This post deals with email template testing in general. To find out more about how I test my templates, follow this link.
Testing your email template is the most important part of your journey towards Perfect Email Template Land. And I don’t mean sending your template to a Hotmail address and popping the champagne when it looks okay on the computer that you happen to be working on. No my friend, this is where you get your hands dirty.
You should at the very least test your email template in Gmail, Yahoo! and Hotmail. Depending on where you and your subscribers live, you might want to include a popular local email client as well. Also, you need to make sure to cover both Internet Explorer and Firefox / Chrome, because Hotmail sometimes behaves differently, depending on which browser you use. Firefox and Chrome are usually in sync, but even they have their moments of quirkiness. Bottom line: test, test, test, you crazy mail monkey!
As you are probably aware, there are many desktop email clients. I think it is safe to assume that Microsoft Outlook, Apple Mail and Thunderbird account for 90% of email users around the world. Apple Mail and Thunderbird are quite easy to please, HTML wise. So even though it’s a good idea to include at least one of them in your testing process, your main focus should go out to every email template coder’s best friend: Microsoft Outlook.
This fine Microsoft product is renowned for its particular (or was it “peculiar”, I can’t remember…) way of rendering HTML. And by “rendering” I mean “messing up”. To make matters worse, Outlook 2010 actually uses the HTML rendering engine from Word instead of Internet Explorer. So you need to test your email template in Outlook 2007 *and* 2010. And preferably under various operating systems as well. Yes, it DO(E)S make a difference…
This is actually the easy part: an email template is a single page of HTML and it needs to render properly in a bunch of popular web browsers like Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Opera and Safari. I know even this can be a challenge for some of us, but believe me: compared to email clients, web browsers are a walk in the park.
Windows, Mac OS, Linux, you know the drill. Did you know an operating system can affect how a piece of software behaves? For example, you can have your email template render perfectly in Outlook 2007 under Windows Vista, but that doesn’t automatically mean it’ll look good under Windows 7 as well. I’ve seen it happen. And sometimes an application that’s not even directly related to receiving email (say, Internet Explorer) can affect the way your email client (say, Outlook) renders your email. (Please note: the example of Internet Explorer and Outlook is not random.)
Mobile devices (tablets, smartphones and dumbphones) are even worse than desktop computers, in terms of the number of possible configurations. Not everybody uses the default web browser on a Galaxy S3 or an iPad, so there’s always a chance your subscribers read your email in some exotic mobile web browser like Dolphin or Incognito. And then I haven’t even mentioned the fact that there are tons of different devices that all have their own screen resolutions and other technical specifications (be it hardware or software) that might affect the displaying of your beautifully crafted email template.
It’s up to you to determine how far you want to take this. As far as I’m concerned, if you check your email template in the default web browsers on the major mobile platforms (Android and iOS) on a more or less “standard device” (if there is such a thing), you’re pretty much good to go.