[Email Marketing] Picture-Only Emails aren’t User-Friendly, Mostly because they might not be readable

By Christoph Trappe, Director of Content Marketing, MedTouch

In the last few months or so, I’ve noticed something new in email marketing land: Emails that appear to be blank. Some have even been sent by brands I love, trust and want to read content from.

On a mobile device, they look like this:


You can see the outline of an image if your email is set to not download images automatically. My iPhone email doesn’t download images until I click the “download images” text and even my desktop Outlook doesn’t until I click to ask it to.

The first time or so when I saw this kind of email, I was startled. I thought my phone wasn’t working correctly. Of course, I wanted to know what was going on so I dug deeper.

Basically, the email – the entire email – is designed as an image. That image is then emailed out. I would think that this tactic offers some production advantages to the email sender-for example they can design and create the entire email basically in one place.

But, it’s not viewable by users like myself who don’t allow automatic image downloads.

I’m not opposed to the use of images at all in emails, as long as those images add to the story, and are not just the only piece of the story. Powerful images coupled with great and relevant copy can really make an email – or any story –  stand out. But if it’s too hard for people to consume the content, they might not make an effort or even realize that they have to take another step to consume the content.

And people might not even notice that they have to take another step. Remember, I thought my phone was broken, and at first didn’t realize I actually had to download images.

My recommendation for email marketers would be the following:

  • Use an email template that works well on all devices-including smart phones – were many people will read emails.
  • Certainly use images to help illustrate the content in the email, but don’t use image-only emails.

Here’s an example of how to use images in a way that’s user-friendly in email marketing. This is from the Internet Marketing Association. Without the image download it looks like this:


As you can see, even without the image it’s still very readable. Users can see that there’s something for them to consume.

Once I download the image, here’s how the email looks:


Email marketing is well and alive and I have seen some of my own successes over the years. People do read emails-including informational and even promotional emails from their favorite brands. But the easier we can make the consumption for them the better it will be for our readers, customers and long term for us.

Recommended reading for you:

Device independent: words to avoid online

Documenting our pets’ stories is also meaningful

(Full disclosure: I work with the IMA as its chairman of the Midwest and sit on its executive council. Either way, now you know, but those emails look great and are a good example. I had no hand in creating them.)

See original here.

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