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The 9 most common email coding problems explained

“If someone can’t find the unsubscribe link, not only can you get into a lot of trouble with the law - but your contacts might end up clicking the ‘report spam’ button in their email client instead. Having someone unsubscribe from your newsletter isn’t the end of the world - having multiple people report you for spam can be a real problem.”

Email marketing has become a staple in the tool belt of marketing strategy, and along with the necessity for eDM (electronic direct marketing) comes a myriad of software, built to assist you in creating beautiful emails with ease and grace.

But they're not always all they're cracked up to be, and setting up newsletter templates is not always as easy as it seems.

Here are some answers to the 9 most common html email coding problems:

#1 Why aren't some of my images rendering?

Most browsers and apps will not render your images if there are spaces in the image path - or in other words, in the URL. What folder have you stored the image in? If there are any spaces whatsoever, in the folder or in the file name, your images will not push through to the recipient's server.

After inserting an image into an email, you might notice that the marketing platform you're using will auto-correct the URL from:

http://www.indietech.com.au/email templates/flying cookies.jpg to http://www.indietech.com.au/email%20templates/flying%20cookies.jpg

That is, unfortunately, not going to solve the problem. You'll need to jump back in and rename your folders and file names to something like this:


Note the dashes in place of the spaces? Problem solved! You'll also want to make sure you using the full path - that is, make sure that the image path is:


And not:


This isn't always a problem, depending on the recipients email client - but it's a precaution worth taking.

#2 Why are ALL of my images not showing?

Occasionally, if an email is very image heavy - your email client will block images.

Scroll up to the top - is the client telling you that you need to enable images in order to view the email? Select 'Enable Images' (or the equivalent) and you're good to go.

If your email is too image heavy, with very minimal text - this 'image block' feature might activate even if your default settings are to always enable images.

#3 My fonts aren't displaying correctly.

It's important to note that even though there are a wide range of fonts out there, an email client is very restrictive in what it may or may not render - based on the contact's own computer. It's important to stick to web standard fonts.

If the font you are using isn't installed on the recipient's computer, it will fall back to a standard font - and if you haven't specified your fallback font, you won't even have any control over what your backup looks like!

Play it safe, always use a web standard font, with a standard font family backup. A block of text therefor might look something like this:

it's important to stick to web standard fonts.

#4 I've embedded a video, and it won't appear.

It would be amazing if it were an option to embed a video in an email.

There was a time when this was possible, however due to the rising prevalence of spam, the restrictions became tighter and now video is generally not supported as well as it should be.

There are some clients out there that will render videos, but they are few and far between. Those that do, don't do it very well.

The easy answer is to avoid it all together. It's not worth the risk of having half your database seeing a big blank area in your email, just so the 25% of your database that use Apple Mail or Outlook(.com) can watch a nifty video with ease.

What's the solution? There are a few different options. The best one of course, is to take a screenshot of your video and place that in your email, with a click-through to the actual video itself - preferably sitting on your website. You don't want people going directly to Youtube to watch a video when they could be going to your website.

If you have a Graphic Designer on hand, they can really make something special out of the image that's a little more eye-catching than just a screenshot.

The other option, if you're handy with Adobe, is to create a short GIF of your video that, again, links through to your website where the full video can be watched.

You have to be careful with this one, though. GIF's can be quite heavy in terms of file size, and reducing the quality to optimise load time can decrease the overall look of your email. Not to mention the fact that some versions of Outlook will only display the first frame of your GIF anyway.

Better make that a great first frame!

#5 I added a new column or row of text, and it's not coming up how I expected.

Are you making adjustments in the 'design' editor, instead of in the HTML? This could be the problem.

As scary as the HTML can be, it's always best to work in it over the design - unless you're using an email marketing platform like Mailchimp, Constant Contact, Active Campaign or Campaign Monitor - which are great but are restrictive in their design choices. Try this out:

Copy your current template, and have a look at the code. Now, jump back to the 'design' editor and copy and paste some text in from a word document, or from a website. Now jump back to the code. Do you see the difference? What you're probably seeing now is a lot of long and confusing <div>  and <span> tags, with many parameters.

And if you don't know what you're doing, when you want to get tricky, sometimes it's best to leave it to the experts.

