So, You Want to Learn HTML?

Learning how to code HTML (ahem!) almost 10 years ago, without a doubt, changed my life for the better. It provided an opportunity to change careers in a completely new direction, shortly after my first child was born. Previously, I was the Sommelier + Maitre’d of a 4-star rated restaurant, a job that I loved, and in which I excelled. However, as I quickly discovered after returning from my maternity leave, trying to maintain the long hours required with restaurant management, along with the demands of a newborn did not make for a happy family life. I was most fortunate that my brother encouraged me to take a course in HTML. I remember being terrified, and had serious doubts that I could learn coding, but my awesome brother assured me that “any half-way smart person” could learn it…so that’s what I did!

There are many great books out there, and I got my start by reading Beginning Web Programming with HTML, XHTML, and CSS (now in 2nd Edition) by Jon Duckett, and enrolling in a 2 day intensive HTML course at LearnIt!, a San Francisco Bay Area based outfit, that now also offers Live Online Training. As luck would have it, the previously mentioned awesome brother was launching a boutique Email Creative Services agency, and I was able to hit the ground running with immediate part-time contract work, which enabled me to stay home with my baby daughter. Regardless of what a person does with their acquired HTML skills, it can be used across a wide array of career paths from Coding and Graphic Design, to Marketing and Advertising.

Below, are a few additional industry respected resources for learning about HTML, and Email Marketing:

Once you are feeling confident of your coding chops, and you are ready for some work, here are a few reputable places to find freelance gigs:

And a few useful tools for once you are more established in the Email Marketing world:

  • eDataSource (the perfect tool for mining data and analytics from the competition)
  • Litmus (a must have tool to ensure your emails are rendering and looking pretty across multiple platforms and devices)

Good luck HTML students, and potential future Code à la Mode coders! 🙂

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Responsive Web Design

One of the questions we most commonly field is “What is Responsive Web Design?”, and we typically answer from a Coding perspective. In a nutshell: the HTML files are coded with flexible images and media queries so that the design will render differently based on the viewing device (say desktop vs mobile or tablet). Coding for RWD is more complex, and typically takes 50% more time than non-responsive. Additionally, the designer and the coder need to be on the same page, and therefore communication time is also typically increased. We came across this stellar blogpost from Sandijs Ruluks with the FROONT team on 9 basic principles of responsive web design, which addresses many of the questions from a Design perspective. As the saying goes: A picture is worth a thousand words. We think the animated GIFs included in the article are worth a lot more. Check it out!

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Best Practices for Special Characters in Email Subject Lines

One of the topics which the Code à la Mode team is most frequently asked is in regards to special characters in email subject lines. Mostly, our clients want to know how to insert them into their subject lines. Fortunately, this is the easy part! All you need to do is copy and paste from a page like Facebook symbols (or select from the Symbols and Special Character Numbers at the bottom of this blog post). Bear in mind, if you are using special characters in the content of your email, you will need to use the HTML character code, many of which can be found here.

While some email marketers rally against using special characters in subject lines on the principal that they believe them to be too gimmick-y and/or perhaps that there is an over saturation of use in the inbox, we believe that if you do your research and testing, they can be a valuable asset to your campaigns. Like with anything, the key is to test, test, test!

Check your email clients! The major ones (Gmail, Hotmail, and Yahoo) typically render special characters well, but you’ll want to ensure you are getting what your hoping for in your mobile devices as well, as over half of all email opens are now done from smart phones. Some special characters render prettier on smartphones than desktop. See below for recent subject lines viewed in gmail desktop vs. iPhone native mail app.

