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Whilst websites adapt every day to be as accessible and usable as possible, email hasn’t quite benefited from the same level of attention in this area. Instead, marketers have frequently chosen to ignore these developments in all other areas online and continue to do things the way they always have.
Email as a marketing channel is being creatively abused like no other, and it is time for change.
As email marketers, we have a responsibility for compliance, just like websites. It is no longer acceptable to deliver wholly image-based emails to inboxes. It is in our best interest to be as 'best practice' as we can, because it does have a direct correlation with improved performance.
I want to take you through a couple of examples and show you what I mean.
Firstly, here is the latest email I received from Easyjet:
On the whole, I applaud Easyjet for making the most of every text area in their emails. Everything that can be text, is text. This means that users with screen readers or users that have images switched off by default are still able to clearly navigate the email, seeing all of the content much like a well-constructed web page.
So this email is ranked highly in terms of accessibility? Well, yes and no...
The potential is there because structurally this email is perfect, but where Easyjet fail, is in fact where it is easiest for them to get things right. I'm referring to the text size. The introduction paragraph that starts "Book now for" is difficult to read, but the sections below that starting "Choose from over 30,000 hotels" is almost impossible to read in text just 9px in size. I find it very difficult to read, and my eyesight is just fine.
Any users that don't have perfect eyesight will not be able to read this. Terms and conditions should not even appear in such a small font, so as a general rule keep the text at a minimum of 10px for terms and conditions and elsewhere go for 12px. This will ensure that everyone reading your emails will be able to clearly view the content.
Next up is an email I recently received from ebuyer:
I'm sorry for picking on you ebuyer, but rest assured you're certainly not the only offender. Every single element of this email is an image except for the final line of text (links to unsubscribe and view terms and conditions). There is no alt text on any of the images so if I have images switched off or I am using a screen reader, I won't see any of the message.
Surely that's not good for the recipient or the company, right? What's the use in spending thousands of pounds a year on email if a significant proportion of your audience cannot see your message?
That truth is, persistently emailing this standard of html out to your prospects and customers is nonsensical. And this is what I mean when I say that email is being abused. Daily, I see too many emails that are nothing more than large posters sliced up and sent out as an email.
I can't see where the consideration is for users. There are thousands of large companies out there doing exactly this and I am calling for all offenders to change.
If the above sounds familiar, then take note. Changing might take time and it might cost you a small slice of your marketing budget, but in the long run I promise you it is better for both you and your customers.