Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) index:


How do I get an account to use Dispatch?

Security in Dispatch is divided between clients and accounts. Accounts are your individual access to Dispatch and accounts are granted access to Clients. A client is a container for your team's templates, campaigns, populations, and communications.

New clients and account access are granted by Dispatch Support. You must complete FERPA training before you request access. You can request access to Dispatch through this Workflow Form.

Can I use CC or BCC in emails sent through Dispatch?

Dispatch does not support using CC's or BCC's in email. This is by design. Dispatch sends unique messages to each recipient in a population so analytics can be collected on how recipients interact with your messages. If additional people were CC'd onto a message then it would be impossible to tell which recipient was the one that opened the message or clicked the links.

If you are using CC or BCC so you have a history of the message being sent, that is unnecessary when using Dispatch. Dispatch keeps a record of all messages sent which you can see from the Communication Activity

Instead of using CC or BCC, it is recommended that you include the recipient you would be CC'ing in your population with some additional attributes. Consider this example:

Population

toAddress,ccFor,ccTo,toName
john-doe@uiowa.edu,,herky-hawk@uiowa.edu,John
herky-hawk@uiowa.edu,john-doe@uiowa.edu,,John

Template

<#if ccFor??>
<p>This message was also sent to: ${ccFor}</p>
</#if>
<#if ccTo??>
<p>This is your copy of the message sent to ${ccTo}</p>
</#if>
<p>Dear ${toName},</p>

<p>Go Hawkeyes!</p>

How do I get setup with Twilio and Dispatch?

Twilio is the telephony vendor that Dispatch utilizes to send SMS messages and place voice calls. In order to use Twilio, you'll need a Twilio API key. ITS-AIS maintains a Twilio account from which we can assign a Twilio API key to your Dispatch client. You can also choose to setup a Twilio account yourself, however, you would be on your own for support. If you use an ITS-AIS provided Twilio API key, one or more phone numbers can be procured for your use. To get started with Twilio, please contact dispatch-support@uiowa.edu.

See also: TwiML or SMS and Voice messaging

What are some resources for building email templates?

Building email templates is not always as straight forward as you would think it should be. Because of the fragmentation in email rendering engines between desktop, mobile, and web email clients there are a lot of annoying quirks you have to accommodate in your email templates. Some helpful tools for helping build your template are:

  • Frameworks for building templates:
    • MJML - Based on React for compiling responsive emails.
    • Foundation for Email - Based on the popular Foundation CSS framework for building table-based responsive emails.
    • Cerberus - Popular email templating framework that offers a few solid code patterns for building solid templates.
  • Existing email templates:
  • Template builders:
    • BEE
    • MailChimp and Constant Contact also allow you to build templates. However, you’ll need to strip out any proprietary markup before using them in Dispatch.
  • Assistance with templates:
    • ITS Enterprise Application Development can assist with building email templates (fee service). They have staff with experience in building responsive HTML that works well in email clients. To enlist their services, send a message to csi-lt@iowa.uiowa.edu with details about your needs.
    • IMU Marketing and Design also provides a fee-based design service staffed by students who can provide responsive HTML templates.
    • Dispatch Support can provide some limited assistance in troubleshooting problems with your email templates. ITS-AIS also has a license for email testing through Email on Acid. If you have a new template that you would like to have tested against numerous email clients, please send a request to dispatch-support@uiowa.edu.

Is Dispatch a replacement for Massmail?

No. Massmail is a separate email tool for sending out to large groups per University Policy. Dispatch is meant for targeted customized communications for recipients in the University of Iowa community or marketing messages to people in the external community.

Can I send attachments?

No. There are several reasons why.

  • When sending marketing messages including an attachment will increase your SPAM score and greatly increase the chance of the message being placed into the junk mail folder. Today's email user have been taught to not trust attachments sent from unsolicited senders.
  • Attachments do not provide a mechanism for tracking the recipient's interaction with the file.
  • Attachments consume additional file space.
  • There are significantly better ways to share files.

