A New WordPress Plugin: Clean Notifications

HTML email gets a deservedly bad name mostly because it’s used to send out spam and marketing and also because it’s tough to work with from a design and code standpoint.

However, under controlled conditions and in limited circumstances, HTML mail can be a whole lot cleaner than plain text email. In converting Mike Industries to WordPress recently, one of the things I noticed right away was that the e-mails WordPress would send me when new comments and pings came in were extremely verbose. Since WP sends out plain text emails, all of the links get spelled out as raw, unstyled URLs and the emails end up containing probably twice the amount of visible characters than they need to. This is especially frustrating when you’re trying to read notifications from a mobile device like the Jesusphone.

What could possibly tighten WordPress’ email notifications into more aesthetically pleasing hyperlinked missives? A plug-in which sends out better formatted mail!

Enter “Clean Notifications”. A plug-in that took only 30 minutes to write but is capable of providing digital pleasure to people all around the world.

Here is what a WordPress email looks like before Clean Notifications:

… and here is after:

Note the economy of characters. Only the info you need, spaced for readability, and requires no configuration.

Download Clean Notifications and love WordPress just a little more.

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54 Responses:

  1. Josh says:

    I’m loving the fact that you are on WordPress now so that we can benefit from your wealth of user experience and all around knowledge of web goodness!

    Thanks Mike!

  2. To further go even more minimalistic … is there a need for the break lines between the comment label and the actual comment? That is, couldn’t it just be “Comment: Mrs. Buttersworth is teh sexy!”

  3. Derek says:

    Nice contribution to the WordPress community. I am definitely implementing this to help lighten the weight of comment notifications.

  4. Thanks for this and the other plugin recommendations. I’ve been setting up a site on WP for the first time this week and its been amazing how much I’ve been able to get done in such a short time thanks to those pointers.

  5. Jim Moran says:

    HTML email gets a deservedly bad name mostly because it’s used to send out spam and marketing

    I find sweeping statements like this a little odd Mike. Do you go around giving XHTML and JavaScript a bad name for all the popups you encounter?

    Yes, it’s tough to design and build for (thank you Microsoft Office, Lotus Notes, etc.) but crafted HTML email has its place. I opt-in to a number of email newsletters all of which would be a considerably poorer experience if they were plain text.

    Nice plugin though, cheers. :)

  6. Mike D. says:

    Josh B: I thought about that actually and could probably live with it either way, but I thought the comment stood out better if it had double linebreaks on either side of it. She is teh sexy though, ain’t she?

    Jim: Yes, yes, I absolutely agree. I don’t think what I meant came out the right way. What I meant was “HTML email is often hated because of the way it is abused”. The same can be said for javascript. I *absolutely* agree that when done well, HTML email is better than plain-text email… hence this plug-in. :)

  7. Jeff says:

    I know this might be heresey, but might I suggest you throw a table on that so you get

    | Author | Name |
    | URL | lkdjf |
    | Comment | here |

    since we’re all up in the HTML’s anyway :)

  8. [...] another helpful and informative post from Mike Davidson of Mike Industries. A New WordPress Plugin: Clean Notifications, is a plugin that Mike wrote to make email from WordPress a little easier on the eyes. I [...]

  9. Michael says:

    Very nice work. I’ve had a strong dislike for the format of those emails for quite a while now. This looks much better.

  10. Stephanie says:

    Fabulous plugin. I’ve just installed it on three blogs… I love it already.

    “ARIN Lookup” is clear to the geeks in the room, but I run a lot of WordPress sites for non-geek users. I think something like “Look up IP address” would make more sense to them (although it’d add to your admirably low word count).

  11. Mike, thank you for the plug-in, I’ve been wondering for a while how to do this in an elegant way and I am happy that there’s finally someone who managed to fix those notifications into more humane shape.

    I created a russian translation, so if you like you can add a link to it: http://urbansheep.ru/clean-notifications/

    (Please fix link from the landing page — it invites to read the full post but the actual href in the link is empty.)

  12. I am impressed. Mikeindustries has been WordPress for a few days and already you have wrote a Plugin for it. Too cool.

