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Emails and SPAM

Monday, July 4th, 2011 by Erin Peters

Ask any seasoned web developer what it’s like to work with HTML emails and you’ll be sure to hear groans about the frustrations and pain of such a process.

Unlike the current web browsers, there has been little effort on the part of the email client developers to have some kind of standards for displaying of emails. So several different email clients could have wildly different ways of rendering the exact same email.

On top of the actual coding of such emails, (unlike web browsers) there is also the issue of our emails being flagged as spam. With the growing problem of spam, email clients have gotten tougher on what they consider to be a spam email. And not only are spam filters tougher but are always learning and adding new rules every time a user clicks “This is spam”. So there are no guarantees to what won’t be filtered out as spam but there are some guidelines we can follow to reduce the chances of our emails being flagged.

After several hours of research on the subject, I came across a few articles that are sure to help anyone with coding HTML emails. Enjoy.

[Email Standards Project] The Email Standards Project is a group dedicated to working with email client developers in order to have some standards to how they render HTML. On the site you can look up the current status of email clients and what they currently don’t support compared to their Acid email test (much like the Web Standards Project and their [Acid tests] for web browsers). On the site you can find reports on the major email clients as well as a blog with updates to progress of email clients.

[Mail Chimp]  Mail Chimp is a web based application for creating email campaigns. Though their service isn’t free, there are many useful articles and tools that are freely available on their website. On the site you can find articles explaining [how spam filters work], [HTML email design mistakes],  how to code emails properly, as well as several [design templates] that have been tested to display properly in all major email clients.

[Litmus App] Litmus is a web based web development testing tool. For a monthly fee, you have the ability to test how an email will look in the major email clients (with and without images turned on), how it scores in major SPAM filters, (and why it got the score it did), as well as all the same tools for web development also. Though it looks good from what the website says, I have yet to test it due to the high cost of their pricing plans.

[CAN SPAM Act] The rules set out by the FTC on what is acceptable email practices. Though you probably won’t break any of these guidelines (unless of course, you actually are spamming) it is helpful to note what to be careful of.

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