HTML email design tips for Lotus Notes

Lotus Notes can be a tough email client to test your HTML emails against. There is a general lack of information on how the Lotus Notes client renders and displays HTML for the end-user. Lotus Notes has always been a difficult email client to create HTML emails for.

Many large corporations continue to support and upgrade their Lotus Notes installations (as of 2004, IBM reported that 95 million people used Notes). Unfortunately, it’s impossible to tell which companies use Lotus Notes.

The best guideline to follow when coding HTML emails for Lotus Notes is this one: the more primitive the code, the more likely it will work well, if not perfectly, with Lotus Notes.

Here are a few coding tips specific to Lotus Notes:

  • Use a container table that contains all the internal layout tables (for example, for the header, content, and footer). This keeps the email together in one chunk of HTML, so pieces of the layout are less likely to wander when displayed in Lotus Notes.
  • Create a gutter around the container table by setting the width to a percentage and/or using a cellpadding of at least 5.
  • Intra-email links, using named anchors, rarely (if ever) work in Notes. It’s simply best to avoid links that jump down the email to a specific piece of content.
  • Avoid colspans in your HTML tables. Lotus Notes — especially its earlier versions — can deal only with basic table layouts.
  • Be sure that your td cell widths are accurate. Unlike web browsers, which automatically set all cells to the widest-defined width, Lotus Notes sizes each td cell based on its defined width.
  • Centering an email layout usually won’t work in Lotus Notes. Email layouts generally have to be left-aligned.

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