Email Design Guidelines for 2006

Check out the updated 2008 email design guidelines

As 2005 draws to a close, I thought I'd take the opportunity to outline what I think are some of the key email design trends and guidelines that we should all be paying attention to now and into the new year.

This certainly isn't an exhaustive list, but to me these are the key issues that seem to be overlooked in most of the emails I receive and a great deal that are sent through Campaign Monitor.

We're all busy people, so here's a summary of what you should be doing to meet each of the guidelines.

  1. Never use images for important content like headlines, links and any calls to action.
  2. Use alt text for all images for a better experience in Gmail and always add the height and width to the image to ensure that the blank placeholder image doesn't throw your design out.
  3. Add a text-based link to a web version of your design at the top of your email.
  4. Ensure your most compelling content is at the top (and preferably to the left).
  5. Test your design in a preview pane, full screen and with images turned on and off before you send it.
  6. Ask your subscriber to add your From address to their address book at every opportunity.

If you're interested in the reasons behind these tips and learning just how important they are, read on.

Guideline 1) Design for images being turned off

Here's something you might not know. Today, anyone using AOL, Gmail, Outlook 2003, Outlook Express and the latest versions of many ISPs email software will never see images in any emails you send them by default.

Now read that again so it really sinks in. For many of you, that can add up to more than half of everyone you ever send email to. But don't take my word for it. Here's a quick rundown of which major ISPs and email clients block your images:

Image Blocking by Major ISPs & Email Clients  
Blocking Issue AOL
Versions
6.0-9.0
Gmail Hotmail Yahoo Outlook
2000/XP
Outlook
2003
Outlook
Express
w/SP2
Outlook
Express
w/o SP2
External images are blocked by default Yes Yes No No No Yes Yes No
User controls image-blocking settings Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
User clicks link to enable message's images Yes Yes Yes No No Yes Yes N/A
Images enabled if sender is in user's address book/buddy list Yes No Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Images autoenabled if sender is on ISP whitelist Yes N/A Yes No N/A N/A N/A N/A
Alt tags displayed when images disabled No Yes No No No No No N/A
Preview window featured included No No No No Yes Yes Yes Yes
 Note: SP2 = Service Pack 2 upgrade for Windows XP Source: EmailLabs  

How ugly can things get?

When images are turned off, that design you worked so hard on can be turned into an ugly mash of broken images and reformatted content. Let's take an example of how nasty this can get from a recent email I received from Apple announcing the long awaited iTunes Australia Music Store.

The Apple email with images disabled - click to see a bigger version The Apple email with images enabled - click to see a bigger version

Just makes you want to dive in and buy a few albums doesn't it! Now, I'm sure when they were putting together the creative they got all excited about their recipients seeing the version on the right, but how many potential customers did they lose when many of their recipients saw the version on the left?

Tips to minimize the damage

While the Apple example is at the extreme end of things, many of us commit lesser but just as dangerous email design sins every day. Here are a few tips to minimize the damage of your images not being displayed:

  • Never use images for important content like headlines, links and any calls to action.
  • Add a text-based link to a web version of your design at the top of your email.
  • Get added to your recipient's address book (see guideline 3 below).
  • Use alt text for all images for a better experience in Gmail.
  • Always add the height and width to the image to ensure that the blank placeholder image doesn't throw your design out.
  • Test your design with images turned off before you send it.

Here are a couple of samples sent by Campaign Monitor customers of email designs that are still very readable even with images disabled:

Webnames.ca Corporate Newsletter

The Webnames email with images disabled - click to see a bigger version The Webnames email with images enabled - click to see a bigger version

VIEW News

The VIEW News email with images disabled - click to see a bigger version The VIEW News email with images enabled - click to see a bigger version

You can see more examples of great email design in our design gallery.

Guideline 2) Allow for the preview pane

Today, up to half of your recipients could be using their email client's preview panes to decide if your email's even worth checking out. A preview pane shows a little vertical or horizontal snippet of your email that is often no more than 2-4 inches in height or width.

While most web based email clients don't use them yet, recent betas of Yahoo! Mail and Hotmail indicate they will be soon. In the corporate email scene, around 90% of email clients support preview panes.

