Which E-mail Format Works Best: Plain Text or HTML?
HTML messages that get opened (called “opens”), plus transmissions and deliveries, can all be tracked by the sender. This means that a subscriber can be definitively classed as an HTML recipient. What’s more, the open-rate data can tell you a lot about the quality of a list or subject line—information that’s hard to glean from plain-text mailings. Plain-text recipients can be identified if they click through on an embedded link. (Plain-text recipients and HTML recipients that don’t open or clickthrough can’t be tracked.)
The Case for HTML
As you can see from the information above, if you’re into tracking responses, (and you should be!) HTML can’t be beat. Though there are people out there whose e-mail software can’t read HTML, the number of them is declining quickly. Also, I’ve heard so many anecdotal stories of HTML e-mail results beating the heck out of plain-text results that I’m starting to become a fan.
If you do plan on using HTML e-mail, it is important to consider how your HTML e-mail page will look. There are so many dreadful-looking HTML e-mails out there that you really want to make your page as attractive and readable as possible. This should be a priority!
Take a look at an excellent article by Dr. Ralph Wilson, titled “HTML E-mail: Text Font Readability Study.” The article tells you which fonts and type sizes work best on the Web. Interesting stuff. Published in 2001, it’s still well worth reading! Check it out at: http://www.wilsonweb.com/wmt6/html-email-fonts.htm
The Case for Plain-Text
For all the pro-HTML things I’ve mentioned above, in my own e-newsletters I use plain-text, not HTML. (See: www.levison.com) Why? Because I personally like the simplicity, immediacy and directness of plain-text. Also, my audience is a business audience used to getting business e-mails. I don’t want readers to feel like they’re being sold something or confuse my message for a consumer HTML message selling mortgage refinancing, online drug stores or whatever.