Doing all you can for the open

I got an email from the new service called Summify. I won’t go on about it but it seems like another social media content aggregator that uses your network’s retweets and FB likes to populate the content it gives you – I’m not unimpressed, time will tell to see if this has got more legs than – which is apparently starting to annoy some people.

The email, I initially read in Thunderbird, had a pretty novel bit of alt text in the first section of content:

Summify load image alt text

As you can see in the preview pane view, the alt text in the main article section asks to load the images.

I of course then went over to Gamil to see if it visible in there, it was not.

I’m aware that different inboxes treat alt text differently and are often somewhat ambiguous about when they will display it.

I then hit Google with a quick search and ironically I found 2 of my own posts from 2009 & 2010.
Both referred to two of the industry’s experts in email and creative optimisation:

Here I found that the reason that gmail did not show this clever alt text trick was because the alt text was too long.

gmail summify screen shot

As you can see the alt text is not displayed for the ‘load images’ call but the logo in the top left has alt text – which is very short.

This got me thinking, when I talk about rendering differences with people, many of them use the fact that something can only work in a few inboxes as an excuse not to use it, which to me is really rather barmy.
The important thing to remember is: just because it doesn’t work in all inboxes, if it doesn’t break it in other inboxes it will still optimise that inbox – so do it!

In this case, if I refer to Ros’s table of ALT text in image clients, all you really need to do it keep the text short to get it rendered. Of course just having: “load images” might be a bit too blunt, however, to keep it all in context use images around it to pull the content together. For instance, if there is an image directly above it start the sentence there so it all sits together and concatenates to a friendly load images call to action.

There are a few things you can add that will only work in some inboxes but improve the experience.

  • Use image alt text in an image at the top of your email to be your inbox snippet text
  • Make Outlook 2010 add it’s own browser view link
  • Make your top line of plain text snippet ready because Outlook will take it from there an not your HTML version
    • ME, just now.
  • Check Out HTML Email Boiler Plate for a full HTML template including all of the necessary style attributes to override the various style changes many inboxes try to apply to your email. IT’s also got a very cheeky little slide show to add more content and information about how and why it’s all going on. Everyone who codes for email should book mark this page!

To be honest I’ve not tried the Outlook thing lately, they might have got rid of it, if you’ve tried it and it works, please let me know in the comments.