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Web Site Cookbook by Doug Addison

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7.12. Creating an Email Newsletter

Problem

You want to communicate with your web site visitors by email.

Solution

Email newsletters are a popular way to stay in touch with your most loyal web site visitors and give them reasons to come back to your site on a regular basis. In the already debate-prone world of web design, the subject of email newsletters—and especially HTML email newsletters—generates a tremendous amount of heated discussion about everything from coding techniques to the wisdom of creating and sending one in the first place.

Here's a checklist to consider before doing one of your own:

Choice

If your mailing list software allows you to do so, let your subscribers choose either plain-text format or HTML. Or send a combined "multipart/alternative" message that includes both the plain and fancy versions in one message. Personally, I prefer the latter method because it means one less thing for you and your subscribers to keep track of in the ongoing life of your email newsletter.

Design

Use a simple, table-based layout without any fancy CSS, JavaScript, or embedded Flash movies.

Content

Keep your messages short—four to six headlines and one or two other promo items or messages. Always give subscribers an easy way to unsubscribe and send you feedback.

Testing

Email clients and their particular rendering capabilities are much more varied than web browsers. Know your audience, their technology capabilities, and test your message format early and often.

Discussion

Sending an email newsletter ...

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