Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Image blocking: what you can do

The other day I received an email which illustrates perfectly the problem of image blocking. Here's how it looked before and after I turned on images:
click here to see the email when images were turned off Default view - click to enlarge

click here to see the email after images were turned on
With images turned on - click to enlarge

To make matters worse there was no ALT text for the images, and the link to the web version actually wasn't a live link.

A number of significant email clients now have images turned off by default: AOL, Googlemail/Gmail, Windows Live Mail, Outlook 2007 and some versions of Outlook Express, to name just a few. In most cases, the recipient is in control and can enable images if he or she wishes to - either on an email-by-email basis or by changing the setting.

So what can you do? As usual, it's damage limitation:

  • Test how your HTML email appears with images turned off
  • Add a text-based link to a web version, at the top of the email
  • Use ALT text for all images
  • Do not use images for important content like headlines and links
  • Ask recipients to add you to their address book

Regarding the last point, don't assume people know how to do this. Usability research suggests that if you give people instructions on how to add addresses to their address book or trusted sender list, it greatly increases uptake (Marketing Sherpa email Benchmark Guide 2007). This might mean setting up a page on your website with basic instructions and screenshots of the major email clients.

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