Finally, somebody is doing something about the sad state of HTML email rendering. It really shouldn’t be this hard.
It’s about time. Literally. After a few years doing email marketing — a year of which was spent in the trenches at an email marketing service provider — I’ve spent a lot of time trying to get HTML emails to render properly in all of the different email clients. Every time I code an email template, it has to be tested in up to 19 different email clients. That’s right — nineteen. Don’t believe me? Here’s a list:
- AOL 9
- AOL Webmail
- Apple Mail
- Comcast Webmail
- Earthlink Webmail
- Lotus Notes
- MSN Hotmail
- Outlook 2003
- Outlook 2007
- Outlook Express 6
- Outlook XP
- Windows Live Hotmail
- Windows Mail
- Yahoo! Classic
- Yahoo! Mail
Each and every one of those email clients renders HTML emails in a different way. Some support embedded CSS, some support inline CSS, some only support a few CSS attributes, and some don’t support CSS at all. A few them actually change your code a bit, and that causes even more problems.
To make it even more exciting, someone decided that the all-new Outlook 2007 shouldn’t use Internet Explorer’s HTML engine any more. For some reason, in their infinite wisdom, they thought it would be better to use the craptastic HTML capabilities of Microsoft Word to display your carefully crafted emails. Seriously? Of course, with a guy like this in charge, I’m not at all surprised.
Finally, mere weeks ago, along came the Email Standards Project.
These guys are working really hard to improve web standards and accessibility in email. Here is what they say:
Our goal is to help designers understand why web standards are so important for email, while working with email client developers to ensure that emails render consistently. This is a community effort to improve the email experience for both designers and readers alike.
Like I said, it’s about time. If this project is successful, then eventually, email clients will start to render things in a more consistent manner. No more long hours will be spent testing and retesting. (Well, at least not quite as many, because you still need to test before sending.) Life will be easier for designers, and the email experience will be better for readers. That will be a truly glorious day.
Thanks to the fine folks at FreshView as well as Mark Wyner andLuke Stevens for getting the Email Standards Project off the ground. I’m looking forward to great things, and I’m more than happy to throw my support behind these guys.
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