Help End the Email Horror
One of the first things you learn when creating an HTML newsletter is that it isn't a Web page. It sorta, kinda, almost is. You'd like to pretend it is. But it just isn't. The bastard child of graphic design, the email newsletter remains one of the last bastions of Web standards run amok.
If everyone reading a newsletter was using the same client, this wouldn't be an issue. But the usual concerns of creating any page or site apply—there are still wide variations in how browsers will render the code. Of course, you'll also have readers using Web applications like Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail or Gmail, all of which have their own quirky restrictions. And then there's Microsoft Outlook, which in recent years has provided its own special hell for newsletter designers.
Prior to the release of Outlook 2007, Microsoft's email client delivered a predictable, browser-based rendering of HTML email, albeit somewhat limited in its support for Web standards. But this approach was then abandoned for one that used the Microsoft Word rendering engine. The result was immediate—newsletter creators around the world began banging their heads on the table when they saw how this mangled their creations and made anything but the simplest designs fail miserably. I still have some dents on my forehead from that era, acquired while trying to get the Graphics.com newsletter to fly right in Outlook.
Out of this sense of outrage was formed the Email Standards Project, with a mission to try to guide those responsible for developing email clients to do the right thing by not continually breaking the work of designers. The group seems to have made some headway. So you can imagine the impact on its members of encountering a pre-release version of Outlook 2010 and finding it still relies on Word for its rendering, complete with all the familiar glitches. Their decision was to organize designers to clearly and decisively tell Microsoft that years more of this nonsense just isn't acceptable.
The result of this sense of urgency has been the creation of FixOutlook.org, which harnesses Twitter to send a message to the Outlook team. Created by the email service provider Campaign Monitor, the slick little site lets you send your message and displays a rolling tweet wall as a bonus. Hats off to all involved for this worthwhile initiative.