Outlook Broke My Email! – How to Optimize Your Emails Across All Browsers and Servers (Part I)
Do you have little or no programming experience, but find yourself in the precarious situation of putting together and troubleshooting email marketing campaigns? This blog is for you.
Part one: Why it’s often so difficult to create an email that looks great across all email clients
Remember when email was the hottest new technology around? The merits and convenience of instant digital messages were embraced by all, the telephone was about to get a serious cut in everyday use, and piles of fax machines rose like mountains marring the horizon.Ok, that last part probably isn’t true, but if you’re reading this you may not actually remember a time when there was any practical alternative for the purpose email now serves. Email, as we know it, is now older than some of the professionals using it. Considering how quickly and dramatically digital technology tends to evolve, email has changed remarkably little since it became widely used. As a result, those of us trying to stay at the forefront of web technology have found that leveraging email to its full potential isn’t always as easy as it looks.
I’ve come to spend a significant portion of my career assisting coworkers as they inevitably run into problems that require someone with a background in coding. The problem that I’m typically presented with is that somewhere in the process of putting together an email, formatting errors started appearing for no apparent reason, sometimes only visible after the email is delivered and opened.
If you’ve found yourself in a situation like this, you’ve probably noticed that email templates tend to break if you’re not careful… and also if you are careful… and sometimes just for no reason at all. To add to this, most email editor tools are too blunt to easily make formatting changes that won’t cause issues and conflicts in the code, especially when it’s time to test your email across multiple clients. In an ideal scenario, putting together a professional looking marketing email is as simple as finding yourself a shiny new email template, queuing up your editor tool, and populating the template with your carefully written content. Sometimes it’s just that easy, and sometimes it isn’t.
The problem with email
So, how is it that it’s still such a pain to create a beautiful and error-free email? One problem is that unlike web browsers, which work similarly to email clients, no unifying standards were ever established to make sure that all email services and programs play nicely together. As a result, every major email client including Gmail, Yahoo, and Outlook (especially Outlook) have their own way of displaying emails. To add to this, security precautions and bandwidth restrictions over the years have resulted in different email clients picking and choosing what features and technologies to support. So unfortunately, the process of creating an email is governed by the limitations and differences in your audience’s email clients.
Whether you want to leverage the latest web design trends like html5 video and animations, or just settle for some images and a fancy button, it helps to have an idea of how emails work and what you can realistically accomplish so that you know where to draw the line between features and compatibility. After all, regardless of how engaging your content is, no one wants to read through an email that looks like it went through a lawnmower.
Email is a pain! So, where do we start?
Where several companies claim to have marketing automation solutions that make email creation easy and flawless, the reality is that regardless of your resources, it’s smart to be mindful of your target audience from a technical prospective to determine the exact scope of your project. The more ambitious your content, the greater chance for issues in some email clients. Are you marketing to college students reading your email on their phone or professionals on a desktop computer using legacy software? Unless your audience spans the entire gamut of email clients equally (and there are at least 30 commonly used), it is worth it to prioritize the environment to which the vast majority of your email will be delivered when testing.
Remember to leverage your resources
Despite email having changed relatively little over the last few decades, the field of email testing and analytics software is flourishing. If you don’t have access to email analytics through your marketing automation platform, using services like Litmus or Email on Acid to get extra insights into lead activity and software can be extremely helpful. Although the ideal testing environment involves several devices with multiple different email clients, these platforms provide a much easier way to test an email by using their instant preview feature.
I hope this was helpful, or at least mildly amusing. Stay tuned for part 2 where I’ll explore tips and best practices for streamlining the process of email creation.
How I lived, saw or experienced one of MindMax’s values this month
Ever wonder why sometimes your favorite website loads instantly and other times it needs a minute for everything to appear? Assuming your internet connection is stable, this is due to website caching – when your web browser (and, these days a number of other things) saves website content so that the next time you visit a site it’s ready to go.
Normally this is not a major issue, but sometimes, depending on how a website is configured, important updates will take some time to show up for some users due to caching. Earlier this month, a coworker was concerned about an important update to a website being cached. I did some research and discovered a “trick” to get a website to automatically refresh all cached content to reveal our glorious update. Of course, website caching is important for website performance and shouldn’t be cleared too often, however, it’s good to have discovered this option.