Email Standards Project

I originally posted this on the d.eskimo blog, but a glitch has meant the post isn’t currently up, so I’m reposting here in the interim… Update: it’s back live again

It’s been shown in a number of studies that HTML emails perform better than equivalent plain-text emails, so as a design agency we are often called upon by our clients to create HTML templates to support their online communications activities.

It seems like a simple task – create a newsletter design based on the website – a couple of hours work, maybe? Unfortunately, the task is deceptively difficult…

Owing in large part to the state of HTML support, and standards/CSS support, in the various popular email clients (software) that we typically need to support. Such clients include Hotmail, Windows Live Mail, Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, Outlook 2003 (and Express), Apple Mail, Mozilla Thunderbird, and more. And many of those are browser-based, meaning even further quirks on the basis of which browser the client is used in.

For those of us that have been working on the web for some time, the different compatibility issues that exist between clients is reminiscent of the dark days before web standards support improved dramatically (even with Internet Explorer’s issues). So far designers have been limited to clunky table-based layouts, deprecated font tags, and other “hacks” which result in very difficult to maintain HTML code. And they’re forced to do an enormous amount of testing to check under a myriad of circumstances.

All in all, this adds many $$ for our clients. And in our business, where we’re supporting a number of non-profit clients, this can be really frustrating – for us and, we suspect, our clients.

Our friends at Freshview, who have created two excellent web-based email list management tools in Campaign Monitor and MailBuild, have done the design community a valuable service by documenting support for standards in a variety of email clients. Things were looking better, until…

David at Freshview noted recently on the Campaign Monitor blog that the launch of Outlook 2007, far from improving matters, significantly degraded support for HTML in what is one of the most popular email clients, especially in the corporate world.

So, they decided, it was time for action. And thus began the Email Standards Project (which also has a Facebook group, of course). Similarly to the push for better browser support for web standards that kicked off during the dark ages of the browser wars (gee – sounds like something out of Star Wars!?), the Email Standards Project aims to establish a core set of standards that the design community wants supported, and then will encourage email client vendors to support these standards.

And of course, once those core set of requirements are supported, then we’ll move on to secondary requirements etc. 😉

The Project’s website is launching today – so keep an eye on it to see how the campaign develops, and how you can help…

Local Cooling

Evan points to a Windows-based power management app, Local Cooling. Apart from providing some useful settings, it shows the theoretical energy savings and also “phones home” to show the aggregate saving of all Local Cooling users.

Great idea! Nice work – plus I learnt these little factoids (I’m yet to verify):

More than 30 billion kilowatt-hours of energy is wasted because many of us simply forget to shut down our computers when we’re not using them. If we could just improve the efficiency of how we use our PCs, the savings in energy costs would be over $3 billion dollars! The CO2 emissions from just 15 computers are equivalent in energy terms to the gas consumption used by one car.

Leveling playing fields in the music biz

The Devoted Few recently finished their latest video-clip for their single, Don’t Listen to Us (which, incidentally, you can download from their website).

The clip captures moments from their recent touring and recording activities, and looks pretty cool. The band currently doesn’t have a label deal, despite getting high-rotation airplay on Triple J, and therefore they don’t have the budget to produce a video clip. (I still don’t get this: band that consistently gets good airplay and has done some amazing live dates supporting top-line acts like Eskimo Joe hasn’t received any bites from a major label? But I digress…)

So they turned to iMovie. Barry collated a bunch of footage captured on his personal digital video camera and pulled it into iMovie, then cut it to the track. The bridge section needed a little “something else”, so a friend helped them by pulling it into Final Cut Pro to do the 16 panel sequence that fills that spot. That’s the only sequence that wasn’t done on a basic G4 iBook and the free software that comes with it.

And the result is quite compelling. Sure, it doesn’t have fancy special effects, but it does capture the tone of the band, and is compelling enough to hold its own. Compelling enough for multiple spins on Rage, and hopefully jTV – Triple J’s digital TV channel (which also appears occasionally on free-to-air ABC).

So – let’s recap. They couldn’t get a label deal so released the single on the net and got high-rotation Triple J airplay. They didn’t have funding for a video clip, so they did it themselves using a video camcorder, an iBook (recently replaced in the Apple hardware lineup by the more powerful MacBook), and a bit of creativity – posted it on YouTube, and also had it played on free-to-air television.

As I understand it they are currently working out how they might fund their next long-player themselves also. Sure, it’s a lot of hard work. Sure, it would be nice to have the funding to get other people to do the job – more time to spend on creating music. But whereas these used to be barriers that couldn’t be overcome unless you had truckloads of cash, nowadays bands can do stuff on a shoestring and pull it off.

Anyways, enough philosophising on the power of digital and social media 😉 Give them a hand and go check out the clip, download the single, request it on Triple J’s Super Request and jTV.

Mac Office on 10.4 – font corruption issue

I just opened Word on my Mac at work (running Mac OS 10.4 aka “Tiger”) and it started complaining about a corrupt font during the font optimization process when starting up – then promptly crashed.

Google pointed me to this – but I found that using the free Linotype FontExplorer X to clear the system and application font caches (both options under the Tools menu) fixed the problem.

Just thought I’d share in case any of y’all run into the same issue…

Mac OS X 10.4.7

I eventually had to re-install 10.4.7 on the latest iMac (which works, finally) and had the same issues with Photoshop CS and the Microsoft Office suite that I mentioned previously.

I did a little digging, and this is only an issue for Intel-based machines. I also read on a forum somewhere that Apple had posted a patched version of the install. I went to the Apple website and downloaded this 10.4.7 update and reinstalled it over the previous 10.4.7 version.

Apart from a weird glitch late yesterday arvo, this seems to have fixed the problem. Just thought I’d share the solution in case someone else comes across this issue.