Combine this with images being turned off by default and you quickly see that what your recipient first sees is often completely different to what you're sending them.

Vertical or horizontal?

Around 75% of people who use preview panes go for the horizontal version, while the remaining 25% prefer the vertical version. The screenshots below show either option taken at 1024 x 768 resolution on a PC running Outlook 2003 with images enabled.

Horizontal preview pane - click to see a bigger version Vertical preview pane - click to see a bigger version

At resolutions of 1024 x 768 or less, you really need to be diligent in your design to ensure enough is shown to the recipient to encourage them to check out the whole email.

Tips to minimize the damage

If you were hedging your bets, then you'd certainly be giving more preference to the horizontal preview pane. In a perfect world though, you'd be covering all bases by ensuring the best bits of your email appear in the top-left corner and therefore in everyone's preview pane.

To encourage preview pane users to open your email, you should:

  • Review your click-tracking reports to identify what content most of your recipients are clicking on.
  • Ensure this content is at the top (and preferably to the left) of your design.
  • Make sure this content is text-based and can always be read.

Guideline 3) Get in your subscribers address book

There's never been a more important time to ask your subscribers to add your From address to their address book. AOL and Yahoo! allow your recipients to filter emails from unknown senders. Plus, images are displayed by default if you're in the address book for all AOL and Hotmail recipients as well as anyone using Outlook or Outlook Express.

Tips to minimize the damage

The efforts to get added to your recipient's address book don't start and finish with a request in each email, you should ask the question at every touch point possible. As an example, here's our subscriber confirmation page. All our newsletters are sent using the From address of davidg@campaignmonitor.com, so once you ask people to add you to their address book, make sure you use the same From address every time you send to them.

At a minimum, make sure this request is made:

  • On the landing page after someone subscribes.
  • If you send a confirmation email, mention it in there as well.
  • In every email you send out.

If you've got any thoughts on what issues you think will be important in email design over the next 12 months, then I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Posted by David Greiner

66 Comments

  • Damien Buckley
    1st December

    Good tips David.  Shocking state of affairs with the email clients & ISP’s.  Further to the article - whats your standpoint on tabled vs. pure CSS layout for email?  Do you have similar info as to that concerning images etc. Also, this being the case regards images - is there another way emails can be tracked as if the information supplied is correct, basically Campaign Monitor is unable to track 50%+ emails where images are turned off.

  • Dave Greiner
    1st December

    Damien, we plan on writing a follow up soon on CSS support across the main email environments. Mark Wyner’s recent article covers a great deal already, but there’s not a whole lot of solid research available online about non-web based email clients. We don’t use tables for our newsletter, and certainly encourage our customers to do the same. At the same time, it really depends on the design consistency your clients expect from their campaigns across different email environments.

    Unfortunately aside from using images and tracking clicks, there’s no other way to gauge an open in email. Having said that, you need to keep in mind that the 50% figure is by default, and it also assumes that the recipient doesn’t decide to turn images on for your particular email.

    Currently, the generally accepted impact of image blocking on open rates varies from between 5-10% of your unique open rate. Given the current trend though, this gap could certainly continue to grow.

  • Pete M
    1st December

    Interesting and useful article. Thanks :)

  • rumbero
    1st December

    It would be interested to add to your “image bloking” table LOTUS NOTES Software.

  • Fake
    1st December

    I have been working on a client’s email for the past 4 days always thinking there was a problem with my CSS or XHTML. The final result was a very deceiving mishmash of everything I hate to use (sementically speaking).  Turns out we had a problem with our n and r ’  : - /

    Anyway, I wish I had read this before. Great information.

  • John Q. Public
    1st December

    Don’t think of us as eyeballs, demographics, market segments, or targets.  That’s incredibly demeaning.  Remember that we are people.  Don’t be obtrusive in your campaigns.  If you annoy us, we will ignore you.  Do not try to manipulate our minds.  That’s evil.  We will resent you.  Respect our choices.  If we tell you, once, that we do not want to hear from you again, do not assume we have changed our minds the next day.  Do not sell information about us.  That treats us like cattle, and again, we will resent you.

  • Dave Greiner
    2nd December

    I completely agree John, that’s why we have a strict permission policy, encourage best practice and ensure our software is never abused.

