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Lovely framework, but can someone explain why HTML email is so stuck in the past?

Why can't email clients just abide by proper web standards?




I prefer succinct plain-textish emails linking to HTML websites over HTML-heavy emails in most situations.

I've personally found plain-text often also converts better than most HTML-heavy newsletters.

Most HTML is pigeonholed into email where it doesn't fit well, for example the variety of unpredictable clients and devices. I'd rather serve that via the browser where full CSS/HTML is supported.

Mobile is helping by standardizing webkit but we're still far from it being a good delivery mechanism for a web experience.


I feel the same way about plain text, but I can't help but wonder if I'm part of a nerdy minority. I know my mum finds her image heavy emails from eBay useful, for instance.


We’ve seen similar results at our company. Plain text emails always get more click throughs in A/B tests.

And personally I prefer them. If I must use html, I only stick to the basic styling elements with no css.


I think it was around Outlook 2007 Microsoft decided that instead of using Internet Explorer to render their emails, they would use Microsoft Word. That's right. Word. And now whenever you try to use even the most basic CSS rules, Outlook fucks it up very badly. Then there is that abomination called Lotus Notes (mainly <8.5). Yes, I have been doing a lot of emails lately and it is the worst experience in web dev I have ever had.

Outlook 2007 makes IE6 look like the best browser in the world.


You left out the most amazing part: they doubled down on the MS Word rendering engine in Office 2013. At one point there was a letter writing campaign to ask them to change their mind.


Unfortunately the template they used in the email failed to render on outlook...


<!-- [!mso] -->

That little comment is a life saver.

I've noticed that Outlook, particularly 2007+, will play nicely with CSS so long as your styles are only applied to table elements. Put some padding on a 'p' tag and you won't see anything happen.

Likewise mobile gmail on a phone browser will not render a responsive email. Not sure if ZURB has given that any attention or if they intended to focus on the rendering of native clients.


AFAIK there's no work-around for mobile GMail on a phone. I've been banging my head against it this week. Given up for now and left native Android/iOS mail app users having the better experience.


Check out Ink's block-grid (http://zurb.com/ink/docs.php#block-grid). It's a lifesaver for working with Gmail mobile. Alternatively, if you don't need Outlook support, ZURB's original responsive templates support Gmail mobile quite well (http://zurb.com/playground/responsive-email-templates).


Thank you for the explanation, that's insane.


It is very insane. You would think that after getting such a bad rep with IE that they would make sure they don't get themselves into that kind of situation again, but no. They keep releasing shitty software that holds the rest of the industry back. I never was a Microsoft hater, but in the past few weeks of writing HTML/CSS (if you can call it that) for Outlook support, I have cursed Outlook more than any other piece of software I can remember.

You can read more about it here: http://www.email-standards.org/blog/entry/microsoft-to-ignor...


I believe the motivation was that most Outlook users were at corporations who sent/received most of their emails from coworkers who also used Outlook.

What these users really wanted was the ability to edit and format their emails the same way they did in Word. Word really is a fantastic document editor/formatter, and I don't know of any html doc editor that comes close to the flexibility, ease, and power of Word.

So they traded standards for what people really wanted - email that they could format.


If I recall correctly - they did it for security reasons. i.e. Internet Explorer was so full of holes they thought the Word HTML rendered would be easier to keep secure.

In the sense that it did a lot less and thus presented a smaller attack surface, they were right.


Guess its a pity Microsoft never heard about sandboxing, eh?


The really crazy one is Gmail. It does not support media queries and requires you to inline all your styles. You would expect so much more from Google.


Because security and privacy.

There's a very good reason why your email client doesn't display images by default.

Imagine every major email client allowed using HTML5/CSS3.

One day somebody discovers a bug that allows you to execute random code. Now all you need to deliver a trojan to millions of people is mass-email it.


Nope apparently all that matters is shiny. The short nearsightedness of some of these comments is amazing.

Kudos to be reasonable.




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