You might remember a couple of weeks back I received a fantastic letter from the Office team confirming they’d received the Fix Outlook mosaic and had even hung it on their wall. Today they took their message of “we’re listening” a step further by sending me photographic proof that they’re doing just that.
The first shot features William Kennedy, VP of Office and Jeanne Sheldon, VP of Word (nice shirt Jeanne) hanging out next to the mosaic’s new home in the Office team’s hallway.
This second photo was taken at the entrance to the Microsoft campus and includes a number of Word and Outlook team members who have worked on HTML rendering in Office over the years.
I’ve got to give Microsoft an enormous amount of credit for this. They could have ignored our feedback completely, but instead proved they are genuinely listening to our feedback and are prepared to have a bit of fun doing it. Add to this the recent launch of MakeOfficeBetter.com by two Microsoft employees, and it becomes clear that these guys really do care about giving their customers the best experience possible.
While there is still no confirmation about what impact this will have on the rendering in Outlook, this is a big step for the Office team to take publicly. William and the rest of the Office team have assured me they will keep in touch as they plan their next release. You guys will be the first to hear if we have any news to share. In the mean time, let’s keep the feedback going by adding your vote for better HTML support.
We were unsure if we would hear back from the Office team, but were pleasantly surprised today when a large package straight from Redmond arrived on our doorstep. William Kennedy, the Corporate VP of Office was kind enough to send a personal letter to us thanking us for our efforts. William even explained that the Fix Outlook mosaic was now on display in their hallway so the entire Office team can check it out.
William also mentioned that “improvements and changes in this area are something that the team is definitely considering for the future”. Only time will tell if Outlook will move towards better standards support, but this is certainly the strongest message on the subject we’ve had to date.
This is a brilliant result. Here’s the complete letter (emphasis ours).
I can’t thank William enough for not only ensuring our message is seen by the entire team, but for taking the time to let us know how much they appreciated our feedback.
It’s been just shy of 3 weeks since we launched fixoutlook.org, and it’s safe to say the project has been a phenomenal success. Almost 25,000 people have joined the chorus to send a unified message to Microsoft about their lack of web standards support in Outlook 2010. On top of this, there has been considerable coverage across the web from small blogs to major news sites. We’ve even had some fantastic, thoughtful responses from another member of the Office team (who officially filed a bug about the lack of standards) and a Microsoft MVP.
To bring this great project to a close, we wanted to make sure the Outlook team had a constant reminder of just how strongly we all feel about their lack of standards support. Trending topics on Twitter come and go, we wanted something a little more permanent we could send their way.
In his reply to the fixoutlook campaign, Microsoft’s William Kennedy told us that there “is no consensus” about what standards apply to email and that he’d work with the industry if a consensus arises. Luckily for us, these standards already exist. They’re called web standards.
To make sure William got the point, we figured we’d send him a “consensus” from 25,000 of us, many of who (myself included) are Outlook customers. From this idea, the fixoutlook.org mosaic was born. In a single image, it includes almost all of the 25,000 people who joined us in asking Microsoft to fix standards support in Outlook 2010.
Here’s a preview of the mosaic. You can click it for the full sized version, which is a rather large 20MB and might take a while to download.
We’ve used the different colored avatars from everyone who contributed to spell out a final message to Microsoft. We figured saying please this time couldn’t hurt our chances.
As I write this, the 2m x 1m mosaic is just boarding a plane on it’s way to Redmond, personally addressed to Mr Kennedy on behalf of everyone who contributed.
To give you an idea of scale, here’s a shot of us holding the mosaic.
A big final thanks to everyone who helped spread the word about the importance of the fixoutlook campaign. On a more personal note, it was a pleasure to be involved from start to finish, and hopefully it will contribute to making life easier for email designers and Outlook users alike.
The Email Standards Project is a future looking group. We’re working on improving current and future email clients so they render standard HTML and CSS more consistently. That’s the goal, but what about all of us who need to send emails out right now?
We’re often asked for advice on how to get the best results given the current state of the email client market. Here’s our top picks to get you started with building an email that will work well for your readers right now. You’ll notice they are from Campaign Monitor, which is built by the same team that started the Email Standards Project (full disclosure achieved!).
You may notice some differences, where support is spotty for certain elements and we’ve tested in different ways. Watch out for an expanded ACID test later this year to provide more clarity.
For general advice on what to put into your emails, what not to, and how to approach it see the Email design guidelines.
To save time in working out a structure that does not fall apart in one of the popular email clients, you can start with free, tested email templates that you can take, modify and reuse.
