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HTML Emails Which Don’t Suck

Designing HTML emails is as if the human race has spent millions of years and kazillions of joules of energy evolving from sickening frog-violating chimps to complex, skilled, advanced intelligent beings capable of accomplishing life-altering feats, and then suddenly, out of nowhere, choosing to cut off their opposable thumbs.

It’s frustrating.

Don’t get me wrong, if your idea of heaven is inline styles, stacked tables and plain text I’m sure you’re not alone, but you may need medical attention.

But it's not all doom and gloom.

There have been some patient designers who have overcome the frustration and created some designs which actually don’t suck, so I thought I’d share some of them to inspire others into tackling creative HTML email.

 

Pixel Creation’s MK Geek Night

MK Geek Night Design

Clean and to the point.

The palette is effective and the content area is as clear as a four year old’s skin, and the code is so straightforward!

 

Envato Mail

Envato Mail Design

Simple layout design allows great information digestion and the simple and consistent icon design adds to the design quality.

 

 

The Music Bed New Music Tuesday

The Music Bed Design

The tables are set out simply but the coherence of the design allows the eye to flow between each element with ease, like it would in print.

 

 

Typetec Mac Update

Typetec Mac Update Design

Stylistic plagiarism aside, the bright accents give great design feel.

The mixture of alternating image cells and text is eye-catching.

 

Litmus

Litmus Design

The pastel colour palette and well cut design are in-keeping with their branding.

The clean-cut sections enable better eye tracking.

 

Although the table layout can be quite messy, again (no surprise, CSS is disallowed like an olympian on crack) in these cases, it has been worthwhile.

But watch out for tricky designers who simply use stacks of image to create goodness- that’s cheating, and SPAM filters are likely to punish them. Whilst creating this post I stumbled on quite a few extremely pretty emails, but alas- on closer inspection, they had fallen into this very trap.

If you are absolutely bewildered by ‘coding like it’s 1999’ (look, I did a Prince joke) then have a little cheat and base your designs on some of these beauteous templates and try, if you dare, to have fun!

The Right To A Private Life?

As society, we have been repeatedly pushed right to the edge of tolerance for the past ten years: forced by our government to participate in wars we don’t believe in1, subjected to changes in laws we don’t agree with2, and more recently, scammed out of our savings, hopes and dreams which a capitalistic society has been selling us3 since before we can remember.

The invention of Wikileaks, founded in part by Julian Assange in 2006 stirred a new era, concerned with unveiling facts and figures that capitalistic corporations and governments want hidden. It’s come at the perfect time; at the turning point for imperialism: with the capitalist economic crisis4, declining US & western economy, where people are no longer accepting the decisions of leaders, but questioning.

WikiLeaks has breached the capitalist wall of lies and cover-ups in various multiple ways:

  • by exposing the dirty truth about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan5,6;
  • through unveiling the huge swathe of embarrassing US diplomatic cables7;
  • and revealing truths about a major US banking institution8.

As a result, a vast cover-up plan has begun, by the government, the media, the public to silence a threat so serious to capitalism. Julian Assange is facing serious charges9, trumped up or not, and abnormal extradition practices for a sex charge have been carried out with (in my opinion) the intention of discrediting the reputation of such an organisation.
This, for many, was the final straw and we are now seeing throughout the world people, the public like you and I fighting (figuratively speaking) back against consumerism, capitalism, greed in the form of protests10. We are occupying parts of New York City, London, Hong Kong and many other cities around the world, and we can already see the panicked reception of this great threat from authorities in the form of disrespect, violence and even the use of weapons on unarmed civilians11.

We have reached an age where we defend our human rights, our right to liberty, a fair trial, our freedom of conscience, of expression and freedom of assembly- we are willing to put our lives in danger to stand up against those who threaten these sacred rights… yet all the while, what are we doing to protect another vital right: the right to privacy?

Facebook is a social networking website founded in 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg which catalogues not only who you are, who your friends are, what newspaper articles you read, what you’re interested in, what you look like, who you are in a relationship with, but also uses facial recognition software, and logs your GPS location at any given time12.

Facebook’s entire business model is based on collecting and sharing user information13. Both Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg have openly taken the position that the sharing of information, being openly connected and transparent is the new social norm, and that privacy is outdated14.

This open approach to business has left Facebook attempting to navigate its way around a human right that the company has a responsibility to respect — privacy. Until Facebook takes this responsibility seriously, it will continue to let down its users.

In December 2009, Facebook’s ‘privacy policy’ was modified so that certain information including friends list, gender, city, and profile photo, would be public information- accessible to anyone anywhere who has access to the internet15.

Not only this, but Facebook has a clause whereby they can (and do) sell your private information including phone numbers, addresses and e-mail addresses to third parties16; basically anyone who can cough up the cash is able to access data on you. Yes, there are some procedures in line to protect your privacy as a user, but how can we trust that this information is being kept secure and private? This concern was demonstrated publicly most recently with the use of profile pictures in third party advertisements through data leaks to third parties on Facebook17.

The truth is that many governments take advantage of Facebook’s open platform to conduct espionage18, censor and to identify ‘enemies’ such as individuals who merely ‘like’ a particular politician, or to track activists they don’t like by identifying who is a ‘friend’ of government critics.

For example, the government of Iran might well be interested in a list of everyone who ‘likes’ Mousavi, a reformist politician there. Egyptian President Mubarak could take interest in those who liked any of the pages or organisers of protests. The possibilities for officials and those who work for any particular government are endless, and with the public having increasingly less faith in the people who run their country and the values that they stand for, this issue is more lucrative than ever.

So Mark Zuckerberg gives our personal information to corporations for money and he’s Time’s person of the year19 whilst Julian Assange has been labelled by the vice president of the United States of America as a terrorist20 because he gives personal information on corporations to us for free!

The call is out for the public to respect and defend the rights which are as humans afforded to us, but a major one is being overlooked which can so easily be rectified; all we need is- an ethical, respectful and non-capitalistic alternative social networking site which doesn’t make you wade through pages of settings and options just to keep your profile secure and share what you want with whom you want 21 like Diaspora and we’ll all be rid of the new age Big Brother22 that we choose daily to live in.

Further reading & relevant links

1 Polls find Europeans oppose Iraq war

2 Government must ‘rethink’ Browne review as poll shows opposition to tuition fee hike

3 Consumerism & The New Capitalism

4 Economic Crisis & Post-Capitalism

5 Wikileaks: Iraq war logs ‘reveal truth about conflict’

6 Afghan War Diary, 2004-2010

7 Secret US Embassy Cables

8 WikiLeaks’ next target: ‘A big U.S. bank’

9 Julian Assange loses High Court appeal against extradition

10 ‘Occupy’ anti-capitalism protests spread around the world

11 Occupy Oakland: police use teargas after protesters force port to close

12 Data use policy

13 Facebook info

14 Privacy: a social norm?

15 The Facebook Privacy Debate: What You Need to Know

16 Facebook To Share Users’ Home Addresses, Phone Numbers With External Sites

17 Facebook plugs third-party access to user accounts

18 How US Government Spies Use Facebook

19 Person of the year 2010

20 Assange is a ‘hi-tech terrorist’, says Biden

21 Share what you want, with whom you want

22 Now ‘Big Brother’ targets Facebook