Design for the Inbox
The tips mentioned above will help your emails achieve the highest level of compatibility across all of the major email clients, which means that most of your subscribers will be able to view clean copies of your messages. However, there are some specific challenges with some of the major email clients that you must pay careful attention to as they threaten the success of your entire email campaign.
It has been estimated that 75% of subscribers use Outlook as their primary email client. Previous versions of Outlook used the IE-based rendering engines but the latest version uses Microsoft Word, which will cause some rendering issues if you aren’t careful. Outlook 2007 has a number of features that it doesn’t support, including:
- HTML or CSS background images
- CSS positioning or CSS floats
- Animated Gifs
- Image bullet points
If you are using animated Gifs in your message, be sure that the first frame is not blank as this is the only frame that will be seen by your subscribers using Outlook 2007. Instead, the first frame should contain the messaging and/or offer that you are advertising so it looks like a static banner ad.
Another popular email client that will cause rendering issues is Gmail. Like Outlook 2007, Gmail has very little support for CSS, including:
- Background images, colors, and positions
- Margins and padding
- Width and height
- Font styles, size, and weight
- List styles and images
Following the HTML best practices outlined above will help you overcome these problems. But if your designer insists on using CSS, it is imperative that you know the percentage of your subscribers that use Gmail and that you test the messages in Gmail prior to deployment.
Gmail isn’t the only email client with these issues as Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail, and Lotus Notes all have similar issues. However, it has been slow to make changes to support CSS. For more information on CSS rendering in emails, visit the Email Standards Project at www.email-standards.org.
MSN Live Mail & Yahoo! Mail
It’s important to note that MSN Live Mail and Yahoo! Mail sell ad space in the area surrounding your message so the preview panes are tiny. This challenges the design process and you must be aware of how much of your message will appear in the preview pane.