Seasoned graphic designers wouldn’t dream of sending a print project to press without first approving an accurate proof. Your client’s email marketing campaign should be no different. You need to be sure you know what your design looks like on the different email clients your readers might be using.

Unless you have a studio filled with testing computers and different email servers, you can’t test all the combinations yourself. In this week’s creative tip we profile two services that make proofing your email designs quick and painless.

Service #1: Litmus.

Litmus offers a slick online service for testing both website and email designs. Litmus currently provides testing screenshots for 13 different email clients (listed below) and 23 different web browsers (not listed).

Note: We mentioned Litmus a year ago in our related tip: Test your web design in different browsers.

Testing fees start at €12 ($18) for a 24-hour pass, or €39 ($55) for an unlimited monthly subscription. Litmus is a European company so they charge in Euros — US Dollar prices vary slightly based on the exchange rate.

To test your designs, you’ll send a draft of your email campaign to a temporary email address Litmus provides. Their service automatically generates a collection of screenshots showing you how that email looks on a number of popular email clients. Their system also provides basic notification if your test emails are flagged as Spam by any email systems.

Webmail Services:

  • Gmail
  • Hotmail
  • AOL Mail
  • Yahoo! Mail

Desktop Mail Clients:

  • Outlook 2007
  • Outlook 2003
  • Outlook 2002/XP
  • Outlook 2000
  • Lotus Notes 8
  • Lotus Notes 7
  • Lotus Notes 6.5
  • Apple Mail 3
  • Apple Mail 2.1

Service #2: Campaign Monitor.

Campaign Monitor

Campaign Monitor is an excellent email delivery service for designers who need to create email campaigns for themselves and their clients. Design and spam testing is an add-on service they offer their customers.

Testing fees are $10 per test. Which can add up quickly if you need to re-test the same campaign several times as you make corrections.

To test your designs, you’ll need to send the test email using Campaign Monitor’s delivery tools. Their proofing service generates screenshots for 20 different email clients, including several mobile email clients that Litmus does not offer. Campaign Monitor also provides a more robust Spam filter test to provide details on how likely your email is to get flagged by a variety of anti-spam filters.

Webmail Services:

  • Gmail
  • Hotmail
  • AOL Web Mail
  • Yahoo! Mail
  • Comcast
  • Earthlink

Desktop Mail Clients:

  • Outlook 2007
  • Outlook 2003
  • Outlook XP
  • Lotus Notes 6.5
  • AOL 9 Application
  • Thunderbird
  • Windows Mail

Mobile Mail Clients:

  • BlackBerry
  • Windows Mobile 5
  • Windows Mobile 6

Verdict: Which email testing service should you use?

If you plan to use Campaign Monitor as your email delivery system, use their screenshot service to proof your designs. They generate a superior Spam testing report, and provide proofs for a wider number of webmail and mobile services.

If you aren’t using Campaign Monitor to deliver your email campaign, we’d recommend testing your email designs using the Litmus service instead. Their pricing is better for multiple tests, and because you send your test directly to a temporary email account, the results will accurately reflect any oddities your email delivery service might introduce into your campaign.

Source: This tip inspired by our upcoming Seattle workshop, Marketing with HTML Email Newsletters, where yours truly will be discussing the ins and outs of using Email Newsletters as a marketing tool for graphic design firms and their clients.

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