From: zulily events
Date: 10/05/2014
Subject Line: ☑ Wake up ☑ Check email ☐ Shop Youngland, Sweet Heart Rose, custom cards & more

From: Mappins
Date: 09/26/2014
Subject Line: C.L.E.A.R.A.N.C.E. Savings You’ll ♥

From: The Home Depot
Date: 09/25/2014
Subject Line: ☾ BOO! We Dare You to Open! ☾

From: Pottery Barn Kids
Date: 09/24/2014
Subject Line: ★ Gear Sale ★ Up to 40% off backpacks, lunch bags & more + free shipping

From: Ballard Designs
Date: 09/23/2014
Subject Line: ❸ Days Only… 15% OFF Our Most Popular Collections

Gmail desktop:

10.07.2014 special gmail


iPhone native mail app:

10.07.2014 special iphone


Finally, once you are pleased with the rendering of your special character, don’t forget to test your subject line. A/B subject line tests are a MUST, regardless of whether or not you are testing the potency of special character usage. We recommend that email marketers everywhere to be ever vigilant with testing different subject line options. If worried about losing potential sales due to a great disparity in performance between your 2 (or more) options, there is always the ability to deliver a small batch pre-send to a limited percent of your list, before deploying to the full file.


♥ ❤ ❥ ♡ ☮ ✌ ☏
✔ ☑ ☒ ✘ ♚ ♪ ♫
✈ ⌚ ✍ ✉ ✎ ✄
♛ © ® ™ ღ ツ
☼ ☁ ❅ ϟ ☃ ☂
✫ ★ ✡ ✯ ✪ ✿

Special Character Numbers:
⓵ ⓶ ⓷ ⓸ ⓹ ⓺ ⓻ ⓼ ⓽ ⓾
⒈ ⒉ ⒊ ⒋ ⒌ ⒍ ⒎ ⒏ ⒐ ⒑ ⒒ ⒓ ⒔ ⒕ ⒖ ⒗ ⒘ ⒙ ⒚ ⒛
⓪ ① ② ③ ④ ⑤ ⑥ ⑦ ⑧ ⑨ ⑩ ⑪ ⑫ ⑬ ⑭ ⑮ ⑯ ⑰ ⑱ ⑲ ⑳
➀ ➁ ➂ ➃ ➄ ➅ ➆ ➇ ➈ ➉
❶ ❷ ❸ ❹ ❺ ❻ ❼ ❽ ❾ ❿
➊ ➋ ➌ ➍ ➎ ➏ ➐ ➑ ➒ ➓

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Happy 99th(!) Birthday Chuck Williams!

From: Williams-Sonoma
Date: 10/02/2014
Subject Line: Celebrate with Savings – 20% Off Select Cookware, Tools & More – In Stores & Online

10.02.2014 WS

This promotional email from Williams-Sonoma is in honor of their founder’s birthday. Chuck Williams is a true pioneer and is a legendary figure in the hospitality and retail industries. To read more about Chuck Williams’ life and the Williams-Sonoma legacy, go here. From contractor to hardware store owner to founder of a multi billion dollar high end retail chain, his life story (thus far!) is an amazing one. As a side note, I had the pleasure to take care of Mr. Williams a few times, back in my prior career in the restaurant industry at Fleur de Lys. I am pleased to report he was a very gracious and humble guest, and it was a true pleasure to serve him!

From: Williams-Sonoma
Date: 10/03/2014
Subject Line: Hello Sonoma! Join us for our Grand Opening Celebration!

10.03.2014 WS

In related news, the original Williams-Sonoma retail store in Sonoma is set to have its grand re-opening this weekend. Mr.Williams and the Williams-Sonoma team have much to celebrate!


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For Restoration Hardware, it’s Not Easy Being Green

From: Restoration Hardware

06.15.2014 RH 206.15.2014 RH 1

Bad move Restoration Hardware… As greenies and digital marketing proponents, Code à la Mode cannot support the distribution of this collection of catalogs (which RH refers to as “Source Books”). They are weighing in at 17 pounds and measure more than 3″ thick! While there may be a market for designers and decorators who prefer to receive the hard copies, it would be better to have the delivery as “opt in”.

BTW, if you received one of these behemoths, and want to do the environment a favor, you can remove yourself from the mailing list here. For the love of the earth, PLEASE, help save the trees!

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