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What can you tell me about HTML e-mails?



9:36 am on Jan 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I'd like to know about possible uses for HTML emails and if their use to advertise a product can be considered "spamming". I'd also like to know about different
ways to make them. Any other info anyone can give regarding them would be appreciated as well.



9:50 am on Jan 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

well for a start not everyone can receive them. I suppose it's more who you send them to as to whether they'd be considered spam..


9:54 am on Jan 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

The spam element depends on the type of product and how you got the email addresses, not the format of the emails. If people have signed up for your list and you're sending it to them with their permission you should be fine. Just make sure that a link to an unsubscribe page is included, or instructions on how to do so.

Html emails are a great way to showcase prices and products. A couple of tips that might come in handy:

1. Use simple styles. If you go for a complicated stylesheet setup they will be overrided by the email providers' (hotmail, aol, email.com) stylesheet anyway- so it won't end up looking the way it did on your machine for most users. So keep it simple.

2. You can host any images you use on your server or you could embed them in the email. Including them in the email makes the newsletter take up more space and hosting them on your server may bring up bandwidth issues or offline viewing problems. Take your pick, neither way is ideal, although the trend at the moment is towards hosting the images on a server.

3. You'll need some way of tracking the success of the email. Use redirect pages or a unique url for each product, which you can easily pick out of your logs.

4.Make them in pure html. Some peoples mail programes may have problems displaying them anyhow, so don't complicate matters by trying to add dhtml or anything fancy (like flash). Again, keep it simple.

5. Have a comment at the very top of the email (in the html) saying something like "if you can see this then your email program may not display html correctly, please click this link to see the email" With a link to the email on a webpage.

Keep in mind that sometimes html just isn't the way to go. Some target markets (like geeks or webmasters for example) sometimes just don't like html emails and would much prefer a text only email. On the other hand, in some sectors it really works.

Hope that helps.


9:58 am on Jan 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member blobfisk is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Hi webwalker,

In my opinion most HTML emails are spam. They are bandwidth consuming, possibly harmful and plain annoying things that appear in my inbox on regularly! But that's just my personal opinion!

There has been many discussions on HTML emails here before and the general consensus seems to be that a plain text mail with your message and a link to a relative HTML page is the most polite way. It's important to remember that:

  1. many people use email readers that cannot render HTML mail, or they disallow/disable HTML mail (I fall in the disallow HTML category), and
  2. many companies block HTML mail at the firewall level.

This means that your message will never even get through, despite all your work.


10:00 am on Jan 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member chiyo is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

I dont think just because an email is HTML it will be considered SPAM. SPAM to me, is when email is sent to people who havent requested it and are unknown to you personally.

That said, I delete all email formatted in HTML which is not from a "friends" address before they get to my email box automatically. I also dont subscribe to any newsletters that only have a HTML option. I added this filter when i found that not one email sent to me in the previous 6 months which had HTML was of any use. They are also larger in size, and have more potential for containing nasty virus and such.

Personally i find the practice rude as it slows down my downloading, but Im only one in a million i guess. "Normal casual or inexperienced internet users" may accept it more, probably because they dont know how to turn it off or SPAM has not become too big a problem yet.

Though just being in HTML does not mean it is spam, many spammers do use HTML because they think it will have more impact.


10:24 am on Jan 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I used to use HTML emails for proposals to clients, used to get a few problems with them not being able to receive them. I stopped using them when I thought about how much I myself hated receiving them.

I now send power point presentations to Potential Clients in response to an enquiry. I think that emails with a nice header are preferable to heavy html, and enclose attachment for details on our products. As always important to keep files as small as possible


10:54 am on Jan 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I have to agree with edit_g's post. BlobFlisk has some valid points too.

Although bad HTML is often spam and spam is often HTML, emails are not spam just *because* they are HTML. Spam is spam, whether text or HTML.

HTML emails are like websites - they can be good or bad. At the end of the day, it all comes down to the designers experience and the end-user's preferences.

HTML Pros:

On average, HTML emails give 2-4 times higher response rates than text. HTML email is good for branding. You can track open rates. You can display "click here" instead of a long url. They can look good. Lots of others.

HTML Cons:

Larger size = longer download time. Not viewable in all email clients. Often filtered/stripped by corporate networks. They can look bad. Lots of others.


If you decide to send HTML email, keep the total file size less than 25K if possible and don't use javascript or really complex code.