  • Jase
    2nd December

    Good info to keep in mind. What about images embedded in the MIME mail message and referenced via “cid:” src tags? I’m assuming those will usually be displayed since they don’t result in an additional HTTP connection to fetch the image. But does Campaign Monitor or other mass mailers have the ability to place embedded MIME images in the mail?

  • Max Thrane
    2nd December

    Nice article :) Can’t wait for the CSS vs HTML review in html mails. I’m working in one of the scandinavians biggest online marketing companies so this subject is more then important to me. Tho’ I know the answer already as I’ve spent weeks and months tweaking mails to work it with most used clients…

    Best Regards, MaxT

  • Joseph
    2nd December

    Yuck. Even with the best intentions, this is still nasty stuff. HTML emails really don’t have a place in this world exactly because of the various issues you mention, and good mail clients translate them to text or a very simple style anyway. Markup belongs in the browser; email is for text.

    That said, it’s much easier for me to classify it as junk if you send it in HTML format, so like, as you were.

  • Damien Buckley
    5th December

    Well there’s a totally uninformed point of view right there.

  • Raphaelle
    7th December

    Good article. Maybe one tip to add: if you refer subscribers to a website, make sure the website is versatile enough to welcome all browsers.

    Just today, I got an advertising email from an insurance company whose website was optimized for Internet Explorer and Netscape (?!?) only. I use Safari, so I was taken to a page that instructed me to download and install the prescribed browsers…

    Thanks, but no thanks. I’ll stay with my non pop-up, secure Apple browser.

  • Brian
    10th December

    Definitely a great article! Although, I don’t personally agree that image blocking will be a growing trend.  This is a great feature if you’re on dial up, recieve a ton of spam, and images significantly impact the amount of time it takes to download email. However, as more and more subscribers move to high speed connections (and thankfully away from AOL!), I really believe this will become less of a problem. I find the default blocking of images by GMail annoying and have made it a habit to set my favorite newsletters to always allow images. I’m curious to know, do many of you keep images off on newsletters you actually want to read…? It’s a good feature for spam, but I get almost none in my GMail account….

    Thank you for the great read!

  • Shiva
    12th December

    Don’t overdo the content of the eNewsletter as it will only add to the height of the eNewsletter and take away the appeal. Should always be precise and to the point, add links for more information rather than spelling everything out.

  • Byron
    13th December

    The move toward blocking images is a security move, not a speed issue.  It is calls to a spammer’s server for images that helps spammers validate that an email address is a valid address and it is for this reason that images are being blocked.  This will not become less of a problem.  More and more email clients will be blocking images by default as a means of ensuring that email addresses are not validated for spammers.  Clients are demanding it.

  • mroberts
    13th December

    I’m always amazed how my fellow geeks hang on every twist and turn of Google’s beta, invite-only Gmail, yet fail to include Lotus Notes in their discussion of the email world when Notes has approximately 40% of the corporate market.  It’s like being fascinated by the albino mouse in the room and ignoring the rhinoceros. Well, for now anyway.

  • Ziv
    14th December

    Thanks for this great article, David!

    As for CSS vs. Tables in emails, Microsoft’s Hotmail.com pushed me to use HTML Tables only, because emails are displayed with no CSS except for Span and Font tags. CSS is being cut from Div, TD etc.

    Thanks again!
    Ziv,
    Israel

  • Touhey
    17th December

    Hey David,

    Very informative article. I just passed it on to our marketing department, hopefully they can understand my point of view as a web designer. I actually came across this article while looking for a “design-friendly” email-cms. I would really like to see more information about the integration of template design and the most used cms systems used in 2006. Does anyone have any suggestions? We are currently using FarCry cms but it is not robust enough to use for our large email list!

    Respek.

  • Touhey
    17th December

    David- Forget that last comment… After realizing what site I was on… I think I have found the right solution. Who would have known?

  • btek
    20th December

    nice work!!!!. congratz

    Do you know about some studies about to measure emails opened into webmails blockers or softwares to do it.

  • TS
    21st December

    There is an important point missing:
    Always make sure that there is a readable and well-formatted plaintext version available in the mail, otherwise it is pretty likely to be considered junk prior than reading it at all. Thanks to all good mail clients which allow HTML display to be disabled by default!

  • Brad Einarsen
    24th December

    re: the CSS vs. Table discussion

    We tried positional CSS but reverted to tables when Outlook did not consistently place the DIVs correctly. Strangely enough, some versions of Outlook would and some would not. We haven’t investigated fully yet, but we’re definitely back to tables (with CSS for typography) in our email newsletters.

  • Chris
    6th January

    You didn’t mention Thunderbird (TB) or Mozilla Mail in your list.
    Many power users use these instead of MS clients due to lower risk of virus/worm infections and better control over what goes through and what not.

    TB lets you not only block remote images by default (I do) but also discard HTML mail and instead view the text version (I do). Although marketeers hate this, it gives you just content and no frills. I sometimes click on the link to the web version, but rarely.

    This is a note to marketeers to please also include text versions of your campaigns if you want to reach your entire audience!

    I’ve noticed that if campaigns are nicely managed, give lots of relevant content and informative links to information on the website, I’ll read more, visit the site and may even yield more info about myself…

    Sincerely,
    Chris.

  • ÿrjan Hoyd ¯llestad
    17th February

    what newsletter writer is good?
    I used thunderbird to create a template, copied it into outlook and must use outlook 2002 because of the mailing list lies in the domain. But i have trouble with the tables, not beeing able to change fonts and something just get messed up all the time I change out from the template.. WHY? What great tips is there for me?

  • Ben Jackson
    22nd February

    Does anyone know the email equivalent to the cross-browser “web safe areas” (assuming a horizontal preview pane)? Been looking all over and I can’t find a definitive source. Thanks!

  • ap
    1st March

    E-mail is not meant for HTML and should never be either. Period.

  • Website Design
    5th March

    We are a website design company and agree, keep email text only and dont use loads of html / images

  • Dan
    20th March

    I also hate html email, it’s add useless clutter if you want to read in plain text.
    I think it should be avoid where possible.

  • Jason
    22nd March

    Given that there would be many mac people using Campaign Monitor it would have been nice to include Apple’s Mail and Entourage in your table above. Seems crazy not to mention at least one Mac client.

    BTW, great article, always enjoy them and very informative.

  • Jon Livingston
    25th March

    Really appreciate the great reminders and tips.

    For those that are interested, here’s another helpful article on CSS support in HTML emails of Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail and Gmail that Xavier Frenette put together.

  • Simon Preston
    18th April

    I work for a large publisher. An issue that has started to rear its ugly head for us, is Outlook SP2s phishing filter. Most new computers come with this functionality automaitcally enabled. Basically, the service pack looks at each individual email on merit and then decides if it’s a phishing scam of not. If it thinks your email message is a scam it disables all of the links in it. Even if you add your name to the safe senders list doesn’t have a positive impact - as the address could be spoofed. As I’ve said it just looks at the construction of the email. Too many ‘click here’ type links can trigger it. I heard about one sender who had a Spam warning at the foot of their email message - this triggered the anti phishing software. Has anyone else had similar problems? Does anyone have a solution? There is predicatably little guidance on Microsoft’s site.

  • Mike Ohno
    4th May

    I am the in-between of Marketing and Tech and one important factor everyone who has mentioned that HTML is not for emails is forgetting, is the power of advertising. Can you imagine a magazine that only contained copy/text only advertisements? Doesn’t work, does it? Same deal here, the majority of people need imagery in order to be sold or compliment the messages. Itís like a black and white world vs full color, which do you want to live in? Movements towards html acceptance are already in their implementation stages. SPF, DKIM, SIDF, are examples of systems in preliminary stages, where opt-in emails bypass filters and are allowed or help to fully display the html messages without any complications. Hand held devices are being built with a Windows OS and full color screen. HTML emails are not going away; technology is adapting in order to better accept it.

  • Andrew
    10th May

    Mike,  While you are right, full-color advertisements are much more likely to be clicked…  and pictures help “sell”  that’s all from the marketing side.

    Your readership doesn’t want to see ads or be sold anything.  From you reader’s perspective, the best e-mail would contain useful content and nothing else.

