Images Disabled? No Problem!

We’ve all experienced it at some point or another. That moment when we casually open our inbox, click on an interesting subject line, then poof – there’s nothing there but some illegible text and tiny outlines of where shiny pictures should be.

This is an instant turn-off, regardless of whether it’s as simple as clicking one button to enable images for the message. It’s a hassle; a helpful decision maker for a subscriber on the fence as to whether or not they care to remain on your email list.

If you’re wondering how many subscribers stand to see your blank, poorly formatted message, you’ll be surprised to learn that MarketingSherpa found only 33% of those surveyed have images turned on by default in their email client. That means 67% are likely to see the mess of text and boxes you thought only a handful might see.

Here are some tips for creating messages that perform well with or without images enabled.

Always Make Important Info Text-Based

It might seem simple, but since so many people don’t have images enabled in their email clients, you have to make absolutely certain that your message is comprehensible without any images.

Apple always has awesome product shots in all of their messages, but this particular email does double duty. It includes all of the necessary information for subscribers who might not see the pictures:

Apple Email

In one glance, readers will know the details about the one-day shopping event and will still be able to click on the links to shop online or find a store. Then, if they choose to, they can always enable images to see the the graphics.

  • Always include your business name and important calls to action in text. It helps those with disabled images quickly scan and identify the message, then make decisions without depending on graphics for details.

Use Alt-Text for Images

When the majority of your message is image-based, it’s crucial that you include alt-text. Alt-text, or alternative text, is a frequently overlooked area of HTML that provides important message information as text when an image is not viewable.

That way, instead of seeing the blocked or “broken” image icon, your subscribers see copy that explains the images and more about the subject of the email. Online retailer Newport News uses alt-text that is specific, informative and to the point:

Newport News Email

It’s easy to see who this message is from, what they are offering (guaranteed holiday delivery) and what’s new (an iPad app). If readers find the alt-text appealing enough, they will enable images to see exactly what they can receive by the holidays and what the iPad app will look like.

  • Always create alt-text for your images. It’s easy, it’s fast and it can help prospects who are on the fence. There’s no reason not to!

Create a Text/Image Balance

When you’re offering products for sale, it can be tempting to load up your messages with pictures of the products in hopes that readers will immediately click through to buy.

And while email is a wonderful sales tool, it’s never as simple as sending lots of pictures and watching the money roll in. There needs to be a balance of information and presentation. The online scrapbooking company Scrapblog perfectly pairs both in their email:


The minimal use of images is a nod to the descriptive copy used in all of Scrapblog’s emails. Even though they are selling a product, they are able to do so artfully with a killer combo of words and pictures – something everyone sending emails today should practice more of.

  • Always include a good mix of text and images. Don’t overwhelm your subscribers with paragraphs of text, but don’t slap 20 pictures in an email and call it a day, either.

Do Your Emails Make the Cut?

Testing in multiple email clients is really the best way to see exactly how your message will look, but these tips should save you a lot of time and frustration, should your subscribers only see the disabled version.

Are there other things that you look out for when creating your emails? We’d love to hear, leave us a comment below!