Outfox Outlook: Tricks for Outlook Email Layouts

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John Thies - featuredBy John Thies, CEO and Co-Founder,  Email on Acid

As one of the most popular forms of email management for businesses across the globe, Outlook is unfortunately always going to be a problem child when it comes to designing creative email marketing campaigns because of coding and image restrictions. But, email marketers want to be able to design and code emails for Outlook just as well as any other email client.

While it might be frustrating and hard to work around, there is a light at the end of the tunnel! Use these tips for designing and coding emails in Outlook and you’ll be a pro in no time.

Tables Are your Best Friends

If you’ve tried to work with Outlook before, then you know that tables are often a saving grace. Outlook doesn’t handle divs well, so tables will ensure your content renders beautifully across any email client. Equally, tables solve many common issues in Outlook, including lists, floating images, text wrapping and spacing inconsistencies. Use tables for anything, everything — seriously, anything — and your email will not only look more engaging, but it will also be more easily read by the user. As an added bonus, you won’t leave the task with a migraine.

You Can Have Space, but not Too Much Space

“This message is too wide to fit your screen…”

We’ve all seen this alert and cringed.  Prevent seeing Outlook’s “wide load” notification by keeping all of emails under 630px in width. Why? If your email exceeds the reader’s browser window, minus 370px, the email will get cut off along the right side and instead, a yellow notification box appears. As a standard, this rule will also improve mobile optimization.

Think Mobile

Embracing a responsive-mobile design is only one piece of the puzzle when testing on Outlook.

When coding an email to be the most mobile-friendly, email designs should be made with a mobile user in mind. This entails using larger buttons and text, single-column layouts, and easy to read fonts. Subscribers demand a quality experience each time an email is opened, regardless if they decide to read it. It’s a best practice no one can afford to miss.

Use Alt Text

Often, Outlook will block imagery included in your emails. Using alt text with imagery will ensure that even a description is there, even if the image doesn’t render. Ask recipients to add you to the address book or safe senders list in Outlook settings to prevent missing imagery, and once you’re recognized as a trusted sender, this won’t be a problem any longer.

Test Your Emails Over and Over

Are you sending your emails through multiple rounds of testing? If not, you’re not doing email marketing correctly. Run your emails through various testing platforms that allow simulation of how the email will render to different clients. But don’t forget the basic importance of device testing, too. Check how your emails look on a desktop, tablet, and smartphone before hitting send.

Follow these helpful tips to ensure subscribers are getting a quality experience each time your emails are opened, even when they’re using Outlook. Need more tips? After years of experience coding for Outlook,  Email on Acid has put together a detailed guide on design and coding tips for Outlook. Read more here.

About the Author: John Thies is the CEO and Co-Founder of Email on Acid, a service that gives email marketers a preview of how their emails are displayed in the most popular email clients and mobile devices. He resides in Denver, Colorado with his wife and son. When he isn’t working he’s either on the golf course or snowboarding in the fresh Colorado powder. 

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