Recently I’ve been interviewing intern candidates at the day job and none of them really have any web knowledge- at all. One that did had a very twisted view of file and folder structures and told me that “this is the way they teach it at USF.” I replied with a series of hmms and ahas, and really? I had asked if this person knew anything about e-mail marketing and the programming involved for these types of things. No dice. I then asked if this person knew anything about tables for layout. Still, no dice. Surprised, I sent the candidate on their way and pondered this.
I’ve either been in this business too long and getting old or they’re still just teaching BS in universities. Now, we must remember, everything I know about the web, was never taught to me in a traditional 4-year university like these students have learned. It actually makes me kind of annoyed that these kids aren’t learning on their own. Annoyed and nervous.
CSS started dominating, when? 2004? 2005? 2007 tables were dead? Not really sure the turning point of when using tables for layout was a faux pas, but I remember when I stopped, which was about 2007 when I had gotten my first professional web day job and said, okay Alison, time to strap up and ditch the bad practices you do in your spare time.
Today, it’s rare you see tables for layout. Very rare. They still exist in legacy web applications that were originally built. Or you’ll see them used in the wild for other things as well. Not very often. However, when it comes to e-mail design, there is no using CSS for layout. It’s all tables! Props to Apple Mail for supporting virtually every documented CSS3 property imaginable (Apple Mail seems to be doing better than IE9, now that’s just sad). But, not everyone uses Apple Mail. In fact, the most used email clients are probably the worst: Gmail, Outlook, Hotmail, etc.
Now there are some basic CSS properties you can use such as font-family, font-size, etc. But don’t go whipping out padding and margin thinking that’s going to do anything for you. Because it’s not. Unless your entire list is using Apple Mail, I recommend against it.
So alas, what do we do? We go back 10 years and take it back to tables for layout. Not only tables, but don’t use background images either, gmail hates them.
With that said, you still need to learn how to lay out a design in tables. Table nesting is the best practice for email design. Until e-mail desktop clients and webmail offer better support for CSS, it’s tables all the way. For a list of support, check out campaign monitor.
For e-mail designs, check out Beautiful Spam.