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Not your ordinary html email tips

(Original site: Original date: September 9, 2004)

Now that the world is overrun with html email and some of you are probably in charge of building out those emails, I pulled together some of the not-so-ordinary html email tips that I find helpful and use everyday. The following tips are just a slice of what needs to be considered when designing and building html emails, but important nonetheless.

Nothing in the head tag is safe.

The majority of us love to use CSS to build our sites due to the flexibility and ease of use. In the html email world CSS is not the easiest thing to use, but still very valuable. Most email clients such as AOL, Hotmail, MSN, and Yahoo tend to strip the head tag out an html emails and only use what is in the body tag. If you put CSS in the head tag, there is a good chance that your email will not look how you intended. Any external style sheets will also be removed, for they are also located in the head tag. Inline is the only surefire way to ensure that your styles get used. Using your styles inline is tedious, but much more reliable.

Watch your filesize

According to a recent article from Cheetahmail, when designing an html email, a realistic filesize goal to adhere to is 45k. A good estimate is that it takes 2 seconds to download 10k on a 56k modem (on the safe side). So a 30k email will be downloaded in 6 seconds and a 45k email in 9 seconds. As the world slowly moves towards high-speed connections, 56k users still make up a large portion of online users. You get the picture, the smaller the better.

Physical size guidelines

The width of an email should stay below 600 pixels (per Cheetahmail). This will allow for AOL, Hotmail, and MSN’s navigation bars to have ample room while still displaying all of the email. As we all know the height of an email will vary, but be aware of the preview pane. After much testing on my part, on average a preview pane is about 300px in height. This is the most important part of the email, for this is where you need to make your first impression and entice the recipient to click.

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