Help improve support for Web Standards in HTML email

I absolutely hate HTML email. I hate receiving it, I hate sending it. And there is no way you can make me actually create an HTML email message that displays well in all email clients.

But many other people want to use HTML in email. Some people even like receiving HTML email. And most email clients are configured by default to display HTML email and use HTML to format messages. So no matter how much I hate HTML email, it isn't going away. Unfortunately.

I still don't do HTML email though. As long as support for Web Standards in email clients is as crappy and unpredictable as it currently is, well I'm sorry, but I'm not going back to nested layout tables and spacer GIFs just to create an email. Until the situation improves I'm happy to hand over the job of creating HTML email to somebody else.

So how can we make the situation improve? Probably not by arguing about how much better plain text is. What we need is to somehow make email client vendors improve support for Web Standards (most notably CSS) in their applications. There are different ways of doing that. One is to keep complaining, which probably won't work. Another way, which I think has at least some chance of actually working, is to help email client vendors.

And that's why I think Dave Greiner's article Why we need standards support in HTML email is really important. In the article Dave explains the current problems with standards support in email clients and how it has become worse lately.

He then goes on to mention that he and the others at Campaign Monitor are working on a site that will help email client vendors by looking at the following areas:

  • Establishing a baseline of what standards we need supported in email
  • Document the important changes each of the major email client manufacturers need to make in order to support web and related standards
  • Create a simple acid test that makes it easy to see if an email client supports this baseline

It's kind of like The Web Standards Project, but for HTML email. Sounds like an excellent idea. I hope this effort pays off and that we can look forward to the much needed improved support for Web Standards in email clients.

Posted on September 11, 2007 in Web Standards