A Plain Text User’s Guide to HTML Email
By Amanda Gagnon May 20, 2010
HTML and plain text each have their place as email formats. Plain text has a no-nonsense, businesslike air, and is simple to create. HTML grabs attention with colors and images. It lets companies incorporate logos and display data with graphics.
HTML and plain text each have their place as email formats.
Plain text has a no-nonsense, businesslike air, and is simple to create. HTML grabs attention with colors and images. It lets companies incorporate logos and display data with graphics.
Sometimes, though, plain text is used by marketers who would prefer the gloss of HTML, but aren’t sure how to create it. The good news is, many email marketing services provide pre-designed HTML email templates that make the switch practically painless.
Of course, there are still a few things to learn. If you’re new to HTML email, follow these tips for polished, professional messages.
Remove Dummy Text
If you are using a template, make sure to take out any dummy text. This text is usually meaningless, included only to suggest how you may want to lay out your content.
Dummy text in your emails is likely to confuse subscribers, so make sure to replace or delete it!
Create Links Carefully
HTML email lets your readers simply click on links to open new pages instead of copying URLs into new windows. Take advantage of this benefit by making sure to create the links properly.
If you use AWeber, just highlight the text you want to become clickable, click the link button and paste in the URL of your destination page.
Tip: If you’re tracking clicks, don’t use the actual URL as the text of the link, or your message could be mistaken for email phishing.
Link to the Web Version
A link to the web version of your email can help readers who have trouble viewing your messages. If an email appears incorrectly or subscribers are too wary to let images display in their inboxes, all is not lost.
Put a link at the top of your email, where distressed openers will see it right away. In AWeber accounts, use the “Direct Link” from the broadcast archive.
Otherwise, just save the image as a page on your web site and use the resulting URL.
Design for Images Turned Off
Make sure your message is comprehensible without images.
Many email clients don’t display images by default. Subscribers who don’t change these settings won’t see your pictures and graphics, so make sure you:
- don’t display important information as an image
- don’t rely on a background picture to make text readable.
- do include ALT text. This is alternative text that describes images when they aren’t displayed.
Test in Different ISPs
Don’t Forget Plain Text
Although creating your messages in HTML opens up all sorts of creative, organizational and branding possibilities, it’s not a good idea to abandon plain text altogether.
Then if an ISP can’t display your HTML email, it will revert to the plain text version and your message will still be delivered.
Your Plain Text-to-HTML Concerns
Have you made the switch from plain text to HTML?
If so, what were the trickiest bits for you to learn?
If you want to switch but haven’t yet, what concerns are holding you back?