The Email Standards Project launches

It’s no secret to regular readers that I am not a fan of HTML email. For me it gets in the way of the actual message, and, in the all-too-common scenario when an HTML email is not accompanied by a plain-text version, leads to me indiscriminately deleting email without reading it. Most of the HTML email I get is spam anyway, so I doubt I’m missing much.

Regardless of my personal feelings about HTML email, it isn’t going anywhere. And so it would be good to at least enable those who insist on sending HTML email to use web standards by improving support for standards in email clients. It would help everybody if HTML emails could be built with semantic HTML and styled with external CSS. It could actually make me appreciate them.

So despite my dislike of HTML email I think it’s a great step forward that The Email Standards Project has now been launched. Perhaps the most important feature of the site is the acid test for email clients, along with a list of standards support in popular clients. It is not surprising to see Lotus Notes and Outlook 2007 getting a "poor" grade, but perhaps a little more so to note that Gmail is also in need of an upgrade. Badly.

Coinciding with the launch of the Email Standards Project is the publication of Ensuring your html emails look great and get delivered, an article in which David Greiner explains what you need to do if you want your HTML email to work in current email clients. It’s disheartening reading.

Even more importantly though, he talks about what you should do to ensure that the messages you are sending actually make it to their recipients without getting classified as spam. Apparently it is becoming more common for legitimate email to get caught in various spam filters. Having permission so send emails to someone is no guarantee that it will reach them.

Great initiative, and a very informative article. That said, I think I’ll stick to building websites and let others deal with the massive amount of gotchas involved in email marketing.

Posted on December 5, 2007 in Web Standards