What to Expect from HTML Email

HTML Email

There is a challenging side to HTML email.

According to a 2012 study by McKinsey Global Institute, office workers spend an average of 2.6 hours out of every day reading and answering emails. Since email is the official form of communication at UChicago, departments often contact us to help with HTML email tools like Emma and Mailchimp to make their messages more visually appealing and readable. Both Emma and Mailchimp are excellent resources if you have established an audience list already and if you are willing to use one of the standard templates.

However, there is a challenging side to HTML email. Even if you use a pre-configured template from Mailchimp or Emma, the result is not always perfect. It’s not because of the service providers,  their templates, or because the person helping you didn’t set it up right. It’s because certain email clients, like Microsoft Outlook (especially on a PC), haven’t evolved as rapidly or as gracefully as other web tools yet. That fancy three-column email layout may look fantastic within the tool that was used to create it, but once it arrives in a person’s inbox, anything can happen to it. Images could be missing. Pieces of images could be missing. Huge blank spaces appear between columns of copy. The typeface you thought was Arial morphs into Times New Roman. Dashes between letters appear out of nowhere.

You’re probably thinking exactly what I thought when I first started working with these emails: “How can there be so much that can go wrong here?! It’s 201X, for goodness sake!”

Yes, it is 2015, but for some email clients, it is still the 1990s.  We cannot do much to change it unless we create HTML emails for a living (and have written entire books on getting around specific HTML email quirks).

You’re likely also asking, “Why is this happening and how do I fix it?”

One reason that HTML emails lose their original formatting is because there isn’t a standard way for email service providers to interpret the email. Outlook is the trickiest in my experience, as it renders email messages like Word documents.  Since most office environments are set up with Outlook as the main email client, the best strategy for success is to keep the template design as simple as possible by choosing a one-column format for it. You can still be creative with type and imagery, and your message will remain cohesive from the time you hit send until it arrives in your recipient’s inbox.

If you need assistance with HTML email, we can help you find the right tool and the right template for your message. We’ll test it on several different email clients to make sure that it displays properly across all platforms.

Whatever your message, we’ll make sure that your audience receives it in one piece!