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Have you noticed on-off image loading in Gmail? Turns out you’re not the only one. A few weeks after this popular webmail client started caching and serving images via their proxy servers, senders and recipients have begun to report broken images throughout their email campaigns. Here’s the latest on what we know and what you can do to ensure your message remains readable.

The issues being experienced are twofold – while the majority of people experiencing this issue find that some, or all of an email campaign’s images are not loading, there has been the odd report of images unexpectedly loading in the wrong placeholders. As many an email marketer can attest, having images not display in the inbox is one thing, but then having them display intermittently is a very messy situation indeed.

It’s worth stressing at this point that this is a Gmail issue, affecting all senders regardless of the service they’re using to send their email campaigns. Reports have come in from multiple email service providers, who have shown that only campaigns being viewed in webmail Gmail are being affected – as yet, there haven’t been any definite problems within their mobile client. Image loading issues are also seemingly browser-independent.

Preparing for a world without images

While our team has been experimenting with workarounds, at present, it seems that there is little that can be done to make images display reliably. That said, having images not display in email clients like Outlook is fairly routine, so if anything, this recent incident is a good reminder that we should continue optimizing our campaigns for image-off scenarios. We can do this by:

  • Using text, not images to convey the message. For example, bulletproof buttons can be used instead of images for call to actions, while web fonts can be used for headings and other stylized text.
  • Using ALT text on images. You don’t have to describe every spacer and minor detail in your email campaign, but for images that play an important role in your message, ALT text is essential.
  • Not stacking the top of a message with images. When images don’t load, they tend to leave large, empty placeholders in their place. While some senders simply omit image width and height attributes to avoid this, the better solution is to not use large images throughout a design and especially not in places where they force all other content outside of the preview pane.

Our guide to Image Blocking in HTML Email outlines conditions across a variety of popular email clients and is a great read for those wishing to understand how to combat disappearing images in any inbox.

We’ve been in touch with the good folks at Gmail to make them aware of these issues and the need for more reliable image loading, but in short, it’s a bit of a waiting game. If we receive any further details, we’ll be sure to post them in this blog.

Finally, many of these details have come from email senders like you – and we’re keen to hear more as this issue progresses. Have you been affected by infrequent image loading in Gmail? What have you seen? Let us know in the comments below.

This blog provides general information and discussion about email marketing and related subjects. The content provided in this blog ("Content”), should not be construed as and is not intended to constitute financial, legal or tax advice. You should seek the advice of professionals prior to acting upon any information contained in the Content. All Content is provided strictly “as is” and we make no warranty or representation of any kind regarding the Content.
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