We have a large client that has multiple agencies producing HTML emails for them (we are one of them). I am always educating our designers, holding them back in some instances (avoiding complex layout, custom fonts, background images etc) so that I can recreate as much of their designs using text and images as opposed to just images (as well as minimising the time needed to produce the HTML).
Today we got one of our competitors emails and it was all images apart from a top nav and a bunch of disclaimer text and I know that the client will be asking why we can't make ours so lavishly designed.
I know the reasons why not to create image only emails (as well as accessibility issues) but is there a rough idea of what is a good balance?
Thought I'd bring this in here rather than twitter.
The only answer is "test it". There are no universal rules of what works best.
The boringly predicatable response is that they hire you because you have the answers, but they don't. They hire you because you have the way to get to the right answers for THEIR particular business. You're a taxi, not a teleport.
I've been running commercial emails since 1995 and seen tests go both ways for different clients, and the more I try to predict, the more I realise I'm not an average user. I had one today that had virtually no difference in clicks, but I can see a difference in the margin reports on the ecommerce site, and not what you'd think.
More often than not it's the email that makes sense with no images that does better, but that's true maybe 7 times out of 10. Not enough to call it a hard rule.
Get your clients testing. It'll improve their business as well as yours.
I don't know what a good balance is, but I agree that image heavy emails are not the best way to go. Essentially, you have about 70% of your audience with image switched off by default. Assuming they use Outlook, which is around 80% of the market, your ALT text won't even work properly.
In saying that, email needs images, otherwise they would look boring and your recipients won't open them. But you need to back up the images with good copy that allows the email to be used effectively, even if the images fail. For instance, your masthead that includes the branding and company name could be disabled by the client, but this circumvented if the Subject Line, From Field and Pre Header are used properly.
My only other recommendation is that anything that can be clicked that delivers revenue should be text, or have a text back up. Add to Cart links especially should be text.
When I get questioned on this, I always send this article through:
Thanks for the advice guys. I'm assuming that there major accessibility issues with image only/heavy emails? I know alt text will help but surely won't be able to compensate for live text?
Hi mikeebee, the problem is that ALT text doesn't always display in email clients - check out this post for the skinny. Nothing beats web text - having a good ratio of text-to-images also makes your email look less spammy to filters, too.