Always send it in multi-part mime format so that text-only email clients display a readable version.

Test everything.


1:47 pm on Jan 15, 2003 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

in terms of how to distribute them, i use eternal mart mailing list manager (www.eternalmart.com) its free, and uses php/mysql so youll need a server that supports this. when you send mail it gives you 2 text areas - one for a plain text version and one for html. it **claims** to be able to determine what format a particular address can recive and send html or text accordingly (my lists are all opt in with the choice of formats at signup so I havent really used this feature and dont really know how its possible :(). overall its pretty good for a freebie.


2:03 pm on Jan 15, 2003 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member txbakers is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

What can I tell you about HTML e-mails?

I absolutely hate them. I usually delete them before they load, even if from family and friends.

They take too long to load and scan through.

They are like junk catagloues.

Give me text - keep it short and simple - if I'm intrigued I'll click the link and get the presentation.

Otherwise, they are spam.


2:07 pm on Jan 15, 2003 (gmt 0)

>HTML emails give 2-4 times higher response rates than text


Is that industry specific or an average?

I always tend to delete emails that have any form of graphic on them.

Also my main email just sends me the HTML which is a bit poor.

I think at the end of the day going opt in with option of format is the best bet.

If they are being used for newsletters, I would go for a short plain text message, with a link to a newsletters page on your site though. More content will build up on your site this way.

Advertising products could be done that way, but not for all though (I assume you are trying to "sell" your recipients).



10:56 am on Jan 16, 2003 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

HTML Emails are a great way to advertise and promote a product/service. As long as you are sending them to people who have agreed to recieve emails from you. As mentioned earlier, always send them in multi-part format with a text alternative. Ive also found it a good practise to use HTML comments right at the top of the html document explaining what it is, and with a link to a copy of it on your own webserver. EG:


Widget Co. Mailout.

If you can see this message it means your email program cannot read HTML email. If you are interested there is a copy located at the following webaddress: [yoururl.com...]


This will alleviate the problem of the (relative minority) who still do not recieve it in a readable format


11:14 am on Jan 16, 2003 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member chiyo is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

>>>HTML emails give 2-4 times higher response rates than text<<

Iid be interested in the source for that too. Ive seem it claimed a lot but i havent seen results of objective tests or surveys. I would also be interested in seeing whether they convert as well (ie. Did they click on the link or reply just because they liked the "look" of the email or were they really as good a prospect than somone who more rationally made the decision?)

I assume that most people that view HTMl emails are at home rather than work, and are relatively new to the internet and havent yet found out how to turn it off or know of the dangers of nasties embedded in fomatted/HTML emails.

So not disagrreing, but would like to see the evidence!


11:41 am on Jan 16, 2003 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Chiyo, I'v never worked anywhere in the UK that blocks HTML emails, and I have worked a lot of different companies. Some companies internal communication now also uses HTML email, the firewall issues are attachments and scripts.

They load fine on broadband, but then a lot of people use dial ups at home still, connect-download email-disconnect.

This causes a problem, when you open them it will try to re-connect. I am told by friends that this is very annoying :) - the HTML email obviously gets the blame.


12:48 pm on Jan 16, 2003 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member chiyo is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

>>I am told by friends that this is very annoying - the HTML email obviously gets the blame.<<

Of course they should get the blame, emails are best read off line, especially of you are on a dial up, or away from a connection etc etc.

Graphics and pretty formatting have a place, and thats on the web.

As i said before, I can't and dont want to force people not to use HTML for emails, its just that i dont read 'em. Each to his own. And my advice is that there are others like me.


12:48 pm on Jan 16, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

JOAT - if you see the HTML code in your browser, the person sending you the email is unlikely to be sending it in multi-part format. I'm not surprised you dislike HTML when the sender doesn't know how to format it correctly!

The stats I mentioned before relate to some of my client's campaigns. If it's done properly, HTML email really does work.

In terms of *proof* of better response rates for HTML, the doubleclick report is probably the most readily available. Note that their report relates to B2C, *not* B2B (which is a completely different kettle of fish).

"Consumers respond better to Html than text. Html generates response rates overall 1.4 times and up to 1.7 times higher than text for all industry categories."

"Overall click-through rate for industry text emails was 7.1%, while Html was 10.0%."

"Html performed markedly better for most industry categories and increased performance."



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