All I can say is, IT’S ABOUT TIME!
Sorry for that outburst, but anyone that has spent a lot of time in the permission-based email marketing game knows how badly this is needed and how long overdue we are for an organization of this type. The Web Standards Project set the blueprint for these guys, all they have to do is carry it forward. Granted they have a few more vendors to worry about than the WSP did, but they already have a major contributor on the inside – Freshview (makers of Campaign Monitor).
So, why do web standards for email matter? Because if marketers want to continue to use this viable marketing tool to communicate with customers we have got to do something about the chasm between modern web design principles and vendor support for our practices.
Lately it seems vendors have started slipping backwards with Outlook 2007 using the html rendering engine from Microsoft Word and Gmail supporting next to nothing in terms Cascading Style Sheets. Even for today’s most savvy standards web developer building an HTML email that functions well and looks good in 12+ different email clients will push you to your limits. We should not have to shackle our creativity or resort to purely image-based designs to please all of the email clients’ abilities or lack thereof to render mark up that otherwise works in all modern web browsers.
For now there are
workarounds hacks that will allow the email to function well in a large majority of the clients, but that is similar to the graceful degradation principle in web design – sometimes it works. Honestly the only way to avoid problems at this point is through complex list management and separation of contacts by email client (if you know it), and always, ALWAYS provide a link to view the message online. This takes the email client rendering out of the equation and puts the mark up into a modern web browser.
The next step for the Email Standards Project should be to get other major organizations onboard with their cause, like the Email Sender & Provider Coalition and get every email marketing provider to link to their cause and talk about them.