    Now, I understand that you may need to include full color ads and extra pictures in order to sell and thus make the e-mail worth developing, but it is foolish to think that these requirements come from your readers.  They don’t.  It’s important to keep this in mind so that your e-mail is useful to the reader.

    The reader is the final arbiter of what is spam and what is not.

    The existence of technology to facilitate HTML mail has no impact one way or the other on whether or not users want to receive HTML mail.

  • LS
    17th May

    What about people who, given the choice, choose to receive HTML email over text-only email? Those people do exist, no? Some people like, or at the very least don’t mind, HTML email. People *like* pictures. Even if they are sometimes used to sell them stuff, people will still opt to receive them in order to receive good pictures too.

    Also, what about non-profit organizations who use permission-only based email marketing? Recipients of those emails have chosen to receive information from those organizations and generally want to be supportive of the organization. What if the ads aren’t for commerce, but for activism?

    Further, yes Andrew, it would be nice if organizations could afford to distribute useful content and nothing else. But who can afford to do that for free? If ht’s not a subscription-based magazine, you’re going to have to look at ads. It’s like television - people will watch it *and* the commericals, as long as your non-commericial content is worth it. If your content is great, they’ll take your full-color ads and extra pictures too.

  • ephi
    19th May

    User controls image-blocking settings in Gmail is available. The only problem is that, we have to do it for each email.

  • Viktor Losevski
    23rd May

    Thanks for your article!
    It is very useful for me - I find here some new ideas.

    Victor

  • Andre
    1st June

    Nice article, very informative. 

    As for HTML emails, as long as there’s a text based version, HTML emails are really effective from a usability standpoint.  That being said, adaptive path’s news letter is quite good considering it’s only text based. 

    I subscribe to tons of news letters and the only ones I read consistently are the ones with images or colours in them… and I imagine the majority of the people in this world are the same.  When you are bombarded with emails, it’s much more efficient to glance at a well designed HTML email because I find you pick up on the headliners much quicker (takes around 5 seconds).  Reading a text based email takes more time, at least 10-20 seconds.

    Being a computer scientist, I find it’s often the computer scientist types who complain about HTML emails… just because it’s not conforming to the intended function.

  • Bridget
    4th June

    Thank you for this infomative article.  I am the person responsible for the distribution of our E-newsletter which is just now being converted into HTML from a previously text based version.

    As a non-profit organization, it is becoming more important that we use HTML based e-mails to get the attention of our readers with regard to whatever issue requires action.  While all of our issues are “worthy”, it is nearly impossible to capture the attention of the reader or to stress the urgency regarding a particular issue if HTML or even Rich Text is not utilized.

    However, I hadn’t considered that it would be necessary to continue to offer a text-based version of our newsletter until I read this article. Thank you for the information.

  • Kent Pilkington
    28th July

    I see several people claiming that HTML has no place in email, but the reasons just don’t wash.
    Andrew said: Your readership doesn’t want to see ads or be sold anything. From you reader’s perspective, the best e-mail would contain useful content and nothing else.
    If they didn’t want to see ads or be sold anything, they wouldn’t sign up for a newsletter that tells them about the homes we build and the communities where we build them.  They signed up because they want to consider buying the advertised product.  They can also unsubscribe.  And in our case the images ARE a major part of the useful content, and the HTML layout helps them parse the information better to determine what is most useful to them.
    It sounds like many people are arguing that because HTML emails don’t force responsible, desirable, or effective use, that they should not be technically allowed.  I’ve seen a lot of poorly designed, ineffective, and useless web sites, but that doesn’t mean that websites should be prohibited.  ;-)
    Some people want to see images rather than text.  Others are the opposite.  Some care about quality and others don’t.  Some purposes require images in order to be practical, and others don’t.  If a company is not using HTML email wisely, it will hurt them - hopefully enough to make them change.  Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, though.

  • John C
    28th July

    Help! Here is the conventional wisdom that a reader uses when blocking Images:

    Most of the images sent in emails are HTML graphics, which are files that are downloaded from a remote computer. Yahoo! Mail and Mozilla allows you to prevent these images from loading when you open a message containing them. This is a good idea for several reasons:

      * The images in a message may be offensive.
      * Spam with HTML images can contain web beacons, invisible tags that notify the spammer when you open the message and indicate that your email address is active.

