Recently, I switched my WordPress News mailing-list from plain text to HTML. There were a couple of reasons for that:
- I use a lot of links, and these were breaking up even a simple text layout, and I figured HTML email would increase the readability of the whole thing.
- With HTML emails, because you’re seeing normal link text, it doesn’t look so bad when you’re tracking clicks, which you are of course doing to improve your newsletter.
- HTML email plain looks better, and gives a better opportunity to brand yourself.
In the process of switching to HTML, I’ve learned a couple of things. I must say the first thing I’ve learned is that people don’t really seem to mind getting HTML email, I’ve had 1 serious complaint and about 5 dozen positive reactions of people saying this hugely improved the newsletter.
The funny thing is that the 1 serious complaint taught me something new: my newsletter wasn’t showing up very nicely in Yahoo! Mail, and the guy was right on to complain to me. Turns out, a lot of web based email readers don’t like external style sheets. The solution is simple: use only inline styles.
Now that might seem like a lot of work, but it isn’t because of this great tool called Premailer. That absolutely great tool allows you to make up your newsletter in HTML, and then it parses it and moves it all to inline styles. In the same process, it’ll also created a decently looking text version!
So what I’ve done now that I’ve got a finished template is perhaps a bit geeky, but I love it: I’ve set up a special WordPress blog, with the email template as it’s template. I’ve reversed the post order in it, which you can do by simply doing this:
// Reverse post order query_posts($query_string . "&order=ASC"); while (have_posts()) : the_post();
And now I can use my favorite external editor, MarsEdit, to write posts for my mailing list. I tag each post with it’s edition number, and when I’ve got enough stuff for a new edition, I open up that tags page, save the HTML, put it through Premailer and then copy the parsed HTML from Premailer into my Aweber broadcast. As Premailer also provides the plain text version, I copy that in too, and I’m done!
By the way people have asked me why I use Aweber, and to be honest I haven’t tried anything else. This is what most pro’s I know use, it’s pretty cheap, it’s very good, and it gives me everything I need, so why go look somewhere else?
All in all, this has been a pretty smooth experience, and my newsletter has gotten better from it, so I would advice any of you who sent out text only emails to start doing HTML too!