At Campaign Monitor we’ve been collecting statistics from millions of emails sent out, and compiled an email client popularity report (the unsurprising news is that Outlook still dominates).
First there were desktop email clients, with their various differing capabilities. Then webmail clients became popular, making a free email address accessible to just about anyone. Today’s biggest growing area is mobile email clients on devices like the iPhone and Blackberry.
When you design and build an email you can’t know for sure which email client will be displaying it for any particular person. To find out the HTML and CSS rendering capabilities of mobile email clients, Gregg Oldring of Mailout Interactive took our email acid test and put it to work.
Gregg has posted his results on his blog and they are well worth checking out. He ran our acid test through a BlackBerry Bold, a BlackBerry Curve, a BlackBerry Pearl, an iPod Touch running the iPhone 2.1 Software Upgrade, an iPhone running 2.2 Software Upgrade, a Treo running Palm OS and a Treo running Windows.
Gregg’s results provide some interesting details – changes in rendering between iPhone software in 2.1 and 2.2 that actually break some parts of our test, for example. He also goes on to make a couple of suggestions for emailing to mobile clients, basically simplifying and reducing the width.
Make sure to click through and see the full mobile email results. Thanks Gregg for your work! If you’ve run your own tests, we’d love to hear about it, please comment below.
Welcome to 2009! While most of us are enjoying the marvels and advances of the new millenium, HTML email rendering is still back in the 1990s, hanging out with structural tables and inline styles.
When we launched the Email Standards Project, we had a huge amount of support from people like you, web designers who were sick of having to deal with huge variations in the way their emails looked in the many different email clients. Although many people doubted that we could change things, we all felt something had to be done.
It’s a slow process, but there is far more useful discussion of HTML email than there ever was before we started, and the signs are there for real change. We want to say thank you to all of you who have blogged about the project, contributed your own findings, spoken to contacts at email client developers, tweeted about us and more.
It is your efforts that have got us this far, and we’ll be relying on your help this year too. Here’s a quick outline of what we’ve got planned for 2009:
In broad terms, those are the things we’ll be focusing on. Of course, we’ll continue to keep you up to date with changes in the email rendering landscape through this blog. If you have any suggestions, requests or questions, please leave them in the comments. You can also join our Facebook group to keep up to date.
Let’s make 2009 a good year for HTML email designers!
If you’re interested, you can grab the new beta by visiting the Windows Live blog. The new version of Windows Live Mail doesn’t seem to be any different in rendering our acid test compared to previous versions since most of the changes seem to be part of their Windows Live Suite. This is good news though since Windows Live Mail is actually a very decent mail application and we can only hope the rest of Microsoft’s mail teams are taking notes.
When we first tested .mac, it had a lot of problems. Our email ACID test did not render very well at all, and we ranked support overall as ‘Improvement Recommended’. This was slightly suprising given then excellent rendering abilities of the Mac desktop Mail client.
So after the release of the new Mobile Me, and after the associated outages and glitches, we were very keen to run the test again. The good news is that the results were dramatically improved. Nearly all of the previous problems had been corrected, and the email rendered almost perfectly.
Background colours and images are correct, positioning of elements works well, and even list images show up. The one oddity is what you can see in the thumbnail; headings. We found that while our H1 tag rendered perfectly, H2, H3 and below would not accept styling from a stylesheet in the head.
There’s no obvious explanation for why that would be the case, but during our testing and fiddling we were not able to get it to work at all. Lower level headings remained stubbornly unaffected by margins, background colors, padding and more.
Perhaps someone from the Mobile Me team can explain? Overall though, the rendering is hugely improved, and has earned an ‘Excellent’ rating. This is another great example of how webmail clients don’t need to render poorly.
Thanks to everyone who emailed us about Mobile Me, including Georg Stadler and Stefan Kremer who both sent in screengrabs.
View the full report for Mobile Me.
Our testing with different versions of Lotus Notes has turned up mixed results so far, so we were interested to see that an iPhone version of the widely used software was in the works.
IBM has announced Lotus Notes for the iPhone will be released in 2008. According to the official site, it will “combine with the flexibility and connectivity of the Apple iPhone. To be built on the time tested IBM Lotus Domino Web Access infrastructure, users will be able to quickly access email, calendars, and contacts through the rich Apple iPhone user experience.”
The existing Apple Mail application built in to the iPhone does a very good job of rendering HTML and CSS, so we’ll be watching with interest to see how this new version of Notes does. If you have access to it, we’d love to hear from you once the product is released.