HTML Trustworthy E-Mail Tips

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When you are designing HTML emails, you have to work within the constraints of a variety of different email clients and platforms, all of which have its own set of rules and standard behavior. You want to make sure that your HTML email works properly across all of these platforms – or at least as many as you can think of – and not function incorrectly and annoy your customers. So to ensure that your HTML emails display properly and do not trigger your customers spam filters, we offer you these twenty tips that you can ignore at your own risk.

  • When possible, code your emails by hand. Do not use a standard HTML coding package like FrontPage because they work on the ‘What You See Is What You Get principle that has extra code in it that drives email clients nuts.
  • Do not use nested tables. There are quite a few email clients that cannot read tables within tables. Single tables are fine.
  • Try not to use canvas styled background images. Most emails cannot display them unless they are used as cell backgrounds on single tables.
  • Put your images on your website instead of embedding them in your emails. The size of graphic file can exceed the email limit and some ISPs filter emails with embedded images can be filtered as spam or junk mail.
  • 1x1 pixel spacer .gifs that force widths in your table data cells are a no-no. Spammers use these and it can cause your email to be flagged and blocked.
  • Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) are another no-no. They do not render properly in emails and many email clients will strip them from the copy.
  • Try to keep your HTML emails no larger than 500x650 pixels wide. Anything wider will force the reader to scroll horizontally in order to read your message.
  • E-mail file size should be around 50 kilobytes and no larger than 100 kilobytes. Not everyone has moved from dial-up but large files take time to download.
  • Validate your HTML content to ensue that there is no incorrect or broken HTML coding within it. This can cause problems with rendering and delivery.
  • Avoid using scripts because they are vulnerable and pose security risks.
  • When using HTML emails make sure you add a web version and text version link at the top of the email for those readers whose emails do not render properly. This allows them still to be able to read your message.
  • Include image alt tags so that readers know what image is that is blocked.
  • Make the top of your email template include your key content so that readers who only get a small portion of the message at the same time get the most important information first.
  • Lay out your email horizontally instead of vertically so that readers who use a preview pane can see more content without opening the entire message until they are ready.
  • If you email message happens to be a newsletter, use text, HTML, and alt tags instead of using live images that are linked to your website.
  • The more hyperlinks you use in your content the better. This allows your readers to read quickly your email and then continue on to the deeper content when they are ready. Make sure you include subscriber management and navigation links in the email.
  • Be consistent in your terminology. If you refer to it as ‘Member Services’ on your web site, refer to it as ‘Members Services’ in the email.
  • By adding functionality options – like ‘send to a friend’ – you can open your site to more people. However, use links to your website for these forms instead of including them in the email due to rendering issues.
  • Make sure you include subscriber management links in your email so your readers can easily make changes from your email.
  • Host any media type elements – audio, video, Flash, etc. – from you website instead of embedding them in the email. Most email clients cannot handle the media within the email.
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