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The changing face of HTML for email, and fantasy fiction

I’m Batman.

Well, not in that sense. What I do mean is by day I fix coding problems and build templates and forms alongside my Production team. And by night I’m a novelist, and I’ve just had my debut published.

A number of years ago I turned to creating HTML files by hand, using advanced text editor Editplus to construct either a template or a form, depending on what I was working on. I had a lot of problems using Frontpage at the time, so decided that stripping out all the “˜assistance’ was what would help me the most, so I moved over to editing code manually. Yes, it was hard at first, but it’s also quite rewarding to construct HTML from the ground up without any help.

I also recently passed ten years at Adestra, and in that time I’ve learned invaluable expertise on what will work and what won’t in the multitude of email clients out there. The earlier versions of Lotus Notes are by far the most difficult to appease, mainly as they use Wordpad for rendering (yes, Wordpad!). Even the most popular of desktop email clients, Outlook, has seen its fair share of ridiculous advancements, most notably the shocking jump from 2003 to 2007. They went from the perfectly acceptable rendering engine of Internet Explorer to Word, of all things. The “˜Microsoft Word Page Break’ is a particular bane of many a coder.

The most important insight about HTML for email is how it can change so quickly and dramatically, and usually thanks to the smallest of changes. Like Gmail and Hotmail suddenly needing style=”display: block” to snap images together, or Yahoo dropping their interest in paragraph tags. Or even Gmail getting tough with code and breaking a template if you even put one closing tag in the wrong place.

And the advent of responsive templates has heralded more changes to the way we build emails. For instance, I’m now reverting back to using spacer images after years of avoiding them, as they do actually help with forcing space. You now have to think about cell widths, and not forcing items to be wider than the screen you’re aiming for.

But anyway, reverting back to my opening, I have spent the last six years working on my debut novel, Augustus Baltazar. It’s out now in paperback and digital formats from Amazon, iBooks and WH Smith – however I must disappoint you by saying it contains no HTML for email advice! That can wait for another day”¦

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