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Does this email look weird to you?

Posted by Adam Lofting

November 17, 2008

Does this email look weird to you?

Why the first marketing message I get from so many companies is:
Does this email look weird to you?

HTML Email Campaigns and creating a good first impression

I receive HTML emails every day from companies of all shapes and sizes. Some of them are useful newsletters I have subscribed to, some of them interesting product announcements from companies I have done business with and some of them are unsolicited junk.

I also design, build and send a lot of HTML email campaigns so I’m constantly on the lookout for what other people in the industry are doing.

Email client rendering issues

One of the difficulties to overcome when building HTML emails is that email clients are very unreliable in how they display your nicely designed HTML email. The difference between how your email looks in Hotmail, GMail and Microsoft outlook can be amazing and if you don’t know what to avoid when building your email, it could end up looking very weird for some of your readers.

A safety net for email client rendering issues

Because of these difficulties, many email marketers have resorted to a fallback option. At the beginning of their email, they provide a link to another version of the same email, hosted on a web page. That way, if the email does end up looking weird in the reader’s email client, they can open it in their web browser and see the design in all its glory.

Here is an example of one of these links from the MyFonts newsletter (highlighted in yellow):

Hosting Email newsletters on a web page

Apart from helping out people whose email client makes a mess of the original design, another advantage of hosting a web based version of the email is it allows you to display an archive of your email campaigns on your website. This is really useful for potential readers to check out before they subscribe to your mailing list. If the content looks useful and relevant to them, people will be more than happy to give you their email address.

You can see such a list of MyFonts past email campaigns on this URL:

Here is a screenshot of the same email mentioned above, when viewed through a web browser:

Email Alert Notifications (the first impression)

To get to my point, adding a link to web version of your email is good practice and does add value for both the sender and the recipient but there is one aspect of the communication process that is being overlooked.

Lots of people first see they have a new email through a notification system like the one built into Outlook. When this notification pops up on my screen, it shows me the subject of the email, and also the opening text which acts as a teaser to get me to click on it. In so many cases these days, the opening text I get is – Does this email look weird to you?

If you shift around the order of some of your content, the message that first pops up on your customer’s screen could be something that adds value to your brand and messaging, rather than “does this email look weird to you?”

It’s a minor detail – but the little details can separate you from your competitors.


I’ve used the MyFonts newsletter as an example in the article and this is not intended as a critical review. I would highly recommend their newsletter to anyone interested in typography. For more information on the MyFonts newsletter, visit

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