    If you’re sure that the images in a particular message are safe, you can always choose to see them.

    Note that even with HTML image blocking turned on, some images can still appear in your email. These include:

      * Images outside of the email messages, such as navigational, informational, and advertising images.
      * Images that are sent as attachments, which appear in the attachments area.
    Help: Are the last two above items saying that these images can still be used by as beacons by Spammers, even with image blocking on?
    - - -John

  • GonabesJohn
    15th August

    Your readership doesn’t want to see ads or be sold anything. From you reader’s perspective, the best e-mail would contain useful content and nothing else.

  • Stephanie
    30th August

    It is interesting to read the comments from people who disagree with using images and believe that subscribers do not want to be sold anything. I manage a web development team and a very important part of what we do is send HTML (and text) based emails to our database. These people want to see information, however they also want to see products/services to purchase. I think that some of you are looking at it from a very technical perspective, thinking about what you would like to receive and then extrapolating that to your clients. As long as the client has the option to select HTML or Text you are covering all bases. I for one, sign up to receive newsletters often with the express purpose to find out more information about a product and to make an informed purchase.
    You could argue that websites should only display content and not try and sell anything and of course the purists would agree, but lets be realistic, most of us wouldn’t have a job if that was the case!

  • Mat
    30th August

    Great information in this article. Very useful indeed!

    As for those people against HTML email - don’t be silly! Would you have read this whole article if it was plain text? Did you choose turn off the style sheet? I doubt it very much.

    Styling and images make content more appealing to the human eye - that’s a simple fact. Using these techniques to enhance content should be embraced, not shunned.
    Working for a design agency, I know that if I was to tell a client we’re only going to send a plain text email, they’ll go to the next agency that will send it in HTML. Have you never heard a client say ” ... and I want it to stand out… “?

    And what about basic users, like my mum, who sit in front of Outlook and send HTML email (because that’s the default) to their friends? Try telling them it’s *not* plain text. All they did was type.

  • Mahalie
    2nd September

    "I subscribe to tons of news letters and the only ones I read consistently are the ones with images or colours in them… and I imagine the majority of the people in this world are the same."

    That’s funny I was imagining assuming the opposite since of all the newsletters I’ve subscribed to I tend to only read the all text ones - I personally like visual relief.  It goes to show, there are people who prefer all text and those that prefer HTML emails. So offer both.  I love it when newsletter signups offer html or text format options.

    I think all the blanket statements regarding no HTML and contrary are just that. For the most part, if I’m going to READ the email, I prefer text. For example, I get a monthly newsletter from my webhost, dreamhost, and read every fricken’ word, cause it’s funny and I’m already a customer, they’re not shoving anything down my throat. On the other hand I recieve HTML newsletters from some retail stores, and I recieved an all-text version I would probably never visit their sites again. I SEE stuff that I like and then I visit the website.

    What we really have here is a balance issue.

  • Glenn McCreedy
    14th September

    It all comes down to this for the audience, “what’s in it for me?”  Newsletter publishers, keep that in mind.

  • news
    5th October

    I’m always amazed how my fellow geeks hang on every twist and turn of Google’s beta, invite-only Gmail, yet fail to include Lotus Notes in their discussion of the email world when Notes has approximately 40% of the corporate market. It’s like being fascinated by the albino mouse in the room and ignoring the rhinoceros. Well, for now anyway.

  • ineedmynetwork.com
    12th October

    html formatted e-mails help to create better looking e-mails… remote images can be a problem but if it is from a trusted site, I choose to veiw images every time.. also sending bulk mails from outlook and BCC: everyone better chance of not getting junkmailed… everytime I do a bulk mail using some sort of web interface they get junked every time… great article, I was looking for something like this and found it right away. Thanks for the time.

  • LeeLou
    20th October

    Looks like blocking images is quickly becoming the norm for all email clients. Great article! I definitely recommend the “if you are having toruble” link at the top of any HTML email you send out! It guarantees an opportunity for the viewer to see the campaign as it was meant to be seen.

    My company is debating now whether we should try and send HTML emails out with the link or send text emails with the link.

