Note: This is part of a series. Don't forget to read Email is broken, Part Two: Images.
Save for teens with generous texting plans, email is the modern communication necessity. And bulk email is still the most lucrative and direct method for most organizations to communicate with their audiences; sorry social media gurus #notreally #seo. I think a lot of folks could work and live without a telephone (I do as much I can), but if their email goes down then Mr. IT Guy better keep his head on a swivel. But, there’s a problem (spoiler!): email is already broken.
Modern web browsers, your Safaris and Firefoxes and Google Chromes, use different rendering engines to display a web page on a computer. A lot of folks already know this, or at least they’re aware that a website may look odd or broken in one web browser, but fine in another. We do a lot of testing across browsers and it’s a problem that can pretty much always be solved or mitigated with proper planning and coding.1 But most people are unaware that email clients (GMail, Outlook, Apple Mail, Hotmail, etc.—whatever you read your email in), like web browsers, also use different rendering engines.
With email clients you have the same inconsistency problem as web browsers, but then things get a hell of a lot worse because:
This all means things like: embedded fonts are supported some places, but not other places; padding and margin support is unreliable; CSS has to be done inline because some clients strip out blocks; and inline images are difficult to work with. There’s no magic bullet here and you really can only be sure about how your email will look by testing it.
I have a lot more to say about that last item on images in email, so check back here for part two, but I can offer up a few general tips when composing your next bulk email:
There’s no magic bullet. And #4 up there is a doozy. Just: keep it consistent, keep testing, and keep trying.
1. Except for Internet Explorer 6 which is everything that is horrible and awful and wrong.