If you ask 10 experts whether HTML or plain text email messages will serve you best for your email marketing campaign, you are apt to get 10 different answers. Some experts will definitely point you one way or the other, while others have yet to completely make up their minds. They will tell you one thing, with reservations, and then the other.
Either approach will work if you go about it right and design or script you message carefully. Nevertheless, there are pros and cons to either approach, and it pays to know what they are.
HTML Email Pros and Cons
On the surface, using HTML, Hypertext Markup Language, would seem to be the better choice. If the statistics are to be believed, four out of every five people say they prefer to receive messages from businesses in HTML. One reason might be that HTML messages, with their colored print and graphics, appear more professional. HTML enables you to send along your company logo if you have one. You can also include forms in your HTML messages, and the use of bold face or colored text makes words stand out.
HTML email has its negative aspects as well. The appearance of the message you send, and particularly the graphics, can differ from one browser to the next. What you are seeing is not necessarily what your potential customer will see. Also, if you rely too heavily on graphics and go too light on the text, your email may end up in the recipient’s spam folder. In addition, an overreliance of graphics on your part, especially flashy graphics, can turn people off. More importantly, not everyone has a mail app that is capable of reading HTML.
Text Email Pros and Cons
Text messages are easier to create and, if done properly, are easier to read since they do not present distractions. Not everyone likes to see every other word in bold-faced red! No matter what browser the recipient is using, the message they see will look the same as the one you sent. Text messages are also easier to read on hand-held devices.
The main disadvantage to text is the absence of graphics, an important point if you subscribe to the theory that a picture is worth a thousand words. You cannot hyperlink words either, and if you want to send someone to another site, you have to spell out the site’s URL in its entirety.
And the Winner Is …
If you are good at producing compelling copy, either method will work. Text is easier, and HTML can get you into trouble. If you want to learn HTML, or have software that can create an HTML message for you, it could be the better choice.