A robust testing process for email campaigns

Email testing is vital. Anyone who has worked in email for any length of time knows that sending an email with a mistake is not only embarrassing for you and the client but potentially a large financial risk. Terms and conditions might not be legally binding or worse, you might even lose the client. As the saying goes though people do make mistakes, everybody does. In this article I’m going to quickly run through a solid email testing plan which hopefully will help you know what you should look out for when coding.

1. Get everything tidied up

Once you have the HTML and plain text version ready, save everything. Everything from the Photoshop file with the slices, the brief, all your images to the HTML and text. Then I like to do a few find searches in the HTML if you search from ’a href=””’ you will find missing links. If you search from ’<td’ you will find broken tags. If you have a proper linter installed it should show you mistakes like duplicate tags or unclosed tags. If I find any of these errors I always do a search for them in case that error appears somewhere else. Most text editors or IDEs will have robust find and replace features to aid you in this task.

Find

2. Encoding and Spell check

Once the document has been checked for missing links I like to encode all the special characters. At this point it is good to double check in the browser that this encoding hasn’t caused any errors to appear. If you copy all the text from the browser window, ctrl+a ctrl+c and paste it into a word processor it is possible to copy all the text content of the HTML and not on the actual code. This method also allows you to snag alt text for images even though they’re not visible on the the page. With all the written content and alt text for the email I run a spell check on this document. Spell checking like all other parts of the testing process are very important.

3. Check the important things

If you have an important client it is good practice to make yourself a check-list specific to that client. This allows you to double check your work so you can run through it after you have received sign off from the client. Things you might add could be something like, adding the subject line to the title tag of the HTML document or checking to see if the Terms and conditions have been updated. In nearly all email campaigns you’ll find each client will have specific requirements for every email they send. Make sure you’re aware of each one of these and add them to your check-list.

Check List

4. Email services

Even if you do get to use an email testing tool like Litmus it is advisable to open testing accounts for yourself in all the major email providers. Gmail, Yahoo and Outlook.com. So you can check how things display and so you are not totally reliant on your testing tool. Using real world devices is also highly advisable. Here at displayblock we have a small collection of tablets and smartphones to test on as well as using Litmus and Email on Acid.

5. Email previews

Email previewing is an integral step in email marketing. Sending emails to thousands or even millions of people requires an eye for detail but thorough testing will always be a part of email marketing. To begin testing it’s good to create a few .csv files with your addresses and the tests recipients. I like to use two testing lists one which has my email addresses and a separate one which has my email addresses and the client test email addresses. First I like to send a few tests to myself and testing services like Litmus before rolling out any tests to clients.

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6. Check the email

Once you have received the first few tests, check various clients, Gmail app and Microsoft Outlook are the usual problem clients but it is not impossible to find problems in other clients. Try to fix basic email problems if any first, before you start previewing to your client. Things like layout, colours, link styling. Make sure link checking is done as this is an easy error to fix but can cause major headaches if incorrect in live sends.

7. Final tests

Hopefully your coding and testing complete you are able to start testing to the client now. During this process be mindful that further changes to code might cause problem and always update your client with how long various edits or copy changes might take. It is a good idea to be flexible and if large edits do come your way go back a few steps in this testing process.

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