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  1. #1
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    CSS, CSS2, XHTML -- compliance in email clients for HTML newsletters

    I'm putting this in the forum because I searched first here (without success!) before asking someone at SitePoint directly. Below is an excerpt from my original letter to SitePoint, followed by Thomas Rutter's greatly informative response. Any more comments/experiences on this topic would be appreciated!

    - - - My original message to Sitepint - - -

    Here's my question: I'm writing table-free XHTML strict compliant sites now, and I was planning to do a newsletter based on one. But nowhere can I find information about the compatibility of XHTML strict standards with current and past email clients. Did Microsoft and Netscape always use the most updated version of their browsers in order to render HTML in emails? - I recall from previous experience that I've noticed HTML rendering differences using their browsers vs. their email clients.

    - - - Quoting Thomas Rutter's reply - - -

    Hi Elise,

    Thanks very much for contacting us about this.

    While it is generally accepted that all current browsers support CSS2 reasonably well, the same cannot be said for email clients. Unlike web browsers, HTML support is only a secondary feature of email clients, and thus the HTML support in email clients tends to lag behind the HTML support in web browsers.

    In addition to this, there is a larger number of different email clients in common use than web browsers. There is only 2 or 3 main types of web browser currently in use (not including different versions of the same browser). However, there is a huge number of different email clients currently popular, with varying degrees of support for current web standards. For example, a lot of people use older versions of Microsoft Outlook or Eudora, which have very poor support of current web standards, mostly due to their age.

    Consequently, a bit more care should be taken when designing HTML newsletters. Many email clients cannot use much CSS2 at all, so most HTML newsletters still use a table-based design. Keep in mind that free email services such as Hotmail and Yahoo mail use their own, 'web based' email clients. While Yahoo has excellent support for CSS, Hotmail and a lot of others don't.

    If you do decide to use CSS for your newsletter, you should ensure that the newsletter will degrade gracefully when viewed in email clients that support only a subset of CSS properties. Test the newsletter in as many email clients as you can, and don't forget web-based clients such as Hotmail and Yahoo Mail.

    If you do have some success with HTML newsletters that use a large amount of CSS, I'd love to hear about it.

    > on the other hand once you begin writing table-free
    > layouts, it's hard to go back to such an arcane practice.

    That's so true!
    If you have any further questions, feel free to contact me.

    --

    Thomas Rutter
    SitePoint Customer Support

    SitePoint Books
    - http://www.sitepoint.com/books/
    Editize
    - http://www.editize.com/

  2. #2
    gingham dress, army boots... silver trophy redux's Avatar
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    not sure if it's been mentioned already, but i found that keeping your CSS in the email, rather than linking out to an external CSS, yields the best results across most email clients...
    re·dux (adj.): brought back; returned. used postpositively
    [latin : re-, re- + dux, leader; see duke.]
    WaSP Accessibility Task Force Member
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  3. #3
    SitePoint Author silver trophybronze trophy
    wwb_99's Avatar
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    Moreover dont forget those who cannot or will not recieve HTML email. Multipart mail is your friend.

    WWB

  4. #4
    SitePoint Enthusiast NetBloke's Avatar
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    I don't lnow if it is just beepfly and I that are looking at using purely CSS for Email newsletters but this is a topic I would love to see discussed in more detail.

    I have been looking all over the place for specific information, and have only found dribs and drabs. If no one else is up to it perhaps I should have a look at writing up all the various tidbits of information that I have found.
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  5. #5
    SitePoint Author silver trophybronze trophy
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    I would love to hear it too. I am moving towards pretty much pure CSS design, but still have to do the newsletters the old fashioned way.

    I do use CSS to handle the styling of the things, and I have not yet got too many complaints.

    WWB

  6. #6
    SitePoint Enthusiast NetBloke's Avatar
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    It seems that as long as I keep it simple it isn't causing anyone problems. I just have a link color issue I am trying resolve at the moment.
    Personal Blog @ NetBloke.com
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  7. #7
    SitePoint Enthusiast NetBloke's Avatar
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    I worked out a solution. However I have absolutely no idea why some of it is working. When I do work it out I shall post back here.

    Thanks for your suggestions.
    Personal Blog @ NetBloke.com
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  8. #8
    SitePoint Zealot colinr's Avatar
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    The great guys at ALA have you covered...
    http://www.alistapart.com/articles/cssemail/
    Web Slave

  9. #9
    SitePoint Enthusiast NetBloke's Avatar
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    Thanks that is a great article!
    Personal Blog @ NetBloke.com
    Design & Hosting for B&Bs @ InnkeepersWebServices.com
    Olympia Bed and Breakfast @ Swantown Inn with The Attic Day Spa
    Innkeepers Resources (Beta) @ Innkeepers Journal


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