Building beautiful HTML email templates is challenging because, unlike web pages, the factors like screen size and email client affect the render ability of messages. For web pages, the parameters are limited to browser, operating system, device type, while every inbox provider uses its unique rendering engine, much to the dismay of email developers.
Today, I will share a few design hacks to ensure flawless email rendering to address this common concern. These tips are based on my experience of working with various email clients and the points of commonality between them. If you are looking for insider hacks on getting the best rendering, read this article ahead.
Why Rendering Issues Occur In Emails
As I mentioned earlier, the absence of a common guideline structure often confuses email developers regarding how their emails will look in different environments. The rendering engines differ from one email client to another, thus jeopardizing the render ability. For instance, MS Outlook uses the MS Word as the rendering engine on Windows desktops, but it supports rendering of any CSS/HTML code in Mac OS. In the below image, you can find the top email clients list for the year 2019. This explains why render ability concerns require proper attention:
Similarly, device types also vary drastically:
Keep Screen Size Considerations In Mind While Designing Email Templates
Screen size considerations play an important role in defining the rendered ability of an email. Using grid-based layers is a great way of keeping the design simple and accessible to all email clients. HTML floats and defined positioning of elements will make your design complicated to understand. While you can use fluid HTML email design, the results aren’t as good as responsive HTML email templates. The use of CSS3 and the ability to display content blocks as per screen size make them the first choice for good rendering qualities. It would be best if you used table tags for optimizing your messages to meet the rendering criteria of MS Outlook. Keeping a tab on such small points will improve your visibility by leaps and bounds.
Use Mobile-First Email Design Approach
Adopt the mobile-first approach while designing. Mobile-friendly responsive HTML email templates are a must if you want your messages to render properly on smartphones. As the number of individuals using mobile phones increases, mobile-friendly emails will become the norm. Using them is a must for smooth rendering in all user devices. You should use single-column email templates instead of multi-column ones. This makes navigation easier on smartphones, and it also helps build a visual hierarchy.
Play The Image Game Smartly
While using images in your messages, you need to ensure a few things. First of all, some email clients block all images by default, and users with connectivity troubles also turn them off. This is a clear indication that you should not rely heavily on images. Ensure that you include proper header text in your messages so that if the image isn’t rendered; the user can still make sense of your message. It is ideal for maintaining a text to image ratio of 80:20 to avoid getting marked as ‘spam’ by mailbox clients. Also, under no conditions should you use only an image as the entire message. This is a fraudulent practice committed for phishing and pushing malware. Also, don’t use images as CTAs to avoid these risks.
Be Selective With Fonts And Typefaces
You can stick to a font size of 22 pixels for headers while 13-14 pixels work the best for the body. I recommend using web-safe typefaces as much as possible. All email clients don’t support custom fonts, and thus, you should avoid them. For rendering safety, you should use fallback fonts to display your message properly, even if the mailbox provider doesn’t support the font of your choice. Although most email developers aren’t fans of using fonts like Georgia, Verdana, Times New Roman, and Arial, I find them a much smarter move.
Design Your Messages With Functional Value In Mind
A lot of render ability issues are rooted in dysfunctional elements. For instance, having a smaller call to action buttons or inadequate pending will make it harder for readers to interact with your message. To avoid such problems, use at least 50px large CTAs and ensure that average padding of 15px is available throughout the template. This helps your message render decently across all email clients and screen sizes.
Coming towards the end, I would like to emphasize on testing how your emails render. Litmus and Email On Acid are some tools that allow you to test the rendering of messages. Sending to real devices should also be on your list as it is one of the industry’s best practices.
Acquiring subscribers for your email list and putting advanced features to improve your email marketing game would go in vain if the message doesn’t render. If you follow the tips mentioned above, you will get great renderability, and you need not miss out on any subscriber. I hope you find these actionable hacks useful for designing your emails for future campaigns.