How to Send HTML Emails

I got a question recently of what to do after you create the HTML portion of an email. If you aren’t going to be sending a text version, then the next step is to send it (otherwise, create the text version…and then send it 😉 ). Which is probably where many people get lost. However, all you need is the right software to format it correctly and send it out. Here are four different approaches to sending HTML email.

  1. Open-Source Email Library – This is the option that I took. I downloaded a copy of PHPmailer and wrote my own small PHP application for sending test emails. The PHPmailer library has built in functions for sending email. So, all I had to do was provide it the necessary information(html file, addresses, etc.). Since then, a nice alternative to PHPmailer has come out, Swift Mailer. Those who want to go this route would be better served to use Swift Mailer instead (as it has a large and growing userbase and still has an active developer community working to improve it). However unless you’re only going to use it for testing purposes, many features that you would want with a Mass-mailing app will *have* to be built in (e.g. unsubscribe, trimming of bounced emails, blacklist monitoring etc.).
  2. Open-Source Mass Mailing Software -The only decent open-source software that I’ve been able to find with an active development community is Pommo. I’ve tested it out and it’s fairly user-friendly. Although it still needs to be refined a bit more, it has a lot of the features that users are looking for and a growing community that you can ask questions of.
  3. Email Service Providers – With this option, you’ll get pretty much every feature you’d like. However, you’ll also be paying a set amount per email. Usually, this ranges from $0.01-$0.05 per email. Some also have a set fee that is also included with each campaign you send out. Of all the providers out there, the one that is probably the most user-friendly for designers is Campaign Monitor. With them, you can setup email campaigns for clients, charge your own rate (above what CM sets), and more.
  4. Email Server Appliances – In addition to the above options, some companys also offer email appliances that can be added to your server racks. You can expect this option to be significantly more expensive (probably prohibitively so for freelance designers), but it does have a vast array of features and support. One company known for this is Strongmail.

As with any of these solutions, it’s ultimately up to you to make sure you don’t violate the law (read the CAN-SPAM Act).

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