HTML email continues to prove itself as a viable tool for businesses who want to communicate with their audience in an effective, and relatively inexpensive way. For the email marketer, it has become an indispensable weapon that often means the difference between failure and success. Although more customers and subscribers are demanding HTML email, ensuring seamless compatibility across the array of mail clients and web browsers can make actually designing the template a nightmarish experience. Don’t fret. We have listed four of the best practices you can use to guarantee a great design.
1. Create Your Email with a Good HTML Editor
We all know that most email readers excel at sending and receiving email. That is what they are made for, so that is what they are good at. Unfortunately, many do not realize that these programs are not great at creating HTML email, even though they may support the format. We strongly suggest that you do not design your template with a typical mail client such as Eudora or Microsoft Outlook. By doing so, you run the risk of ruining the format of the message for your recipients using different mail reading programs. Luckily, there are many capable HTML editors on the market, and all are geared to simplify the design process and help you create messages that are compliant with web standards.
2. Build Your Layout with HTML Tables
You can discover a range of design possibilities that can be easily coded by using HTML tables for your layout. These tables make it easier to break your space into columns and rows, allowing you to add streamlined organization to your template. They can also help weed out some of the problems caused by different email readers and how they render HTML code. While some designers may prefer more advanced methods that call for coding to the latest standards, using tables doesn’t necessarily mean you have to revert to the primitive days of HTML programming. The fact that so many clients support HTML today increases the chances that your tables will display just fine.
3. Understand General CSS Guidelines
If you are a proficient HTML designer, you may be used to creating a separate CSS file that contains the formatting instructions for tags, and referencing that file through a link in the head section of a web page. Although this works fine in most locally operated mail programs, it usually does not carry over to web-based mail. For example, Hotmail requires that CSS be spelled out in the body, Yahoo mail needs it spelled out in the head, and Gmail only offers support for inline CSS. These are just a few of many reasons why designing HTML email with CSS can be very frustrating. There are, however, several ways around them. If you carefully format your CSS with semantic markup, email readers that only ignore some of its features will likely downgrade your message to an Rich Text Format (RTF) look without ruining your links.
4. Simplicity is Power
When designing your HTML email template, try your best to the keep the formatting as simple as possible. The technology itself is ideal for incorporating things like images, Flash animation and forms, but you should never let these dynamic features hinder the effectiveness of your message. The more complex HTML gets, the more it degrades in performance and turns off the reader. You must also keep in mind that some mail clients may not work in perfect harmony with certain features. This should give you all the more reason to keep your design simple and effective.