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Hal Licino

Time to Have a Party! An Email Readability Party!

Dec 07 2010, 01:15 PM by

With the mobile market expanding logarithmically and the browser wars exchanging new fusillades daily, the email campaign you’ve just sent out that displays perfectly on your Internet Explorer might look like minestrone soup on Google Chrome, Apple iPhone, or Android. That’s why the best solution for these problems is to have an office party. Not the get tipsy and Xerox your nether-regions office party… an email readability party!
What Works in This Doesn't Work in That
Did you know that <style> and <link> in <head> and <body> work well in all clients, except they don't work at all in Gmail? Or that moz-box-sizing doesn't work anywhere but Yahoo Mail, AOL Desk, and Lotus Notes (8.5)? Or that various webkit background commands as well as certain CSS3 colors and opacities work in Apple browsers but no other? Or that when you create a box, you can't specify the margin in Windows Live Hotmail, and you can't specify the width in Microsoft Outlook 2007 and 2010? However, a caption-side on your table works well on Hotmail and Gmail, but on no other client.

Confusing? That's why you pay your web designers big money: to keep ahead of these dizzying variances from one client or browser to the next. Given that these massive differences and lack of any real standardization can befuddle even the most experienced web and email designer, it is time to revert to an old fashioned saying which directly applies to the modern pursuit of email and web display-ability: "The proof of the pudding is always in the eating."
Each Party Guest Must Bring a Device to Read Emails
It's a pretty simple concept. Book your largest conference room, get lots of coffee, donuts, and maybe a few company pens and key fobs to give away, and invite everyone in the office… plus your friends, your family, your barber, and your gas station attendant. There is one prerequisite to attend: Each guest must bring a device to read their emails, be it a laptop, netbook, mobile phone, PDA, or even desktop PC.

Prior to the party, you've sent each of them different variations of your current email campaign messages. As they start enjoying the coffee, donuts, and camaraderie, you, your web designer, and a couple of people from your IT department, are sitting at the front table checking the display of each email on each device!
A Digital Camera & Post-It Notes Will Capture All Relevant Details
The preferred procedure is to have a good digital camera and lots of Post-It Notes handy. As you are about to review each device, write down everything about it including the brand, model, and part number on a Post-It Note. Stick the Post-It where it can be seen alongside the device and then take a good photograph of the display of each email. This will allow you to have clearly visible evidence of how each email displayed on each specific device, without having to rely on memory or hastily scribbled notes.
MeeGo, Symbian, Bada, SeaMonkey, Konqueror, Flock, Camino…
Don't worry if you have more than one type of device. Many otherwise identical devices may be running different operating system versions and there can be many differences between each version. As in any other type of scientific test, the sampling quantity is critical. The more devices you have to work from, the more accurate your test results will be and the better you'll be able to fix the problem that makes your email look like crayon doodles on MeeGo, Symbian, Bada, SeaMonkey, Konqueror, Flock, or Camino.

Bet you never heard of those… but I'll also bet that some of your customers are reading your emails on those very same operating systems and browsers!

Posted in Tips & Resources, Email Design & Templates

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