  • David G. Paul
    9th December

    Very nice guide there - and very useful information!

  • David J
    14th December

    I get several newsletters, mixed html and text.
    I always check the email for spammish qualities.  When I find “tracking” links, I make sure to never download anything from links, and I always forbid images in incoming email.  Yes, it looks ugly, but if you are going to track me, I’m going to block you.  If I find that you don’t use complex tracking-like links, I may check the images.  Again, flexibility on your part is the rule.  If I start to click a link and it looks like a tracking link, I don’t click.  As your customer, I want your information, and I’ll log into your web site if it looks relevant, but I don’t want you feeling like you have to spy on me.  If you feel you must track your customers, the I don’t want to be one of them.

  • ThomFlash
    21st December

    I always recommend users be given the option to receive HTML or Text-only emails. HTML is always the clear winner.

    As a reader, I may glance at a text-only message and be drawn in for more. This is a very business-like approach that works well for follow-up, confirmation, or critical messaging from a company to its consituents. Conversely, all HTML messages are too easily pitched; the right-click-for-images is less than a second away, but without engagement your subject really has to sell and the sender must be relevant. The best blend is text that is legible within HTML formatting that can be electively turned on. This provides the best chance to engage the user and sell the next step: view the images or click straight through.

    With regard to tracking, real marketers (not SPAMers) use these techniques to see what’s working. Sure we’re here to help promote a product, but that’s what drives our business. The true “burn rate” in email marketing is opt-outs, so we owe it to our clients (and more importantly those on their contact list) to send salient messages that provide value and maintain a relationship. Tracking user performance is more than building a better mousetrap, for those doing it right it’s about building a better relationship.

    Long live choice, trust, and respect for others onliine! - ThomFlash

  • Joel Fisher
    4th January

    What about support for PNGs?

    Is there a breakdown of the e-mail clients that do not support PNGs (like IE6) without a hack?

  • Dan
    5th June

    We have a subscription base of mostly Lotus Notes users - does anyone have any tips or tricks for delivery via Campaign Monitor to these users?

  • Dave Greiner
    6th June

    Dan, we’ve tested what CSS does and doesn’t work in Lotus Notes here if you’re interested. Plus, our free templates have been tested in Notes and render pretty well.

  • Jose L. Javier
    22nd August

    Very good article.

    As a graphic designer, HTML is the norm. It’s just natural to pay more attention to a nice looking 400x250 e-mailer than read a full page of text.

    Haven said that, there must be a balance between graphics and text, and that applies to both web and print. Unless you are a lawyer, the tendency is to avoid lengthy text… then againg my girlfriend loves to read a lot.

    Anyone who straight up says that only one or the other method must be used, it’s just being naive. Caf or Decaf people?  It’s always good to choices.

  • Sandra-cl
    19th September

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  • Sandra-qt
    19th September

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    27th September

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  • Online
    27th September

    Thanks for your article!
    It is very useful for me, keep update.

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    27th September

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    27th September

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  • oxy
    6th December

    This guide was great for me as I am a beginning email designer.
    Thanks

  • Jonathan D
    30th April

    I appreciate your guide, but at the end of the day we are still faced with the question ‘how much are we going to push it?’ Thats something we must answer for ourselves.

    Personally l like the idea of pushing it a little, of letting a few things break (in a controlled way)... that way we’re not saying to Microsoft or Gmail ‘hey, we’re getting along fine, but you know it would be nice if you…’, but rather, ‘hey, this is broken right now. You aren’t performing as well as the others. Word gets round… how else would you explain Firefox’s staggering piece of the pie?’

    As a reader-of-emails, and I know this is influenced by my design background, but if the e-mail isn’t graphic, I figure they didn’t put energy into it, and I’m less likely to read it. It’s that simple. If “ooh shiny” isn’t a compelling factor than Macintosh wouldn’t exist.

  • Rules
    7th June

    Great article! I definitely recommend the “if you are having toruble” link at the top of any HTML email you send out! It guarantees an opportunity for the viewer to see the campaign as it was meant to be seen.

    Realy thanks - good job!

  • Craxa
    27th June

    I’m gonna present my designs soon. thx for inspiration ;-)

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