HTML Versus Plain Text

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There has been a controversy among website designers and developers, e-mail marketers, and other computer savvy people about which is the better way to send an e-mail: HTML or plain text. It is one of the most hotly debated topics in the community and even though most people can view HTML e-mails, many still prefer the plain text version. Today, most e-mail marketers offer their readers a plain text version in addition to the HTML coded version.

HTML e-mails are visually pleasing. They stimulate the reader to process the text information that goes along with the graphic, and helps them benefit more from the information being presented. It also provides e-mail marketers with a way to track the e-mail’s effectiveness. Face it, we all would rather get an e-mail with pictures, images, and nicely formatted text than one that is plain and boring – though sometimes easier – to read.

Recently MEC tested the effectiveness of both e-mail formats and they results they received provide very beneficial insight into the ongoing debate. The first thing MEC tested was lite HTML e-mail format against plain text. The messages that were sent in lite HTML had a 55% click-through rate as compared to its plainer partner. The second test was heavy HTML in Ad style versus plain text format. In this case, the plain text outperformed the heavy HTML by 34%.

So what exactly does it mean? It means that both are accepted almost on an equal basis depending on format used. HTML is definitely more pleasing in appearance and function and it keeps readers from being bored when they receive their e-mail messages. Senders can use various fonts and font colors, bold or italicize text, and even use underlining. Other interesting formatting can be accomplished with HTML as well that makes the overall e-mail more appealing.

However, e-mail marketers also have to take into consideration the readers and their ability to see the HTML e-mail withoout any problem. If you compare the same carefully prepared text side by side in lite HTML coding and heavy HTML coding, you will notice a big difference. The lite HTML coded e-mail looks like a very nicely laid out letter to the reader with distinctive breaks and content emphasized in all the right places. The heavy HTML coded e-mail, on the other hand, reminds many people of an advertisement and is considered spammy.

Lite and heavy HTML e-mails can track e-mail effectiveness and provide e-mail marketers with metric information that helps them understand what works and what doesn’t so that they streamline their content for next time. But, if the HTML is not coded properly, e-mail marketers will see their e-mails being bounced back or even reported as spam if the information contained within it is misconstrued as being aggressive advertising.

Don’t get discouraged if one e-mail marketing campaign doesn’t work as you wanted it to work. It take some serious testing to find the perfect solution for your company. And once you do it, make sure you continually make testing regularly to make sure that it is still working.

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