  13. Mike D. says:

    Stephanie: Yeah, that’s a good point. The only reason I called it that is because in my own personal version, I have a couple more lookup services in there. I’ll change it to “Look up IP address” in the released version.

  14. Martin says:

    Two points:

    1) This plugin is a life-saver (WP notifications are as painful on a WM-Smartphone as they are on the Jesusphone). Excellent work.

    2) You have a new subscriber to your blog.

  15. Stephanie says:

    Awesome, Mike. Thanks so much for writing this.

  16. [...] was also inspired to write a plugin to improve the WordPress email notifications and 30 minutes of coding later did just that: What could possibly tighten WordPress’ email notifications into more aesthetically [...]

  17. Pujiono says:

    Hi Mike,

    Thank you very much for the little yet functional and powerful plugin. It works seamlessly in my blog.

    But I think you forget to create HTML link for comments which needs for approval and queeing in moderation. It reads in my email as follow:

    Currently 1 comments are waiting for approval. Please visit the moderation panel:
    http://yourdomainwhatever.com/wp-admin/moderation.php

    Can you make HTML link for this?

    Thanks

  18. GermWorks says:

    Great Idea!
    Would even be better if we can further manipulate the plugin, like to subscribe to rss feed etc…

  19. Nice plugin, notifications are much more clear.

    HTML email is a good thing. It gets abused because marketing types make us web types force it to look like a magazine ad layout. HTML emails should look plain text emails, just minus the ugly URLs but plus pretty H1,H2, etc. and images.

    OT: I’m surprised other commenters mentioned javascript before Flash as an “abusable” technology. Maybe it just goes without saying at this point :)

  20. Mike,
    Did you buy the “Syrup Is Tasty” domain just for this demonstration?
    I too love syrup.

    I might have to use this. Although I haven’t been using my Word Press blog much any more. Most everything I write is now on my business site which is run on ModX and that has a basic blog tool. It’s not as rich as WP, but it gets the job done.

    …Hmmm now I’m thinking I can waste 2 weeks by trying to integrate WP into ModX.

    OK… I’m over it. I’ve got a business to run.

  21. An additional FYI – Vermont Organic Grade B Maple!!!

    That’s the stuff. Get it at your local Whole Foods. $8 for a 32 oz. jug.

  22. Miguel says:

    Very cool Mike!

    As some of the other said. It’s nice that you moved to wordpress so that some of us can reap the benefits of your many years of experience on the web.

    One caveat about the ever growing WordPress population. There are lots of plugins and fun stuff out there, but, inescapably, there is also a lot of “garbage” to sort through. In any case, it’s good to know we have a reliable source of good ideas for WP improvements here :-) Keep posting!

    Cheers and welcome to the WordPress community!

  23. Xianhong says:

    Good to know that, this will make the comment information clean, just keep the useful information there.
    i will add the plugin to my site too.

  24. Kevin says:

    The second version of the email is way better. This is something I like to see in any web application – sending out nicely formatted emails. HTML emails are great for notification and confirmation emails since they can show links in a short easy to read format like “Confirm” instead of the unreadable http://www.myreallylongdomainnameformycompany.com/request/approval.htm?request_ID=1234&confirm=true

    Anyhow, it’s easy enough to generate multi-part emails that contain both a text and HTML version of the email to suit everyone’s preferences or needs.

  25. Mike D. says:

    Stephanie and Pujiono: Alright, I’ve updated the plug-in to version 1.1 with your suggestions.

    William: I did not reserve the syrupistasty.org domain. It’s all yours. And yes, grade B syrup is the bomb.

  26. Though it didn’t require a plug-in, I have humbly modded my MT4 template for new comment notes in a similar fashion. Very puurrty.

    Needs more green.

  27. Mike D. says:

    Paul: See but that’s the thing. Now when you upgrade Movable Type, you’ll overwrite that template. At least that’s the way it was with MT3. Plug-ins ensure your upgrade path stays clean.

  28. I’ve never had my templates replaced with the upgrades I’ve done within the 4.x branch, even when moving from MT 4.1 + Professional Pack to MTOS. I can’t speak as to earlier versions.

  29. i’ve never really felt a need to enable WordPress updates, I check my dashboard fairly frequently, and rarely ever have any problems with comment spam, the majority are caught and deleted before I even see them. But I’ve installed the plugin, and will definitely be using it once traffic picks back up.