The alternative way to handle sending attachments is to include a link to the file in the message body. The file is then hosted through Dispatch's Assets, ITS-AIS's Files service, or another web serving platform. By using a link to the file, Dispatch can track the user's interaction with the file so you end up with a more accurate model of your target audience's engagement with your communication.

There are no plans to add attachment functionality to Dispatch in the future.

Example template:

<p>This is a very important message about a very critical form you need to complete.</p>

<p><strong>Attachment:</strong> <a href="https://apps.its.uiowa.edu/files/api/files/4b364355-c0ae-4f09-83da-d8434d7f164b">Program Application Form.pdf</a> (135kB)</p>

 

Example message output

This is a very important message about a very critical form you need to complete.

Attachment: Program Application Form.pdf (135kB)

Is there a cost for using Dispatch?

Generally, using Dispatch is free to University of Iowa departments. However, the cost of sending SMS messages or placing voice calls through Twilio might be charged back to departments if the amount of usage warrants charge back. See Twilio Pricing for more details. If you need custom setup or a custom feature built into Dispatch that also might incur a cost.

Some of my email is getting rejected. What can I do?

Sometimes the reasons a mail provider is rejecting messages might not always be very clear. Typically, bounced messages will include an error receipt which will give you a clue as to why it was rejected. Some email providers are very particular about how much and how fast the University of Iowa sends them messages. Providers will also dynamically reduce the amount of email they will accept from us if we are attempting to deliver to closed or unknown mailboxes. Practicing good mailing list hygiene is essential to maintain good deliverablity for everyone at the institution.

Things you can do to improve deliverability:

  • Removed bounced addresses from your list. Delivering to dead mailboxes is a sign of a SPAMMER. Keep your list clean of bounced addresses.
  • Run your list periodically through a service that assists in validating the addresses. Email providers routinely re-purpose old closed mailboxes as honeypots to identity email senders not practicing good mailing list hygiene. Some examples of services that offer validation are:

For emails sent to @uiowa.edu addresses, Dispatch automatically validates that email alias has a routing address behind it. If you attempt to send to a email alias without a routing address, Dispatch will flag that message as a warning.

Do previews of messages in email clients count as Opens?

Any time the tracking image in the message is downloaded, it is counted as an open/read regardless of the reading mode of the email client.

How do I prevent my marketing messages from ending up in junk mail folders?

Unsolicited messages such as marketing messages can easily end up in a recipients junk mail folder if you don't follow some simple guidelines. Many email service providers have secret algorithms they use to detect spam messages. Follow the rules below and you should be good.

  • Don't send image-only emails. Be sure to include some text in addition to images. Including descriptive text also helps with the accessibility of the message for those recipients using assistive technologies (screen readers, etc.
  • Don't send long, wordy emails. Keep your message clear and concise. If you need to convey a lot of details, consider linking off to an external page or document.
  • Don't send Lorem Ipsum. Be sure to remove any dummy text used for testing your messages.
  • Don't send messages with super short subject lines. Avoid sending messages with subjects like "Act now!" or "Please read". Make your subject lines descriptive and enticing to the reader.
  • Personalize your content. Try not to send the exact same message to all of your recipients. Considering personalizing the message with a custom greeting (i.e. "Dear ${firstName}").
  • Don't use ALL CAPS! Your message is trying to engage the recipient, not yell at them.
  • Don't use lots of exclamation points!!!!!! Just use proper punctuation. Like using all caps, excessive punctuation is a hallmark of spam messages.
  • Don't use spammy words or words that are likely to appear on blacklists. We've seen legitimate messages marked as spam because they had the word "sex" in them in the context of scientific research. Most spam algorithms don't likely understand context.

Can I use Dispatch as a SMTP server?

No. Dispatch does not have a SMTP interface. Outside of Dispatch's web interface for configuring communications, you can programmatically interface with Dispatch through its API.

