03/26/2001
Flashing your Email: Using Flash and Rich Media in your Mailings

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Lately there has been a great deal of interest in adding Flash to your everyday run-of-the-mill email so you can send it to your clients, prospects or newsletter subscribers. Marketing has descended from upon high and declared it, the small business client wants it, and an executive in management has read about it.

Well, why not?

The fact of the matter is that email HTML browsers are just not equal to their web browser equivalents. This is further made complex by the wide variety of settings, preferences, security updates, versions, and third-party applications which make the user experience hard to predict.

This is an interesting problem to contend with when creating, designing and marketing your HTML email. Most likely you are about to hate what I am about to say, however, please do not shoot the messenger.

You should never use Flash or any other Rich Media piece in your HTML email unless you absolutely know that the email client your recipient uses can handle Flash content. Further, you should only send Flash/Rich Media content to someone who has requested it, or you have an agreed upon marketing relationship. The first time that I had to wait almost an hour to download what turned out to be a Flash Email, I was on a Hotel dialup account. That one Flash Email cost nearly $10.00 and an hour of my time.

Not exactly the relationship you want to enter into with your customers or clients.

So if you absolutely have to send Flash content via email, here are a few tips you should remember.

Do not try to control your Flash with active scripting.

Due to the wide variety of email clients, browsers, security settings, updates, and service packs installed, it is difficult to predict how a script will execute against any given email client. JavaScripts can cause browsers & Outlook 2000 to disable and active scripting contained in an email document (there has been an increase in email security due to malicious scripts).

You're better of attaching or sending a link.

The majority of web-based email clients (Hotmail, Yahoo, etc.) will strip out your Flash content. It is not uncommon to send embedded Flash content only to have the recipient open it in their web-based client and see absolutely nothing.

You also cannot rely on a <NOEMBED> to provide an alternate link for the content. You will need to include a text link before or after your Flash content for all Web-based recipients and those whose systems, ISP, network security, or other variables interfere with their viewing of Flash content.

By sending your Flash content as an attachment or a link, you can work around some of these limitations imposed by making the Flash content render in the browser rather in your email. That way, if your recipient has the plugin, they can view the Flash file.

Make sure your files do not immediately start playing.

Control your content with an onClick, or other event. Just a nice "Click here for an important message." is all you need. Allow the viewer to start the presentation when they are ready. A Flash or Shockwave piece, which begins streaming if viewed in an Outlook preview window, will start a second time when the email is opened. This will usually cause quite a mess with the recipient's sound system, not to mention distort your intended message.

Nothing will get your Flash email deleted quicker than if it causes unexpected sounds to suddenly come pouring loudly from the recipient's computer during the workday.

These are just a few things you should watch out for if you plan to design, send and expect responses to your Flash emails.

Flash & other Rich Media may all be year 2001 - "bleeding edge" for the world of web browsers. Unfortunately your average HTML Email browser seems stuck at about early 1998.




Written by Thomas Granger
www.florentinedesign.com
info@florentinedesign.com

Florentine Design Group is a coalition of web designers, marketers, artists, animators, and other hired guns who work in the start-up arena. Sometimes cheap, sometimes for free, always getting the job done. If you can find them, maybe you can hire them....just like the A-Team..grrrr

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