Wednesday, February 27, 2013

HTML Graphic Emails SUCK

HTML emails, the kind that newsletters use, with graphic formatting and big images -- SUCK. I absolutely hate them, and so should you.

Many corporations despise these artistic emails and will block them. They have spam filters that delete these HTML emails, because they are often used by bad people to infect computers and enterprise networks with viruses, Trojans, and other malware.

Email is like a memo, a short letter, a brief communication. It's not meant to be a dazzling production with elaborate backgrounds and images.

Many people still don't know how to use email. They don't know how to compose good subject lines. They don't use paragraph breaks to chop up long dense blocks of text into readable chunks. They put too many topics into one email message.

They think an email newsletter should look like a magazine page or a print advertisement. So they make it all fancy with colors and borders and photos, which basically make the emails annoying and reduce their readability.

You must remember that many graphic designers don't like words. 

So when they have to put words into their designs, they make the text very small, or they pay no attention to background color contrasts. That's why you see so much light gray text on white backgrounds. It looks like the text is evaporating or partially erased. It's stupid and hard to read.

Perhaps you've seen this:

"Images are not displayed. Display images below - Always display images from [sender]."

That's your email program trying to protect you. You have the options to (1) not view the images (2) view the images in this email only (3) view the images in all emails from a particular sender.

HTML emails are often poorly formatted. Sometimes the main message is surrounded by all kinds of non-essential material. You often see a horizontal scroll bar, because the email is not sized correctly.

Since you can make HTML emails huge and lengthy, there is a tendency to put all sorts of announcements, news items, organizational information, staff names, and other things that detract from the main message.

The first rule in email communications is to have one message per email. When you need to send out another message, write a new email that contains that message, and no more.

Companies tend to send out HTML graphic emails too sporadically, thus they cram too much information into it. "It's a monthly newsletter," they say. 

Well, if you have a lot of announcements and news updates, maybe you should consider sending out a newsletter weekly. Let the paper version remain monthly, since you want to reduce print and postal mailing costs. But make the email version weekly, and try to have just that week's information in it.

I personally hate email newsletters, especially sales-oriented "email marketing". It works for some companies, so I can create good content for these campaigns, but I always advice clients to skip the HTML graphic enhancements, and just stick to plain text emails.

If you have some important images, product photos, or charts that you want people to see, have a link that says "View this email as a web page" or "Go to the web version of this email".

Another bad practice is when people copy and paste an email message into a blog post, and the textual or graphic formatting doesn't render correctly in the blog post template, so it's a mess.

Another problem with graphically enhancing an email is that it can make you spend less effort making the words compelling, since you think you can rely on the graphics to grab attention and emphasize certain elements of your message.

Just because an HTML email with graphic enhancements looks "nice" to you, that does not mean it will look good in your recipient's email inbox. 

Increase the chances that your email newsletter will get to the recipients and be easy to read -- by avoiding HTML email and use plain text instead.

HTML is for making websites, not for simple, quick text communications. Keep your emails simple and easy to read.

Pin It

No comments: