Does the state of email design stink?

Here’s an interesting article arguing that the state of email design stinks. It’s no secret that creating web-page-like HTML emails is a pretty miserable task—with layouts only possible with 1990-style tables, really poor support for CSS etc.

I found myself agreeing throughout the article—until I started to wonder if we really need all this fancy HTML/CSS support anyway? Granted, it seems just plain silly that proper HTML and CSS are so poorly supported in email clients. But rather than this being a prompt to devise myriad tricks and hacks—as the article describes—would it not be better to go back to a simpler form of email that just presents interesting information? Do we need all the fancy design? Do we need all the latest HTML? Aren’t a few heading tags etc. enough?

Some of my favorite emails—such as Versioning—are just plain text. Nice and simple, easy to read and to the point. I don’t know if there’s any research that demonstrates the extra value of fancy design layouts for email, but perhaps we should be focusing on what email is really good at—which is to provide an excellent medium for communicating information.

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I suppose I can kind of understand that companies especially, want to replicate their website in your inbox - Nespresso is one that comes to mind, and they seem to pull it off quite well.

In the main though, if you want to send me email, all I really need is well structured, well written, English. Versioning is a good example of that for email.

As an aside, any images appearing in email are not downloaded automatically at work, so I am quite used to seeing emails with an endless series of red 'x’s unless I right-click on them and choose to download them.

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The same goes for me; why do I want to download a load of images etc. that I did not ask for?

I totally agree with you in that emails should be plain text. HTML emails are nice but in all honesty they aren’t really needed when you consider an email is just a text message anyway.

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