It’s 2013, why is making HTML emails still the most frustrating thing to do?

January 27th, 2013

If there’s something that should be insanely easy, it’s making an email with a pretty simple HTML layout. But instead we’re forced to code something like it’s 1997 using tables for layout. I’m not asking for full CSS3 support just being able to use things like absolute positioning, floats and background images.

A majority of the audience for the emails I build use Outlook which use Word to render HTML. That’s right, in 2013, Microsoft uses Word to render HTML in emails while telling us how awesome Internet Explorer is now. They claim it’s for security reasons but I’m sure there’s a way to use IE to render the emails while still maintaining good security. I’ll be honest, I have zero idea how any of it works, but I’m sure they can allow HTML and CSS support while blocking JavaScript.

What’s really frustrating is that what’s not supported seems completely random sometimes. The last time I checked, Gmail didn’t support background images and for some reason Yahoo Mail strips out margin from paragraph tags which can completely mess up the layout of even the simplest email.

Of course, this is the reason for all the testing options you get with a service like Mailchimp and there’s also the HTML Email Boilerplate. But if the major email clients just gave us decent HTML and CSS support we wouldn’t need them.

If you don’t have to build HTML emails then you’re a lucky person and those that do it everyday, I don’t envy you (unless you’re getting paid crazy cash for it!). Hopefully, this improves in the future because really all we need is the basic CSS support even IE 7 has. Because I would love to be able to make a basic layout, put into a mass email service and press send.

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