MX Toolbox (#27)

Ahh, the art of correctly configuring you domain to send and receive email.

The MX records of your domain goven where incoming email gets delivered to — specifically, the actualy server addresses themselves. (Or possibly, fully-qualified domain names.)

MXToolbox is

Google’s MX and DMARC settings
Settings for a website with DMARC

You would use MX Toolbox to examine three things about a domain name: (1) the MX records, (2) outgoing SMTP servers configured as SPF records, (3) DKIM settings, and (4) DMARC settings.

Remember, #1 is essential for incoming mail, and #2 is where you configure your outgoing mail.

#3 is DKIM is an advanced authentication system designed for large companies and banks who would be the target of phishing attacks— like Chase, PayPal, Bank of America, etc. It prevents email spoofing. Although most domains aren’t the target of email spoofing, you should be concerned if your website or domain has some kind of login or access to financial gain (like a “send money to my bank account” feature). If it does, hackers will wan to spoof your customers into believing emails from them are actually from you. This is easy to do in the email “from” header of the message, and so it is up to the customer to recognize if an email looks fake. Using DKIM, you can proactively prevent email spoofing by configuring your DNS settings.

#4 is DMARC is a policy related to both DKIM and SPF and is also applicable to large institutions. The reason for this is that DMARC is a technology where the domain owner analysis who is trying to impersonate them and gain the trust of their customers with fake (spoof) content. This is because many of the larger corporations have multiple outgoing mail servers— like hundreds— and DMARC lets a large IT infrastructure migrate to only allowing trusted senders via a graduate process.

You would use this tool if you were a domain owner and you wanted to understand how you mail is working (or not working) at the DNS level.


Litmus Email Testing (#5)

Sending emails? Testing your layouts in every email client is essential. Writing markup for emails is harder than writing markup for browsers (because it is more tedious).

The tool is pricey, but it is worth it and you can get a free trail for 7 days.

When you first sign-in you are presented with a screen that tells you to paste your HTML email content. However, it’s easier simply to send your test emails to the auto-accept address they provide you.

When you send off emails to this address, Litmus automatically just pulls them in and lets you look at them.

When you hover over an item in the inbox, buttons appear to let you navigate to a view specific to that email:

For this brief introduction we’re going to right to the “Checklist” view, which shows you how your email looks in every email client.

For macOS (Apple), it even shows you different versions for “dark” and “light” depending on if the user has dark or light set in their browser.

It shows you every email client in a small thumbnail view which you can easily scroll through to test all your emails.

Here’s yesterday’s blog post turned into an email and how it looks in Litmus:

Next check out the “First Impressions” and “Accessibility” sections, which will analyze and give you tips on your subject, name, preview text. Below you get an analysis for alt tags, missing HTML attributes, and things that make your content friendly to non-standard screen readers (for accessibility).

You can also use Litmus’s interactive builder to actually build out your email too.

Although a lot of email marketing tools abstract a lot of these concerns away from content creators, if you are hand-coding emails Litmus remains a strong and solid tool for anyone who wants to build their own custom HTML emails.