Keep HTML and CSS out of my inbox. Please.

I wholeheartedly agree with what Jeffrey Zeldman says in E-mail is not a platform for design:

But when I say HTML mail still sucks, I don't mean it sucks because support for design in e-mail today is like support for standards in web browsers in 1998.

I mean it sucks because nobody needs it. It impedes rather than aids communication.

HTML e-mail means having to put up with things like:

  • E-mail messages that are designed to look good to the designer or the designer's client, not to you
  • Unreadable text that overrides your preferred font family and size
  • Unreadable plain text alternatives
  • No plain text alternatives at all
  • "If you can't read this message, click here to open it in a web browser."
  • Massive amounts of wasted bandwidth

Before you start comparing e-mail with the Web, noting that there was no design in the early days of the Web, consider that an e-mail message is not a website. E-mail is much more intrusive. It arrives in your inbox when it has been sent, while it is up to you to decide when or if to visit a website. That is a big difference.

Sending me HTML-based e-mail messages without a clearly formatted plain text alternative is like calling me on the phone and refusing to speak clearly. It's as annoying as the phone salespeople who like to call when you're having dinner. It is also a great way of making messages get caught in my spam filters.

And for the record, this is just my personal opinion, which you are free to agree or disagree with. And yes, I know you sometimes just have to do what the client asks for. It doesn't matter. I still want to keep HTML and CSS out of my inbox.

Update (2007-06-12): Jeffrey has posted a follow-up to his article: Eight points for better e-mail relationships.

My favourite is Consider making text mail the default, and HTML mail the optional opt-in.. That would be a very refreshing move, and it would be extremely interesting to find out how many people would actively choose to receive HTML e-mail.

Posted on June 11, 2007 in Rants, (X)HTML, CSS