Home All Organic Outlook 2010: Bad news for HTML email design, but…

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The folk at Campaign Monitor have important information on the likely rendering capabilities of Outlook 2010, slated for release in about a year.

In essence, the problems associated with Outlook 2007 have not been fixed. So Outlook 2010 is set to be equally resistant to animated gifs, background images, various CSS properties, etc..

Since HTML email design adapts to the lowest common denominator, Outlook 2010 would continue to place limits on design creativity and functionality.

The only “good” news is that if you’ve adapted your emails for Outlook 2007, you hopefully shouldn’t need to make new changes for Outlook 2010. (Perhaps a designer can clarify that for us?)

The original issues around Outlook 2007 led to the creation of the Email Standards Project and today saw them set up an initiative to try and get Microsoft to take appropriate remedial action.

Microsoft’s argument is that their approach (using Word to render emails) ensures that emails composed in newer versions of the Outlook email client will look as intended when received by those same clients.

Which is a solid argument if the whole world is using that product to send and receive email.


It’s a strangely insular kind of logic which I don’t really get. The Campaign Monitor post has further details and relevant quotes from Microsoft staff.

But there’s a lesson for us here.

Outlook 2007 (and its likely successor) don’t support particular HTML design features that we’d quite like to use in our promotions and newsletters.

That’s a big issue for email designers. But you know what? The email industry (not the email marketing industry) and seemingly Microsoft isn’t that bothered.

Put your email user cap on. The vast majority of messages you considertruly important are nothing more than text and maybe the odd image or attachment. Mails from friends, family and work colleagues, and simple transactional emails.

Of course there will be exceptions, but the vast majority of “important” messages received by Outlook 2007 users look fine. A few bulk marketing emails may look a little weird as not everyone has adapted to the constraints imposed by Outlook 2007. But do these users care?

Are the protests about Outlook 2007 and now 2010 coming from people who are not designers or marketers? It’s likely to be the key question for the software folk behind Outlook.

Let’s be clear: I’m not saying our concerns about Outlook are unimportant or irrelevant. I’m a long-time supporter of the Email Standards Project and you’ll find my ugly face adorning FixOutlook.org, too.

But the whole issue reflects the fact that recipients do not see our emails and the complexities of HTML email design as quite so urgent and important as we perhaps do. Otherwise we wouldn’t be having this argument.

It might also explain why mobile device manufacturers have – until recently – been extremely lax about support for HTML email.

People use mobile devices to check their email for important messages. And marketing email isn’t that important to them. So support for HTML email was perhaps never a great priority. (The follow-up to last week’smobile email post is out later this week BTW.)

So can we learn anything from the Outlook debate?

Perhaps it serves as a useful reminder: the format or the medium is important, but not nearly as important as the basic value of the delivered information. We need to make people care what their commercial HTML email looks like and can do.

Meanwhile, add your voice to the others at FixOutlook.org.

Originally Posted by Mark Brownlow on http://www.email-marketing-reports.com/iland/2009/06/outlook-2010-bad-news-for-html-email.html


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