  30. Greg says:

    Little bug: if an author does not have a web site specified, it shows up as:

    URL: http:///

    It might be nice to remove this line if there is no web address specified for the author.

  31. Zack Katz says:

    You know, I’ve actually gotten to really like the messy notifications. They’re like an old friend that dresses poorly but who you love to have come over to cheer you up.

    It makes it fun trying to find the comment in all that text!

    Anyway, that’s a good plugin to solve that [sweet, sweet] problem.

  32. [...] WordPress Plugin: Clean Notifications [...]

  33. Sweet! Great idea.

  34. [...] Clean Notifications é um plugin para WordPress que envia notificações de email apenas com informação necessária. Por exemplo ao receberem uma notificação por email de um novo comentário recebem informação que muitas das vezes não interessa como o whois. [...]

  35. [...] to Mike Davidson, the man behind siFR who released an outstanding plugin namely “Clean Notifications”. Enter “Clean Notifications”. A plug-in that took only 30 minutes to write but is [...]

  36. [...] Mike Davidson’s WordPress Plugin: Clean Notifications – In converting Mike Industries to WordPress recently, one of the things I noticed right away was that the e-mails WordPress would send me when new comments and pings came in were extremely verbose. [...]

  37. [...] WordPress Clean Emails Plugin [...]

  38. Nice plugin Mike, but would be nice to implement localizations (.po and .mo system)
    Thanks!

  39. Hi there. I stopped receiving any and all email notifications from WordPress regarding comments specifically. I have everything setup properly in the general settings and user area…I can’t figure this out!

    I checked out the codex/forums and can’t come up with anything. Could it be this plugin? Any insights would be greatly appreciated.

  40. [...] Mike Davidson – A New WordPress Plugin: Clean Notifications What could possibly tighten WordPress’ email notifications into more aesthetically pleasing hyperlinked missives? A plug-in which sends out better formatted mail! [...]

  41. Mike D. says:

    Josh: Doubtful.

  42. [...] A New WordPress Plugin: Clean Notifications HTML email gets a deservedly bad name mostly because it’s used to send out spam and marketing and also because it’s tough to work with from a design and code standpoint. [...]

  43. Paul says:

    Is this plugin version dependent? Like will it work on WP 2.0.11?

  44. Paul says:

    One other thing… based on your screenshots, it doesn’t appear to have the IP address in the email.

    I find having the IP address very useful, when I search Outlook to see if duplicate IP’s exist… and helps me squash users who violate my post rules by using multiple screen names.

    Any way to include the IP?

  45. [...] Image Source: MikeIndustries [...]

  46. [...] Photos courtesy of MikeIndustries.com [...]

  47. Mike D. says:

    Hi Paul. Not sure if it’s version dependent. Probably not, but you never know. As for IP addresses, they actually are in there… in the HTML. Not sure if that keeps them from being searchable or not.

  48. [...] Vous aurez remarquez les différences qui rendent l’email plus léger à l’oeil et plus facile à la lecture avec en bonus un lien direct pour la recherche de l’adresse IP (que les Trolls oublient souvent de masquer au passage). Vous pouvez le trouver ici [...]

  49. Randy says:

    Hi

    I’m looking for a notification plugin that has a setting you can change to allow only a certain number of emails/hour.

    Do you know of one?

    I need to send notifications to my users but cannot exceed my hosting limit of 500/hour.

    Anyone’s help is greatly appreciated. I am using WordPress 2.3

    Thanks

  50. Great plugin.

    I wonder if this is still needed with WordPress 2.7? Are they changing notifications in the new version?

  51. [...] huh? Read more about how “Clean Notifications” came to exist, and definitely install this neat plugin on your [...]

  52. PimpMyWordPress says:

    Thanks for this great plugin. I use it on my blog :)

  53. [...] first one is Clean Notifications Plugin which I discovered via One Tip A Day. This great little plugin tidies up the mess that WordPress [...]

  54. Vijay says:

    Thanks for this awesome plugin. I have been looking for better notification system for my blog and you have given me exactly what I was looking for. Thanks a bunch again.

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