If you require SMTP to send email, please read this Support Article on the various SMTP service offerings available.

Can I send email from my domain or subdomain?

Sorry. Not at this time. The only domain Dispatch is authorized to send from is @uiowa.edu. All messages coming from Dispatch are DKIM signed only for @uiowa.edu. If you have a subdomain and you wish to use Dispatch, please contact dispatch-support@uiowa.edu to discuss your needs.

Are email messages sent from Dispatch tagged as [External]?

No. Messages sent to University of Iowa email addresses from external senders will have the tag [External] prepended to the subject line. This is part of an effort to help reduce the effectiveness of phishing attempts. Since Dispatch's outgoing email servers are hosted in our own data centers, they are not tagged as [External].

See this Support Article for more information on the [External] email tag.

Will I get Out of Office messages when I send messages?

It depends. Dispatch will automatically include special email headers in messages to suppress Out of Office messages if your Dispatch client is configured to use the Bulk sending queues. Those queues are typically reserved for clients sending marketing messages. For clients in our Normal or Dedicated queues, the special headers are not included unless you specifically ask for the Out of Office messages to be suppressed when having your Dispatch client setup.

You should expect Out of Office messages to be returned to the From address or, if you have it specified, the Bounce Address. Please note that for MS-Exchange/Office365 users, Out of Office messages are always returned to the From addresses if they are not send through the Bulk queues.

Are there any specific instructions for UI Health Care users?

Yes. UIHC Marketing and Communication have prepared the following documents for UI Health Care users of Dispatch:

Is it possible embed a video in an email?

Yes, but practically no. While the email clients that support embedded HTML5 represent about 50% of the market share, the ones used most commonly on campus do not support embedded video. For those clients that do not support playing embedded video, it is possible to create a fallback image. Because adding video is not trivial the recommended method is to take a snapshot of a frame of your video and overlay a play button on the image using your preferred image editor. Then you can link that image to your video.

Example:

Play video
<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYv2KBtE7e4&ab_channel=UniversityofIowa">
    <img src="https://dispatch-cdn.its.uiowa.edu/dispatch/client/sample_iowa_video_embed.png" alt="Play video" width="250" style="display: block; border: 0;" />
</a>

For more information, see these guides from Email on Acid and Litmus:

Why isn't my image centering when viewing in Outlook?

Outlook for Windows doesn't conform to a lot of web standards, so getting elements to center can be tricky. Depending on how your content is structured, the parent HTML element must do the centering. To accomplish this using the editor built into Dispatch, place your cursor directly next to the image you want to center and click the center button. This should instruct the editor to place a text-align: center; style on the paragraph element wrapping the image.

You can double-check that correct style has been placed on the element by clicking the source button and looking for the img tag of the image your are wanting to center. You should see the <p> tag wrapping the image with the alignment style applied.

Example:

<p style="line-height: normal; text-align: center;">
    <img src="https://dispatch-cdn-dev.its.uiowa.edu/test/c/900/graphics_for_4_14_(3).png" alt="People" width="400" height="400" />
</p>

If you image is directly inside of a table cell, you will need to make sure the table cell uses the attribute align=center or use another block element like a tag to provide a wrapping element.

Why does the formatting of my message break when I forward it?

Forwarding responsive HTML emails is problematic as the various email clients attempt to manipulate the HTML document in different ways. When the email client changes the document, it can have a disastrous impact on the structure of your message. Unfortunately, there isn't anything you can do about it. The two best ways to deal with this problem are:

  • Keep your design simple. Give the recipient's email client fewer ways to break your formatting.
  • Use the Curated Templates included in Dispatch. They have been extensively tested against multiple email clients and survive forwarding relatively well.
  • Utilize alternative sharing methods. Include a "Forward this message" link using the <@shareforward /> tag. The curated templates have this functionality included in the footer of the message.