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Clients Render Email Differently - How?

Matt Tobin
28-Jun-2017 16:34:05

We love to keep in contact with our loyal customer base, just to ensure they’re in the know about what’s going on in our world at WorkCast.

Sometimes, however, our emails might not appear as we’d expect them to, and thankfully, our customers keep us in the loop about where we’re occasionally going wrong!

But why do they sometimes display incorrectly?

The answer lies within the email client and the device being used to view the message. Let’s explore this in a little more detail!

Something Useful to Know...

Right off the bat, the important detail to know is this:

The way email clients (Gmail, Apple Mail, Outlook etc.) display emails, differs from client to client.

In other words, Gmail uses different tools to display emails than Outlook does, resulting in slight display differences.

As this is the case, it can be very difficult for businesses that send out newsletters and other communications, to create emails that have a uniform display across all clients.

Now for the more technical bits! (Expect endless references to HTML, rendering, formatting etc…)

Young man with mobile phone and colorful chat icons.jpeg

HTML and Formatting

Aforementioned business communications are usually created using HTML (told you…) because it is the most effective way to build an email.

Why? Because it allows editors to specifically format things such as text alignment, line spacing and heights.

Basically, it’s to minimise the chances of an email displaying differently on one customer's using Gmail, compared to another customer using Outlook.

The problem is, as alluded to earlier, that there is no universal way that clients interpret HTML in emails.

This means certain elements of emails might display differently, regardless of how much effort editors have put into formatting the message so it doesn’t!

Sometimes, they’re fighting a losing battle!

Similarly, we always do our best to avoid our communications displaying differently, by formatting our emails using HTML, but the above problems are an occupational hazard nonetheless.

Client Versions

Outlook is a prime example of the complexity of the issue, as rendering is also affected by the version of the client being used.

There are several versions of Outlook currently being used by people across the world, each with their own way of rendering HTML, affecting the display of emails.

Here’s an example;

Outlook 2007 and 2010 use Microsoft Word to read HTML, whereas Outlook 2013 onwards doesn’t use this system.

Emails would display differently on someone using Outlook 2010. I.e. Long emails would be cut off after a certain point, mimicking the way that Microsoft Word displays pages, therefore affecting the formatting after a certain point.

Someone viewing an message using Outlook 2013 would have their email display with the original formatting, as it doesn’t use Microsoft Word to interpret the HTML.

Therefore the long email would display as originally intended by the editor, by not cutting off the formatting after a certain point.

...And breathe….

So, as you can see, if an email from us displays differently on different versions of the same client, it will certainly differ from client to client.

Aspects of an email such as featured images (GIFs, PNGs) may display on one client, but not another. Background images display on Gmail, but are not supported on Outlook. It’s a very tangled web of HTML and formatting!

The Devices Too

Now, to add even more issues into the mix;

It’s not just the clients themselves that differ in their interpretation of emails. It’s also the device that you're viewing it on…..

A headache to say the least!

Viewing emails on a tablet when compared to a desktop PC, will have differences in spacing, width etc.

People viewing emails on mobile in 2016 accounted for 54% of the market share, when compared to those regularly viewing on Desktops and Webmail (2017 State of Email Report, Litmus).

A shift in how people view messages means that we’ve placed a greater emphasis on optimising our communications for different devices, as has the wider business world.

Editors have to be increasingly aware of these trends.

So, hopefully this shines a bit more light on the issue and may explain how ours, and many other emails you receive, might display incorrectly on your client!

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