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A meditation on email templates (and tables)

Recently, my company has pondered rewriting our email template(s). Writing email templates is one of those things that falls under my job description that often feels really easy … that is, until you see it in Outlook/etc/etc/etc. Email templates are very frustrating.

I like tables, personally. It forces the content to behave, most of the time, and CSS can act weird (although, CampaignMonitor has a handy chart for support issues). But what about when tables mean that someone in a certain view pattern doesn't see some of your content (ex: some newsletters are fond of sidebar messages. Ever thought that some people have a view setting so they won't see those unless they scroll to the right?). And the problem of fixed width? (and therefore hoping no one resizes their windows?)

Yet, Step one of email templating is to make your table. Tables look fine on Blackberries, usually on HTML phone email (ex. iPhone). But still, since it's possible, why not live without?

I haven't gotten to this project (the pure CSS tabled email template), but I have lightened table use in my email templates, practically using it as only a frame for content and I wonder if people use CSS only all the time… I made my first table-light template to make the it more flexible for the content guy. Still, I've seen emails without templates and even without images, so that they show fine in non-HTML form. It's tempting to do this, especially if you suspect your audience is low tech (or high Blackberry, who don't necessarily have images display automatically). Any thoughts, email templaters? Where's an email template design garden?

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