posted on 2:45 PM, July 24, 2008
ExSite includes features to blast out fully-formatted newsletters. This is not done by a special plug-in. Rather, we use two other plugins in combination to get the newsletter functionality.
PreparationBefore you can send newsletters, you must prepare a special newsletter template that defines the appearance and layout of your newsletter. This is done the exact same way you build any other web page template. However, try to take the following additional considerations into mind:
Creating a NewsletterTo create a newsletter to send out, make a new page and have it use your newsletter template. It is probably most convenient to use the Website Manager application to do this, because it will automatically make use of some special features that are useful for newsletters. For example, it will prompt you to select your newsletter template, rather than just assume that you want to use your default template. It will also look for any predefined body layouts that you may have installed (see below). If you created your page another way, you can always reset the template and change the body later.
Edit your newsletter page using your favourite CMS editing tool, such as My Website. Place text or library images into your newsletter as you see fit, exactly as if you were editing a page.
Remember, unlike your regular web pages, newsletters will be viewed from an email program. That means your readers are not on your website, and may not even be connected to the internet. For this reason, you should follow some special practices with newsletters:
Sending NewslettersWhen your newsletter is ready to go, use the Email tool to create an email blast. Use the button to create a new e-mail blast, and select the "newsletter" option.
Instead of giving you a place to write out the e-mail message, it will ask you to select a newsletter, and give you a menu of pages. Your newsletter that you created above will be one of these pages. Simply select it. (In practice you can select any page from your site, but for reasons noted above, regular pages may not work very well outside your website.)
You can also specify other parameters, such as who to send to, when to send the email, a CC: list, and so on.
If the message is set to "active", it will be sent on the date you specified, or at the next bulk mailing time, if that date is now or earlier. If it is set to "inactive", the message will be held as a draft and not sent. (Simply edit the email and change it to active to send it.)
Test MessagesAs with all Email blasts, you may want to set up a test blast first, and send it to a test recipient group (perhaps containing only you), just to confirm that it works and that you haven't done anything in your newsletter that is not appropriate for e-mail.
Advanced Layout TricksSome newsletters have complex layouts—not just a single column of text, but more of a "newspaper style" with multiple columns, different cells or boxes, and other tricks to break the newsletter up into different stories.
In simple cases you can get some of these effects by using the table tool to insert tables into your newsletter body. For example, insert a table with one row and two columns, and that will give you a section of your newsletter with a side-by-side column layout. You can use a different layout above and below this table. You can optionally set background colors on either or both of the table cells to highlight them as a sidebar of some kind. You may also want to set some "padding" on the cells to improve legibility. These tricks can be performed with the table editor tool.
If you have a standard complex layout that you use all the time, then there are two techniques for initializing a new newsletter to use this layout.
Method 1. Keep a copy of the HTML of the layout (containing some dummy text, perhaps) in a file in a convenient location. When you want to re-use this layout, follow this procedure:
HTML experts can use the Website Manager to edit their HTML at the source code level to get even finer control over their presentation.
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