Newsletter check

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Martin
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Newsletter check

Post by Martin » Tue Mar 08, 2011 7:22 am

Maybe a good idea to add to CSE is the abillity to check the coding of newsletters. What I mean by that is, that in most mail clients w3c compatible coding just won't work. It would be extremely usefull to check a document and see if it will be compatible with most major mail clients and which code needs to change or be removed if it is not.

So many designers who also design newsletters for clients run into to this compatibillity nightmare :evil: .

Just a thought :D .

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Albert Wiersch
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Re: Newsletter check

Post by Albert Wiersch » Tue Mar 08, 2011 8:40 am

Hi Martin, that's a good suggestion but I'm not sure how much time it might take to implement and if the time could be justified vs other features.

However, is there something specific that is particularly troublesome for newsletters that you think could be easily added to CSE HTML Validator?
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Lou
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Re: Newsletter check

Post by Lou » Tue Mar 08, 2011 8:52 am

I'm not sure CSE should try to track the capability and changes in all the email clients. That would be like (worse than) trying to track the changes in all browsers. Actually my newsletters are W3C compatible and of course pass validation by CSE; admittedly I use a subset of
<!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/html4/strict.dtd">
kind of a lowest common denominator, with my simple CSS in the header. I of course do include a text version and links to a web version.

There are tools available (for free) from mass mailers that will check the presentation of an email/newsletter in dozen or so email clients. That and my own test accounts in several free email provides used by NL members, helps me track changes in email client capability.
JMHO

Edit - Albert didn't see you post. our post past in the ether.
Last edited by Lou on Tue Mar 08, 2011 9:46 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Albert Wiersch
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Re: Newsletter check

Post by Albert Wiersch » Tue Mar 08, 2011 9:33 am

Hi Lou,

Yes, I think you are right... but if there is anything specific that is a common issue/problem that CSE HTML Validator could help with, then it could potentially be added. I don't write HTML for newsletter so I am not sure.

But yes, tracking all the changes and behaviors to email clients would be quite a chore and prone to error. I would recommended checking HTML newsletters/mailings with CSE HTML Validator first, then do as Lou suggested and do a visual test.
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Lou
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Re: Newsletter check

Post by Lou » Tue Mar 08, 2011 9:55 am

Albert Wiersch wrote:I don't write HTML for newsletter so I am not sure.
Remember the early HTML days, with <TABLE> based layout? Kind of like that, rude and crude by current standards.

However it is a way to take information to the audience vs. expecting them to come to you. Working with a non-profit the price is right! (Just ask all the spammers in the world, grumble grumble.)
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John Zeman
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Re: Newsletter check

Post by John Zeman » Tue Mar 08, 2011 12:30 pm

Just as an aside, all of my clients newsletters are in pdf format, so this problem isn't an issue at all for me.

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Re: Newsletter check

Post by Martin » Wed Mar 09, 2011 11:21 am

I agree that tracking the changes in every email client would be a huge pain in the ... But even though I am using old fashioned html with some inline style css I still encounter huge issues.

Take for instance Outlook 2010. Outlook 2007 and 2010 use Word as their render engine (what were they thinking) this means that there are huge limitations. But that does also mean that for CSE it would make checking for the html rules of word (Microsoft even gives a list of what html is acceptable and what is not http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library ... Properties) reasonable 'easy'.

To give an example of what I encounter. At the moment I am struggling with a newsletter which works fine even in Outlook except for one issue. The unordered list won't show. It doesn't show in Outlook and also not in Word 2003 or 2010 even though ul is an accepted piece of html according to Microsoft.

Solving suchs things in CSE would be a great feature for all those who strugle with newsletter creation.

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Re: Newsletter check

Post by Albert Wiersch » Wed Mar 09, 2011 11:51 am

Thanks Martin. A list of supported & unsupported tags and CSS properties is a big help. It wouldn't be that difficult to create a new validator message that simply lists any unsupported tag or CSS property that was used.

For example, a new flag that enables messages like this:
Outlook 2007: Does not support these CSS properties: X, X, X. Does not support these elements: X, X, X.
Outlook 2010: Does not support these CSS properties: X, X, X. Does not support these elements: X, X, X.

Would something like the above be useful?

Is there anyone else here who would use such a feature?
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Lou
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Re: Newsletter check

Post by Lou » Wed Mar 09, 2011 1:00 pm

Albert Wiersch wrote:Is there anyone else here who would use such a feature?
Of course I would use any tool available.

I would hope it would be easy/quick to toggle between full html and constrained newsletter "modes." When working on a newsletter, I don't do one or the other. There is the newsletter that is emailed, the web version of the same newsletter, the articles that the newsletter lead paragraphs points to, etc. So I tend to bounce back and forth, tweaking code and content every time I read/look a parts until the deadline. If switching configurations is to cumbersome, I would tend to not use the feature.
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MikeGale
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Re: Newsletter check

Post by MikeGale » Wed Mar 09, 2011 5:27 pm

I sometimes produce material for emailing. (Not newsletters, but the techniques are the same.)

A random list of some observations (off the top of my head):
  • Mail agents are inconsistent, badly designed, alter over time (i.e. degradation of Outlook) and some online readers actually alter the content before displaying it. There is no guarantee that they will do the same thing tomorrow. There are probably thousands of different online mail reading programs on the planet.
  • Many years ago you could greatly exceed the capabilities of standard HTML if you used HTML+TIME in Outlook. That's now gone.
  • It's a dangerous area. If you have high expectations you're dead before you start. If you keep it simple and can accept different mail readers rendering differently it can work for you.
  • Now we have Facebook email coming into the world!!
  • I imagine that there are a lot of approaches to designing for it.
  • If a mail agent, like Outlook, touches or forwards content, all bets are off. They can create a disaster with a single touch.
When developing for the medium, I keep it simple, test the content using a third party online tool (20+ mail agents, using Litmus) and find it can work the first time (if you accept a few rendering differences, which are maybe inevitable anyway!).

Off the top of my head I'm not sure how CSE can help in this area. A first step might be for an interested person to experiment with building up a custom configuration for email validation, using existing features. That would suggest what more CSE could do, to make it easier. Share the configuration with others (how easy is that? it might be an area where CSE could help more) and take it from there. One potential outcome is a community of email coders who share their work, discuss and post articles about what they've done. (This would presumably interact with existing email-HTML discussion areas.)

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Lou
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Re: Newsletter check

Post by Lou » Wed Mar 09, 2011 8:30 pm

MikeGale wrote:When developing for the medium, I keep it simple, test the content using a third party online tool (20+ mail agents, using Litmus) and find it can work the first time (if you accept a few rendering differences, which are maybe inevitable anyway!).
Spot on Mike. Graceful degradation is my objective; well maybe acceptable degradation. <g>
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Albert Wiersch
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Re: Newsletter check

Post by Albert Wiersch » Thu Mar 10, 2011 8:20 am

I also like the "keep it simple" philosophy and concentrate on content, not presentation.

My idea for this would be a checkbox toggle to generate additional warning messages for email clients. It would only be a simple check to see if certain "disallowed" HTML elements or CSS properties were used, and I would have to know a list of accepted or disallowed tags & CSS properties for each supported email client in order to implement the warning messages, which would just be added to the regular validation results if the option to do so is enabled.

For example, a new flag that enables messages like this:
Outlook 2007: Does not fully support these CSS properties: X, X, X. Does not fully support these elements: X, X, X.
Outlook 2010: Does not fully support these CSS properties: X, X, X. Does not fully support these elements: X, X, X.

If the feature becomes a "hit" then I could take it further and perhaps do other checks, but for now it would start with something like the above in addition to the regular validation messages.
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MikeGale
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Re: Newsletter check

Post by MikeGale » Thu Mar 10, 2011 7:42 pm

That looks like a good approach Albert. (Neither does it preclude individuals taking it further using existing techniques.)

One issue is that Outlook, now, doesn't support float.

This isn't a deal breaker. I've used float in designs that render differently in Outlook, but haven't drawn any negative reaction for that. (The online Google mail reader I think reformats things and also loses float.)

If somebody here has any insights into what the office team is doing about Word HTML rendering that isn't great, we could guess where this might go in future! Any information?

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