InternetUniversity: HTML Email
All emails have headers that contain information on where the email is from, where it’s going, the subject, etc. One of these, the “Content-Type” header, tells the client program how to process the data contained in the email. Plain text emails are sent with a Content-Type of “text/plain,” while replacing this with a Content-Type of “text/html” instructs the client to read the email like a web page. Another Content-Type header, “multipart/alternative,” informs the email client that there are separate text and HTML items in the email. If the client can recognize the HTML it displays it; otherwise, just the plain text version is visible.
Well-designed HTML emails also have to contain properly formatted HTML. Sounds redundant, but I could send an email with the proper Content-Type header of “text/html” that contained nothing but plain text—not exactly an HTML email. Worse yet, improperly formed HTML can cause a myriad of problems for email clients. Forgetting an end tag in your code or misspelling a HTML element could cause some email clients to interpret your HTML as text or not display anything at all.
Even a properly formatted HTML email may encounter problems en route. There is a percentage of every large email list that will not get HTML email as intended. Many companies use firewalls and mail server technologies that actually strip HTML elements in emails, potentially destroying formatting and links before sending it to the recipient.
A separate HTML design should also be created specifically for AOL. AOL accepts some HTML tags and discards others. Which tags it accepts depends on where the email is being viewed. Looking at a HTML email on an AOL web account and then reading the same email from the AOL client will probably yield two different results!
When HTML email reaches its destination intact, it becomes a very powerful tool. The email client is able to retrieve graphics and other content directly from the web and into a reader’s inbox. Clickable links and banner ads are a welcome invitation to impulsive readers and an indispensable resource for businesses to drive traffic back to their websites.