It seems like every other week, Paul, my colleague from the comms’ team walks over and says…‘Rumman, something is broken in the email template, can you have a look? We need to send it out today.’

Almost instantly, the door to the development team shuts and i’m left to fix this mess on my own. But who can blame them? the thought of debugging HTML emails doesn’t exactly fill your heart with joy, it’s just one big pile of complicated mess.

It literally has a mind of it’s own. One week the ‘read more’ button’s sitting pretty beneath an image and the next it’s wandered off the column altogether! I’m not even going to start on compatability issues with Outlook.

At Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research, we’re all about continuous improvement. With that in mind I realised I had to try and find a better solution, because love ’em or hate ’em, the fact of the matter is: our newsletters are absolutely essential to us and they actually contain a lot of good content.

Bloodwise HTML Email Template

Ink

I spent all of Friday trawling the internet for a solution, and I realised, there are now almost as many frameworks and templates for HTML emails as there are for building websites.

ZURB Ink

After a while when all hope seemed lost, I landed on Ink, a responsive email framework from ZURB – which ironically launched just the previous day. For those who aren’t familiar with ZURB, they’re the guys behind the excellent Foundation framework.

Quickly create responsive HTML emails that work on any device & client. Even Outlook.

ZURB have taken all their expertise from Foundation and brought it right to Ink so you can now focus on the content and design, rather than worry about how it’ll behave on Outlook or how it’ll look on multiple devices.

It certainly ticks all the right boxes:

  • Compatable Across the Board
  • Templates Right Out of the Box
  • Responsive
  • Own Inliner Tool
  • Easy to Use
  • Open Source

Email Compatibility Table

Using the framework is pretty straight forward, if you’re familiar with Bootstrap or Foundation then you’ll feel right at home here. You can either work with a set of pre-built templates or create your own, using the same grid based markup from Foundation.

Of course the main difference between modern websites and HTML email is the continued use of table-based layouts. Having only started building web pages in the past few years, I personally found it difficult to comprehend that I had to learn markup that’s clearly prehistoric. That being said, with over 40% of emails being opened on a mobile device; until one of the big boys decide to take a stand, it’s absolutely essential that we work towards creating some sort of standard – and ZURB have certainly gone a long way towards that with Ink.

Test Run

Over the coming weeks, I’m going to try and integrate Ink in to our email workflow (Drupal, Civi CRM, Outlook) and test it on one of our weekly internal newsletters. Fingers crossed, if everything goes well, we can then introduce it to the rest of the organisation and all our readers.

Keep an eye out on how that goes! I’ll be sure to write down the steps I take and will add them with the results.

To the guys over at ZURB: Really good work! I get nightmares from spending just a few hours on HTML emails so I can’t imagine the time you all spent creating this wonderful piece of kit – I think you’re on to something here, you might just have found gold at the end of the rainbow.

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