Microsoft makes accessible and standards compliant HTML email impossible
I’m sure most people have already heard that Microsoft Breaks HTML Email Rendering in Outlook 2007, and in doing so takes email design back 5 years. If you haven’t read those articles, what’s going on is that Microsoft has decided to use Word to render HTML in Outlook 2007. And comparing the CSS support of Word to that of Internet Explorer (which is what Outlook used to use) is like comparing IE 4 to Firefox 2. In other words, it is really lousy.
HTML email, when created by people who know what they are doing, was heading in the right direction with regards to semantics and Web standards. But Microsoft just made anything but the simplest designs impossible to achieve without resorting to really dirty, old-school tricks. Well, they didn’t really do that, but because of Outlook’s huge market share that is the practical result of their decision.
It’s a fascinating move by Microsoft, and I can’t help asking myself a few questions. Why does Microsoft seemingly hate everybody who works in the Web industry so much? Why does Microsoft keep coming up with new ways of making our jobs harder? Is it because the Web makes it possible to run applications on any operating system? Because many Web designers and developers use Macs? Whatever the reason, it sure isn’t going to make them any new friends among Web professionals.
One thing that strikes me while reading the comments on the two articles I just mentioned is the condescending attitude held by the HTML email apologists, insinuating that anyone who does not have to design HTML email does not have a real job. Grow up, please? The same goes for the anti-HTML email mob. I hate HTML email too, but the sad reality is that many clients cannot be talked out of using it for marketing.
I know for sure that I will not even attempt to create any more HTML emails. Next time a client requests it I will try to convince them to use text-only, and if that fails let somebody who does nothing but design HTML email take care of the dirty work. I’m done.
A couple of tips to anyone that is forced to create and send HTML emails:
- Offer a text only alternative when signing up
- Use multipart email
Doing so will give people who prefer text based email a reason to stay subscribed. Thanks.
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