Sending plain text email is better for users and branding

One of the most important and valuable marketing opportunities for any company is management of proper email campaigns. We’ve covered bulk email management and discussed how and when to capture email addresses from current and prospective customers. Following last month’s article on the importance of setting your email client to read messages using plain text, today we’re going to examine why you should market using plain text email.

User preference
Users are realizing the dangers of reading email as HTML. More and more users are switching off that functionality, and we couldn’t agree more. When an HTML email is sent to a client that reads email in plain text, it has the potential to look garbled. The user then has to decide if he or she wants to switch on the HTML view to see the message formatted in a readable way. The smart assumption is that this decision isn’t going to be made often, especially for solicitation email. Because most solicitation email is sent as HTML, users are more likely to spend more time reading emails that are sent as plain text.

Spam filters
Email sent as HTML is more likely to be caught by spam filters. An article called Get My Email Out of That Spam Filter from http://www.jsbwebdesign.com states the following.

Avoid high graphics and html emails as they send up a flare to the spam filter to look closer… By staying on top of why spam filters isolate certain emails and not others, you are thinking ahead and outsmarting the spam software so your customers and you can use the powerful tool of email to do business.

Email sent as plain text is much more likely to actually make it to the inbox of the recipient.

Photo of Peek Email Device
Image via Wikipedia

Mobile devices
Mobile devices have become quite popular. As the number of smart phones begins to dwarf all others, the more active population will be reading more and more email away from their computers. Most mobile devices don’t even try to render HTML email, and those that do try to do so render it poorly. Sending HTML email

Accessibility
One of the cornerstones of a competent web presence is consistency of message. The reason we use web standards to build fixed-width websites is so that our sites look the same on every browser. For this same reason, we should want our email to look the same to ever customer. Jan Meyer, on fixmypages.com, writes the following.

HTML email may look wonderful on your computer, but on the recipient’s computer it could look very bad and be unreadable. Most HTML email writers add in font types and sizes to the message. Differences between your system and the recipient’s system can change the layout, font type and size of the message the recipient sees. This means your carefully constructed HTML email masterpiece looks nothing like you think it does on the recipient’s system.

Also for accessibility reasons, we should avoid sending email as both HTML and plain text. A multi-part email message has both an HTML and a plain text version in the same container. This method is going against message consistency, as it assumes that some users will get one message and some won’t, and it also needlessly increases the size of the message.

Branding
Using HTML email tracking systems is very bad from a branding perspective. A proper marketing campaign should drive traffic directly to your website by promoting your website address. Email tracking systems use redirects to first count clicks before sending traffic to your website. Users reading your email as plain text will see these tracking links rather than a link to your website. Because most email clients highlight and activate links in plain text messages, these long tracking links will stand out to the user, highlighting that you’re trying to track his actions. The user may have clicked on the link that looks like http://www.abcauction.com won’t click on a link that looks like http://abcauction.mailtrack.com/?id=01928369872364U49854. Using HTML email doesn’t promote your brand, it confuses it.

Summary
When deciding how to conduct an email marketing campaign, you’re much better off opting to send that email as text. Your users will appreciate that you understand that HTML is for the web and text is for email. More users will be able to read it, both because fewer messages will be blocked by spam filters as well as because mobile devices will display the message properly. Everyone will see the same message, and your website and brand will be properly promoted.

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Aaron Traffas, CAI, ATS, CES

twitter.com/traffas | aarontraffas.com | aarontraffasband.com

Aaron Traffas, CAI, AMM, CES, is an auctioneer from Medicine Lodge, Kansas. He is currently community evangelist for Purple Wave in Manhattan, Kansas. Aaron serves as the current president of the Kansas Auctioneers Association and in the past has served on the National Auctioneers Association Education Institute Board of Trustees. He is a past instructor at CAI and co-wrote and instructed the ATS designation course from NAA. He currently instructs the Internet Auction Methods course offered by the NAA. An active contract bid caller, he has competed in multiple state auctioneer contests including placing twice within the top 5 in Kansas. During the summer, Aaron operates a farm in south central Kansas. Aaron is an active singer and songwriter and the Aaron Traffas Band's latest release, Enter: The Wind, can be found at iTunes, Amazon and Spotify.