It’s a word I’ve uttered a thousand times upon opening an email test — especially when I thought it would look perfect in every way.
Maybe you are familiar with the feeling.
If you’re a campaign specialist, marketing operations professional, communications director, or any other professional charged with creating and sending emails, it’s likely you’ve worked with HTML emails before, and you may have been very confused about some of the ways you’ve broken a template or messed up an email already coded by a web developer or designer.
Don’t worry. Everyone has those feelings. Whether you can build an email from the ground up or you only feel comfortable editing text and images, mistakes happen or changes don’t work out the way you thought they would.
To help save you some time (and a panic attack), I want to share a few simple debugging steps I use before spending hours researching and coding more complex fixes.
The first (and I would say hardest) to remember is to search for typos. Yes, even a simple typo can cause a massive change in the styling of your email. So before you start looking for complex snippets to make your font display in Lotus Notes or a background color show up in Gmail, check your code to see if you typed everything correctly.
Checking for consistency goes hand-in-hand with eliminating typos, especially if you are updating the style of an email. There is nothing quite like editing a hex code in 30 different places, thinking you have them all, and then getting a test email that displays the old color, or better yet, no color. Before you start blaming the specific email client you’re testing in, check to see if any styling was overlooked in the style tags or any client-specific code. Once all of the styling is consistent, it is much easier to tell if you have a real problem.
The last thing to look for is an unclosed html tag in your tables, table rows, or table cells. (These are the <table></table>, <tr></tr> and <td></td> tags in your emails and must always be both opened and closed.) It’s easy to go into an email, highlight the text you want to replace, and accidentally delete these opening or closing tags without noticing. If one of these tags isn’t properly closed, your whole email can appear out of whack. While this might be visually alarming, it’s one of the easier problems to fix.
To make sure all of your tables are properly closed, it’s easiest to use a program like Adobe Dreamweaver or an online tool like DirtyMarkup to help you find the errors. If you don’t have access to those, try your best to match opening and closing tags and add them back in when you find incomplete sets.
These troubleshooting tips will not always prevent the “uh-oh” moment, but they just might save you many frustrated hours of frantically searching the web or bothering your web developer for a magic fix.
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