CSS Support in Email Clients Still Pretty Poor | April 26, 2007
While speaking at web design world, one attendee asked me a question about styling emails with CSS. I gave my stock answer that as a technical person I had a strong dislike of HTML/CSS emails as I feel they were against the spirit of the medium. I really like the simplicity of text as a communication medium, so hate email messages that pretend to be web pages. If I want to read a web page, I’d much prefer to be sent a link.
To me, most HTML/CSS emails are the online equivalent of junk mail, so I have styling turned off by default. If one of these emails gets through my spam filters I have an almost Pavlovian reaction to hit the junk button, before even reading the mail. I’ve spoken to many technically savvy people, and this seems to be the common reaction.
However I did agree that from a purely marketing perspective, HTML/CSS emails do tend to produce slightly higher conversion rates than regular text emails. So if you want to bombard people with marketing offers they probably don’t want or need, I guess HTML/CSS is the way to go. However for the 0.2% of people who respond, you’ll probably end up pissing the other 99.8% of people off. Obviously I didn’t say that last part out loud, but you know what I mean.
Personal opinion aside, my understanding is that styling emails with HTML/CSS is incredibly difficult. This is due to the shear number of email clients out there, and their poor support of web standards. You would imagine that webmail clients would be better, but in many cases they are actually worse – disabling all CSS in emails to prevent clashes with their own style information. So my advise was simple. Avoid HTML/CSS emails if possible.
As a speaker, you occasionally get to see feedback from your presentations. I was pleased that my sessions were reasonably well rated, but amused by the following comment.
I hate that Andy was brought in as CSS expert and he totally balked at the html email question. Giving guidance to avoid html emails it’s too hard—doesn’t reflect the reality we face as marketers.
I have to admit that I’m no email expert. I also feel sorry for any reality that involves having to work HTML/CSS emails on a regular basis. However, if you want the low-down on current CSS email client support, the nice people over at Campaign Monitor have put together their latest finding on the subject. The bottom line seems to be, if you want your emails to work in Outlook, you need still to do table based layout.
Posted at April 26, 2007 11:34 AM