Adventures in Mobile Marketing

Images Off: Unfortunately, It’s the First Impression

I realized in my last post that I’m assuming that folks even care about designing for images-off. The reality is that more and more free hosted email- Yahoo, Google and AOL- are turning off images by default. I’ve seen it in metrics for one of my clients over the last few months. It seemed like MSN tried it then stopped, Yahoo Beta is being more aggressive in the last few weeks, and AOL implemented “off by default” a month or so ago.

The reason it’s so prominent in my mind is because it is the first time the customer sees you. That’s right- since it’s a default setting it definitely will come into play on all of those very well-performing welcome-message campaigns! Good news is that (like unsubscribes) they will go down with frequency as the customer stays with you. But the first email is very important.

Tips On How to Get Them to Turn On Images

  • Ask your customer to whitelist you (you already probably do this!)
  • Entice them with subject line or alt-text to view images. “Special offer in this image- select images-on” button at the top of their email. “Great offer here- just click ‘view images!’
  • Do appropriate alt-text for your email. Use the usual copywriting rules and style guides.
  • Make the email look good even with images off (see last post, “Review: 10 Emails With Images-Off” for good, and bad, examples)
  • Move the design focus away from images for this first email. Use HTML in addition to images, but not solely images.
  • Don’t use spacer images for layout. Use CSS to position text.

Convince Yourself
If you don’t believe me yet, do the following tests:

  1. Sign up for Yahoo mail (use Beta interface), MSN, and Gmail (all for free). Send yourself one of your emails. Don’t turn on images.
  2. Check your metrics for your welcome campaign to new customers. This should be the first email contact they get from the marketing department’s “senderid”. Gather the number of clicks you get, by drop, and then (if you can) filter out those members that did not open the email. Yep, that’s right. Clicks without opens. Those are your “images-off” folks. Extrapolate that to some of your larger drops and it will be sobering. For one client, we saw 1 in 11 customers had Images-off. That’s more significant in our email base than all of Gmail users. Because I’m obsessed with this, I wrote an article about it: Metrics: The Anti-Click.
  3. Using your test email accounts from step #1, sign up for your competitors emails. Are they designing for Images-Off? You may be surprised.
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Written on Sunday, 15. July 2007 at 17:28 In the category campaigns, design, images off, strategy, techniques. Follow the comments via RSS here: RSS-Feed. Read the Comments. Trackbacks- Trackback on this post. Share on FriendFeed

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  1. “Don’t use spacer images for layout. Use CSS to position text.”

    in theory, CSS would be a great way to position text and images in an email newsletter. unfortunately, i’ve found styles to be very touchy across the various email clients. yes, there are some tricks (like commenting out the styles at the head) but weeding through all the exceptions can be a real pita.

    used responsibly, i think spacer.gif’s have their place.

    Comment: designer – 24. July 2007 @ 10:23 am

  2. I go into a lot more detail on this topic in the latest post- Avoid Spacer GIFs in HTML Emails because it does warrant a longer explanation. Because I’m gearing at “failing gracefully” or “elegant failure” for design in a world of image suppression, spacer GIFs just clutter up the overall message with broken bits, instead of having just a few key unloaded messages that have more bang for their buck when the user downloads them. So that’s why I recommend tables with CSS inside the table tags.

    Comment: banane – 24. July 2007 @ 10:38 am

  3. I thought CSS was being phased out with the Outlook 2007, as the html would now be using Word based Html. Is this correct?

    Comment: Robert faulkner – 25. July 2007 @ 1:55 am

  4. Hi Robert-

    I just ran this template through outlook (had some issues getting access lately). The focus here is to not use spacer GIFs, and to use a very limited stylesheet. Tables are supported in Outlook, and with some limited stylesheet, seems to be the safest cross-email-client template. – Anna

    Comment: banane – 25. July 2007 @ 12:19 pm

  5. [...] second post contains more specific comments on the prevalence of blocked images, how you can deal with the [...]

    Pingback: Media Online Watch : Image blocking: examples and remedial advice – 19. January 2008 @ 8:20 am

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