Earlier this year, Microsoft launched Vista, the largest update to the Windows operating system since Windows 95. Simultaneously, the company introduced the newest version of its Office suite, which includes Microsoft Outlook 2007. Although widely anticipated for its many new features and enhancements, Outlook 2007 now uses only the Microsoft Word HTML engine for composing and rendering e-mail messages, instead of also using the Internet Explorer engine previously employed for displaying HTML e-mail. The result is that Outlook 2007 no longer supports a variety of design techniques that are commonly used in HTML e-mails, affecting their creative interactivity and functionality. These include:
* No Flash or form functionality
* No animated GIFs
* No background imagery in HTML table tags or Cascading Style Sheets (CSS)
* No embedded style sheet support
These limitations greatly influence the way HTML e-mail campaigns need to be created going forward. By adhering to the following best practices, marketers not only will be able to develop e-mail messages for Outlook 2007, but also will ensure that their customers continue to have a high-quality, engaging experience using any HTML e-mail client.
1. Always include hosted links to render the e-mail and any forms in a Web browser. This will resolve any issues caused by the e-mail client’s HTML-rendering capacity by using the forgiving engine in Internet Explorer, Safari, Mozilla or other W3C standard browsers, and should be considered a requirement on all e-mails. Further, since search forms and polls often are the most active and popular links in an e-mail, ensure that any form in the HTML e-mail is accompanied by a link to try it online.
2. Make the first frame count. Ensure the first frame of any animated GIF includes and communicates the message or objective of the image, because this is the only frame that will be rendered in Outlook 2007.