HTML Email Best Practices

Whether you choose to use an email marketing service template from Mailchimp or Emma, keep these best practices in mind as you create, manage, and send your campaigns.


I have a list
If you already have a list of subscribers from a UChicago list address, you can export them from the lists site and import them into Mailchimp or Emma. If you aren’t sure how to do this, we can walk you through it. However, keep in mind that a large list may affect your pricing plan (if you have one already), and Mailchimp will check to make sure that these names have already opted in to receive messages from you. If your lists are very large, we recommend batching the lists by last name (A-L and then M-Z, for example), role (VIPs, managers, staff, etc.), or other audience identifiers (Chicago Alumni, New York Alumni, etc.). If you are sending to large numbers of the University community, who all have addresses, batching the lists is even more important; it eases the burden on our servers and will allow the message to get to the recipient faster.

I don’t have a list
If you have not already generated a list of subscribers, we recommend creating a sign-up form within the tool. You can either embed it or link to it from your website. The email marketing provider will collect these names in a database when you are ready to send your message.

International email addresses
If you have international email addresses within the list, we recommend creating a separate list, as CAN-SPAM laws <> vary by country. Mailchimp will send you an alert if your message could be greylisted as SPAM. In some cases, you may have to communicate to international audiences via regular email in small batches at a time.


Make sure that you save your images for the web and use an image compression application <> such as ImageOptim before uploading them to your email template. This will make your email file smaller so it gets to the recipient faster. As a general rule, we recommend keeping larger feature-sized images (like an image banner at the top) to 600 pixels or less. For smaller, introductory-type images (a thumbnail image along with a calendar event listing, for example), we recommend keeping them less than 250 pixels wide, especially if you are using a responsive email template.

Resizing images within the email tool can yield unexpected results, so resize your images with photo editing software (Photoshop or GIMP) before you upload them to the template.

Choosing responsive templates

Choosing a template that will scale according to a device’s screen size keeps the needs of your audience in mind. Both Emma and Mailchimp offer pre-made responsive templates and allow you to preview your message on a mobile device to make sure all of the elements are scaling properly. We’ve found that image sizing and resolution are common culprits for spacing issues that may occur in a mobile view of your campaign.

Testing your campaign

We recommend using Mailchimp or Emma’s testing tools before you send your campaign. They charge a small fee for this, but it’s a more efficient way to see how your message will display on different email clients and devices. If you choose not to test using these built-in tools, be sure to send test emails to people using a variety of email clients, especially different versions of Outlook on a PC. You may have to adjust some elements of your design after testing and then keep testing until it looks right in the most common email clients.