Like leaving a sentence with no punctuation, there is just something wrong about not identifying content with a p tag. It feels unnatural… even though it doesn’t really matter to an email client.
But, each email client renders that p tag a little differently. While most respect your formatting, other flip you the bird and I got tired of fighting with them. Even with stripping formatting down to it’s essence, if the design doesn’t accommodate for variable content height or flow then it simply looks broken. What to do what to do?
“ah-ha!” I say to myself. “What if there wasn’t a p tag at all?”And in marches SPAN to save the day!
The only time it would really matter is if the content is getting hung up on your website and how hard is it to do a find/replace for “span”. Finally, success!
I can’t tell you how much details like this bother me. I want the user experience to be consistent across all channels and it’s simply unacceptable to accept it as ‘good enough’. Perfection is priceless.
Now, I know what you’re going to say… “it’s a bloody html email” and “who gives a $#!&?” Well the answer to both those is, me. 🙂 And for all those templates you can get online for your emails with email client specific hacks in them, you still don’t get a consistent presentation across the board. The truth is you can’t approach it like you would a standard html project because it’s not. It’s a bloody email.
While UX has been the industry buzz word for the last couple of years, its definition and effective implementation are still hard to pin point. I don’t know how many times I’ve been asked to explain what it is and it always seems to find different meaning with difference people. Now, when I’m asked what I do for a living, I find it easier to just sum it all up into “web designer.”
So what is user experience design? Well, it’s really a new mind set and not really about “design” at all… at least not in the traditional sense. It’s not all about the pretty colors or the cool interactivity. The “experience” isn’t wrapped up in the graphical environment you attempt to create for the user.
UX recognizes that the web is a product; like your car or coffee maker. And if you’re going to have a successful product in the market place, you design and test… and design and test… and design and test. You test out all the bugs. You design to create an emotional connection with the user. UX in the sense of how I’ve been involved with it is all about this transition in thinking.
The “experience” is founded in the goal; the action we want the user to take. All design must support that goal. That is the key element right there; identify and support… design and test.
I started out as a standard print designer and as I’ve moved into the digital space, one sad truth I’ve learned to embrace is that details matter but maybe not exactly the same details I’m obsessing over. The average user doesn’t really care about the font I’ve selected as long as it’s legible. The average user doesn’t know what kerning is, so that 10 min. I spent perfecting that graphic… I’ll never get it back.
Web users are becoming more and more sophisticated and they want to accomplish what they’ve come to do and leave. They want things fast and easy. Don’t make them decipher you’re custom navigation; meet them on their level and work with tools they are accustom to utilizing. Now THAT is smart UX.
There are several blogs out there about user experience and I’d like to share some of my favorite resources:
I find there are a lot of short cut approaches to html emails. A lot of “how to” blog entries and template shortcuts thrown all over the web by people who have obviously not spent much time down in the email trenches. Well, I’m here to set the record straight… there is no html email genie!
There, it’s out in the open for the whole world to know. The best thing I can recommend is hard work and practice. (I know, I kind of felt a little dirty using the “p” word.) The truth is, html emails are more a recipe than a template. A dash of this, a pinch of that… and it all depends on the content.
Recipe for perfect email cookies:
1. Content. We all know that content is king when it comes to SEO; the same is true for html emails.
2. Text only versions. This is the most overlooked nugget of awesomeness that will ensure deliverable. Never ever forget to have a text only version.
3. Subject line. Be short, be concise and stay away from words like free, win and viagra. Our subject lines not need a virile treatment.
4. Image to text ration. This one is for my fellow designers… emails are not a website, you doofus! Learn the medium you’re designing in for goodness sakes.
5. Unsubscribe link / SPAM Law Compliance. Be smart. I mean, it’s the law to NOT send mail to people that don’t want it… so suck it up and to your homework.
There it is… the simple recipes for a successful start to your html email. One of my favorite resources is actually mailchimp.com. They have some really fun documentation that make for a quite entertaining read. Enjoy.