Limitations of HTML Email

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The majority of email clients don’t support every type of HTML content you see on the web. Web browsers are able to display scripts, animations, and complex navigation menus, while your typical email inbox isn’t built to handle this type of content.

In this article, you’ll learn about content types to avoid in your email designs, and what to use instead.

Email HTML v. Web HTML

The viewing technology of a typical email client isn’t as up-to-date as a web browser. Web browsers display interactive, dynamic content, and they update often. But interactive elements like Flash, JavaScript, or HTML forms won’t work in most email inboxes.

View the table below to learn more.

Safe to use

Use with caution

Do not use

  • static, table-based layouts

  • HTML tables and nested tables

  • template width of 600px-800px

  • simple, inline CSS

  • web-safe fonts

  • background images

  • custom web fonts

  • wide layouts

  • image maps

  • embedded CSS

  • JavaScript

  • <iframe>

  • Flash

  • embedded audio

  • embedded video

  • forms

  • <div> layering

 

Safe to use: widely supported by most email clients

Use with caution: limited support from most email clients

Do not use: not supported by most email clients

Use with Caution

You can include certain elements, like background images and custom fonts, in your MailChimp templates. Not all email clients support these elements, so we recommend that you thoroughly preview and test your campaigns before you send to your entire list.

 

Background Images

MailChimp supports background images in the pre-header, header, body, column, and footer sections of our Drag and Drop templates. If you use a custom HTML template, you can add a background image with our template builder. Background images don’t render in every email client, and may appear differently in mobile clients, so it’s important to thoroughly preview and test your campaigns before you send to your list.

Add a Background Image to a Campaign

Add a Background Image to a Custom HTML Template

Preview and Test your Campaign

 

Web Fonts

MailChimp’s Editor toolbar allows you to use standard fonts and a select number of custom web fonts. If an email client doesn’t support a web font used in your campaign, we’ll replace it with a standard font instead.

Take a look at this table to find out which email clients do and do not support web fonts.

Supports Web Fonts Does Not Support Web Fonts

Apple Mail

Lotus Notes 7

Lotus Notes 8

Lotus Notes 8.5

Outlook 2011 for Mac

Gmail

iOS Mail

Yahoo!

Outlook 2016

Outlook.com

Android App

Outlook 2003

Android Mail  2.3

Outlook 2007

Android Mail 4.2

Outlook 2010

Android Mail  4.4

Outlook 2013

 

Thunderbird

 

IBM Notes 9

 

AOL

  Blackberry
  Alto

 

Wide Templates

Your subscribers often open campaigns on mobile devices or in the preview pane of desktop email clients. Email viewing panes are narrow, so they’ll cut off your message if it’s wider than 600-800px.

Read our layout guide for tips and strategies for building narrower templates.

Do Not Use

The elements below are blocked by nearly all major email clients. Support is either extremely limited, or nonexistent.

JavaScript

JavaScript is a programming language that makes web content interactive. It’s common in websites, but the vast majority of email clients block scripts since they can hide malicious content. Avoid all JavaScript.

Try gifs to make your content more engaging.

Iframe Elements

An <iframe> (inline frame) is an HTML element that embeds content from one website into another. Inline frames are often used to insert advertisements, video, audio, or forms in other websites. Iframes often contain scripts, so most email clients block them.

Instead, link to the content you want to display in your campaign.

Flash

Flash displays animations and graphics on websites, but most email clients block it.

Instead, try gifs to make your content more engaging.

HTML Forms

Text fields, text inputs, radio buttons, and checkboxes are simple HTML form elements, but the submit button often requires Javascript. Some email clients will display forms, but unfortunately, subscribers won’t be able to submit them. Avoid HTML forms, and consider an alternative.

Instead, try a simple poll or a MailChimp survey integration to gather responses from subscribers, or insert a link to a web form.

Embedded media

Autoplay and click-to-play media won’t play in an inbox unless your subscriber’s email client supports HTML5 <video> and <audio> tags. Only one major email client, Apple Mail, supports these tags, so it’s best to avoid embedded media and consider an alternative.

Instead, share a video player link with MailChimp’s merge tags or video content blocks. To send audio files, share an audio file link.

Email HTML Design Resources for Coders

Whether you’re new to email HTML or you’ve coded plenty of emails before, these resources can help you design templates that look great in a variety of email clients.

Email Design Reference

Provides resources on design, development methods, code samples, and downloadable email blueprints to help you design and build emails.

Collection on Code-Your-Own Templates

Provides step-by-step articles on custom-coded template topics.

Email Design Guide

Provides campaign style, design, and layout tips in article form.

Designer’s Resource Guide: Design Your Campaign

Provides a summary of the HTML design practices that work best in MailChimp.

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