend that you avoid using style sheets wherever possible for email campaigns. If you for some reason must use defined styles, try utilizing inline styles. This means that, instead of defining the style once in a stylesheet and referencing it as needed, you would need to define the style to every instance you want it to apply to.

Example

Using Style Sheets:

<p class=”Header”>Header Text</a>

Using Inline Styles:

<p style=”font-size:14px; color: #ff9900″>

While this is obviously a less powerful solution in the standard web design environment, this more explicit per-instance definition can work across more email platforms than a standard style sheet and make it more likely that the target audience of your email campaign is seeing your creative in the style that you intended.

For more information on Applied Info Group’s database and email marketing service capabilities, please contact Mitch Rubin, President of Applied Info Group at 908-241-7007. Visit www.appliedinfogroup.com to learn more.

Applied Info Group Website

About Applied Info Group

To communicate effectively with today’s customers, marketers need the advanced level email delivery and database solutions offered by Applied Info Group. Our extensive knowledge of direct and email marketing, state-of-the-art technology, and superior service enables you to fully utilize all database assets.

By delivering customized, effective postal and email marketing communications, you improve the efficiency and results of your marketing programs. Our secure web-based reporting, campaign tracking, and advanced query systems allow you to access your data at any time, in real time, helping you to make critical decisions on your time.
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