#6 I sent out my email and a lot of people are writing back to tell me telling me that it looked a bit strange.

We can't stress enough how important it is to always send yourself tests before you send out to your list. This is the number 1 essential thing to do, all through the coding process.

Sometimes at Indietech we see emails coming from companies or mailing lists that we've subscribed to with all kinds of problems in them, and we wonder to ourselves "why didn't they send themselves a test before sending this out?"

There are some great websites out there like Litmus or Email on Acid that will even test out your email on a variety of apps, browsers and email clients for you - so you can really see where you need to improve.

#7 How do I avoid being marked as spam?

There are a few things that set off the spam-alarms with email clients that are really worth avoiding. Using ALL CAPS and red text can be an emails downfall. Sentences like "GET THIS GREAT DEAL NOW" and "LIMITED TIME ONLY" can be tricky - because they are spam-triggers, but sometimes necessary for the email. It's a good idea to keep emails that contain phrases like that to a minimum and only use for special occasions!

You also will want to make sure that you're not sending out emails that are just an image. Not only will some people not be able to read it with the images disabled, but also it's a common spam-trigger because the email client is unable to analyse the content for spam-like words and phrases.

It's worth noting that if you're dead-set on making an image heavy email but including the text content of the image in the ALT section of your image - this isn't even foolproof. Many versions of Outlook will slap on a 'security message' in front of your ALT text, and clients like Gmail, Yahoo and Apple Mail won't display your ALT text if it's longer in width than the image itself.

#8 I'm trying to remove the 'unsubscribe' button, but when I test my email - the unsubscribe link is slapped on automatically, and it's not styled.

Don't be that guy. Don't try and hide the option to unsubscribe.

Under the Australian Spam Act 2003, every form of electronic message is required to have an unsubscribe option.

Most email systems will put it in automatically if you don't include it yourself, so it's absolutely 100% imperative that you include an unsubscribe link.

Oh - and trying to hide it by changing the font colour to blend in with the background is also a huge no-no. If someone can't find the unsubscribe link, not only can you get into a lot of trouble with the law - but your contacts might end up clicking the 'report spam' button in their email client instead. Having someone unsubscribe from your newsletter isn't the end of the world - having multiple people report you for spam can be a real problem.

Note: did you know that you're also required to have an 'unsubscribe' option on text messages as well? If you're using an SMS system, make sure your 'reply-to' number is functional and the unsubscribe function is obvious.

For example: "We have a sale, tomorrow only! 15% off flying cookies. To opt-out, reply NO"

It's also imperative that you include your company's details in your email, including your postal address, phone number and email. You can do this just be including a simple footer in your email featuring your contact details, and a link to unsubscribe. By putting these details directly into your template, you'll never have to touch it again. Easy!

#9 Some newsletters I get change when I open them on my mobile. The text is bigger and easier to read, and the images have resized. How do I do that?

This is the future of email marketing.

Responsive email templates (templates that adjust to the size of your screen) are the cream of the crop of email marketing. You'll notice that some email marketing platforms are already offering this option in their pre-configured templates. What this means is that their templates are also very restrictive in what you can add/remove in terms of the format, because the platform has to make sure your content is not going to mess with the very carefully constructed responsive code that lives in the background of their drag-and-drop templates.

Not all email clients support responsive design.

Some versions of Android, Blackberry and Microsoft Phone's won't render out the media queries you use to make your email responsive. Some email clients won't either, like the Gmail mobile app and the Yahoo Mail mobile app. Instead, they'll see the full email as it was designed for the desktop. That's okay, that's what they would have seen had you not made your email responsive anyway.

But for those that that have devices that do support responsive design - what they will see is worth the extra time spent on making the email responsive. Clean, easy to read, with no zooming and panning required. This is the future of email coding, and it won't be long before responsive design is supported on all platforms.

If you're savvy with responsive coding like us folks over here at Indietech, the customisation options for your responsive email template are endless.

If you need help with any of your email marketing needs, don't be afraid to contact us on (03) 9008 6116.

The 9 most common coding problemsEmail marketing - common problems

Indietech blog article author - Digital Marketing and Web Design insights
Noted by Lucy Clarke

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