In my last article, a reader asked what may have caused his emails to render with no text or graphics whatsoever. Kal Hadi of WhittmanHart suggested a solution that included the use of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and led to some controversy.
Roxy Rosen, vice president of business development at Liquid Traffic, had this to say: "A good understanding of HTML will avoid the issue about CSS. You have to take it back to the basic HTML. We actually keep very old copies of Dreamweaver, but just a very simple HTML editor program is best. CSS is cool stuff for Web sites, though; it really helps simplify large amounts of pages. But for email with only one mini-page, my opinion is there's no reason to really bother -- except that you have a style sheet to reuse for the same newsletter next time. You can also save the last newsletter, then just use that as a template as well. If you have the most recent Dreamweaver, or HTML editing programs, they will force you to use CSS, though, as that is the trend."
In the interest of fairness, I asked Kal to respond. He wrote, "CSS isn't used in the emails to simplify the coding -- because you need to code it in the body of each email anyway -- but rather to make the email look smoother and richer. The regular HTML font tag is not as smooth or as rich as the CSS font; that's why we use CSS. By putting the CSS inside the body tag, it will be read by most email clients. For them, we CREATE very clean, hard-coded HTML, without using any HTML generator tool such as Dreamweaver, and employ the regular font tags. This way we cover all the possibilities and deliver a rich quality email. The solution we use is one step ahead because we build a very solid, clean, industry-standard HTML, hard-coded and not generated by a tool, and then we add the CSS option for email clients that can read it."
While the Email Diva's head is spinning, two things seem clear:
1. Make sure the person doing your code has (or seeks to develop) experience with email and not just HTML or Web development.
2. Make sure your programmer tests each email prior to sending in a variety of environments, to see how the code renders.
Roxy forwarded this extremely helpful link to a blog by David Grenier of Campaign Monitor, " A Guide To CSS Support In Email: 2007 Edition." For those who truly seek to be email design gurus, this site may be the holy grail.
The Email Diva
Send your questions or submit your email for critique to Melinda Krueger, the Email Diva, at firstname.lastname@example.org. All submissions may be published; please indicate if you would like your name or company name withheld.