7 Tips for What Does and Doesn’t Work in Email

7 Tips for What Does and Doesn't Work in Email

Email marketers often see the holidays as a time to pull out all the stops. Just as post offices are flooded with letters addressed to Santa Claus, inboxes are overwhelmed with emails. The challenge to send subscribers the most eye-grabbing emails possible begins.

We’re all about poking the box. However, before you go crazy with videos, animated pictures, email backgrounds and other enticing email treats, consider what does and doesn’t work.

1. Video

If pictures are worth a thousand words, video in email should be a great idea. It is for the small amount of people who can see it. Videos embedded in emails only work in a few email clients, one of which is Apple Mail. Bummer, we know.

HTML5 has made embedding videos easier, which will be great for email marketers once all email clients embrace it. Until then, don’t give up on video. Your best bet is to implement click-to-play videos. An image of the video appears in the email, but when subscribers click, they’re redirected to a landing page identical to the email. The video automatically plays on that landing page. Learn more about seamlessly integrating click-to-play videos in your emails.

2. Animated GIFs

Animated GIFs are a good replacement for video in email and serve a variety of purposes. For example, display multiple products or options, add information about a product, jazz up a call-to-action, or fake a video.

Be aware, animated GIFs aren’t supported in Outlook 2007 and later versions. These email clients only display the first frame of the GIF. If your call-to-action is on the last frame of the GIF, the subscriber will miss the point of your email. When you send emails with animated GIFs, either include a static image or make the first image in the animation the most important image. This way, subscribers with email clients that don’t support animation see the message.

3. Email Backgrounds

If you want to include a picture of Santa in the background of your email, you’re in luck. Most email clients support email background images. The only ones that don’t are the pesky Outlook 2007 and later clients. If you’re desperate, there is a complicated way to get background images to cooperate. You have to replace your HTML tag with special coding. Get the skinny.

4. CSS

CSS is widely supported among all major email clients. There are three different ways that CSS can be included:

  • Globally through an external style sheet reference.
  • Globally through the use of <style>…</style> tags included in your markup.
  • Inline through the use of style attributes in HTML tags.

Shy away from relying on any styles defined globally (either 1 or 2 above), as these will be ignored by almost all email readers. For the best results using CSS, use inline styling. It offers better support depending on the attribute. Want to know which ones work the best? Visit this chart.

Only familiar with creating global CSS styles? Don’t have a clue about inline styles? If you’re a WhatCounts client working in Publicaster Edition, you can use the Inline CSS Converter tool in the WYSIWYG editor to switch global CSS to inline CSS.

Use the CSS Inline Converter in Publicaster.

If you’re a Professional Edition user or aren’t a WhatCounts client yet, here’s a similar tool. This link will also point out styles not supported in certain inboxes or browsers.

While inline styles are best for emails, including the same and additional styles in a global style sheet can also be beneficial when you start to think about users viewing the web or mobile versions of your emails. In particular, global styles can be extremely useful place to insert custom media queries allowing you to create an email template that implements responsive design.

5. DIV Tags (HTML coding)

Using DIV tags in your HTML coding is fine. The problem usually lies with what’s contained in them. Every email client seems to have its own separate issues with DIV tags. Some don’t support Margin or Padding in a DIV tag, while others don’t support Font attributes.

A good rule of thumb is to steer clear of DIV tags. If you’re working with a template already containing DIV tags and you’re not sure how to re-create the template without the tags, shoot a message to our Campaign Production Services team.

Note these rules also apply to SPAN tags.

6. Javascript

Most email marketers received this memo a while ago, but we wanted to include this on the list as a reminder. Most email programs and ISPs won’t allow javascript to work in an email or they’ll block the email as SPAM.

7. Forms

Forms are a spider’s web. You can’t see the danger of including a form in your emails until email clients shut you down. This is us painting that spider’s web black: Email forms pose a security risk in the minds of email clients. If you’re lucky, an email client will warn you before they disable your form. Some don’t. Instead of embedding a form, create one on a landing page and link to it in your emails.

This list is not comprehensive; there are too many browsers, inboxes, versions, and ways to mess up emails to cover everything. Email capabilities are changing constantly. Before you try anything new, test it. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all for every email or every sender. By testing, you can understand how various email strategies will implement with your campaigns and audience.

Joy Ugi
Digital Marketing Coordinator, WhatCounts
Twitter: @ugigirl

1 Comment

  1. Totally agree with the last one, forms in emails are a great source of problems. I’ve seen many clients use them, only to see their emails broken when their subscribers try to read them.

    Curiously the form most of the times is there for the unsubscribe process, when a link would be more than enough. What’s the point of placing a form so the user can put its email there? Most ESPs provide an unsubscribe link quite easily.

    Reply

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