2. Email HTML Coding Guidelines:

a. HTML Coding Do’s

  • Code HTML emails as a single Web page with the basic <HTML>, <HEAD>, <TITLE>, and <BODY> tags.
  • Code emails by hand where possible, as WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editors typically add extra code that creates havoc with certain email clients. If you must use an editor, use Dreamweaver or Homesite, which do not add extra code to the design process.
  • Use HTML tables for the design layout.
  • Keep emails at a fixed width of between 500-620 pixels wide.
  • Instead of defining percentage widths use fixed widths. While this is not optimal, because people can and do resize their email windows when reading, sometimes using a fixed width is the only way for a layout to display properly in multiple email software.
  • Use only the ASCII character set. More advanced word-processing software often inserts odd characters, such as the trailing dot characters or smart quotes (curly instead of straight), which can hamper display or create delivery problems in some email software.
  • If you use CSS, include inline styles. Do not link to an external style sheet nor use embedded styles, as this code is often stripped out by email clients, creating display problems.
  • Make sure all tags have supporting closing tags. The most common HTML errors come from not having a closing </FONT> tag or having open <TD> or <TR> tags in the HTML. While your HTML might render properly in a browser, these errors can cause problems with many email clients.
  • Use the HTML table attributes within the TABLE and TD tags.
  • For example: to set the table border=0, valign=top, align=left (or center, if that is the design), cellpadding=0, cellspacing=0, and so on. This primarily helps older email readers to display the html email in a minimally-acceptable way.
  • Put general font style information in the table TD or DIV or P tags closest to the content. This can mean repetitive style declarations in multiple TD cells or DIV’s or P tag. Put font style definitions into heading (e.g. H1, H2), P, or A tags only when necessary.
  • Use DIVs sparingly to float small boxes of content and links to the right or left inside a table TD cell. Google Mail appears to ignore the CSS Float property but Yahoo! and Hotmail work fine. Outlook 2007 ignores floats.
  • Sometimes it is better to code a more complex table layout than rely on the Float property. Since email is easy to clutter, ask that the design put the floated content in the narrow side column. Floats are the one part of an email design that might require the design be reworked.
  • Animated GIF files are acceptable, but use them sparingly.
  • Use of images maps is acceptable.
  • If there is a spacing issue with the columns in the email design, first tweak the cellpadding and cellspacing attributes of the HTML tables. If that does not work, use CSS margin and padding attributes. HTML spacing works better with older email software than spacing with CSS.
  • If an image is cut up and spread across several HTML table cells, test the email with many test accounts. Sometimes it looks great in Outlook but shifts by 1 pixel or more in Hotmail and other services. Also consider putting the image as a background image on a new html table that encases all the table rows and columns that would display parts of your background image. sometimes this achieves the same effect as cutting an image up but with less code and better results.

 

Note that Outlook 2007 does not display background images. Be sure to test your email code with your target email client software.

  • If you use background images, use the HTML table attribute background= instead of CSS. It works more consistently across email software except Outlook. Define appropriate bgcolor for the TD’s so that the color is displayed when the images are blocked.
  • Be sure all your images use the alt tags, height, and width parameters. This helps with Google Mail as well as when a reader has their images turned off. However, Outlook 2007 does not recognize the alt= parameter.
  • Use the target=”_blank” attribute for the HTML A tags so that people reading with a webmail service don’t have the requested page appear within their webmail interface.
  • Avoid a big image above the fold in the email. This is another classic spammer practice and can increase the likelihood an email will be tagged as spam.
  • Make sure your email content displays fine without images.

For example: if you use a background image to provide a background color with white font color over it, make sure the default background color for that part of the HTML table is dark, not white. Also be sure your alt=, height=, and width= parameters are set for images so they can help readers understand your content without images. Turning off your images will help you catch these issues and ensure the HTML email will display effectively if people see your email with images off.

  • Test your HTML code. Make sure your code conforms to World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) HTML standards
  • When sending a multi-part message, remember to create the text version. Most email clients send HTML as a multi-part alternative by default. Failing to include the text part of the message can cause some filters to treat your email as spam.

 

b. HTML Coding don’ts

  • HTML should not contain any JavaScript or any other script embedded in it. Some email clients do not support JavaScript, and others view it as a security risk.
  • Avoid using CSS for positioning. The support is very limited and will, more than likely, result in a broken layout for most of your recipients.
  • Avoid nested tables if possible. Some email clients, especially Lotus Notes and Netscape Messenger, might not render them correctly.
  • Do not use canvas background images. Most email clients do not display canvas background images. Background images for individual table cells are generally acceptable but might not appear in some clients such as Lotus Notes.
  • Do not apply attributes to the <BODY> tag. Attributes placed in the <BODY> tag are often flagged by spam filters and increase the likelihood of your message getting bulked or blocked.
  • With multiple embedded images, which also might cause the email to be blocked
  • Do not use EMBED tags.
  • Avoid embedding forms, such as surveys, into emails. Some email clients such as Hotmail might not pass the data through to the collection point. Instead, link to a Web form through which the recipient can complete the survey.

 

 

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