How to Make Your Emails Look Good Naked

Half of email software doesn’t show messages’ images. A different half can’t use typefaces that aren’t on the recipient’s computer.

Design purists may lament that half the audience won’t see a message as pretty as it was designed. But for marketers, success only requires the audience heard their word and know how to act on it.

If your email marketing is going to leap from the screen into the recipient’s mind, you’ve got some tech obstacles to hurdle. Your message has to look as good naked (stripped of images and custom type) as it does clothed.


Unloaded images can carry written descriptions (“alt tags”) to describe what’s in them, so as to entice the user to unhide the images. That’s a little helpful, but since many recipients’ email software disallows styling of this text and/or precedes it with an unflattering security warning, you can’t rely on alt tags to communicate much.

Really, there’s no good-looking, naked alternative to an image. Don’t rely on images for anything more than you have to (e.g., actual photos). Let a message’s text carry its message.


Accept that your text won’t appear in the correct typeface to everyone. And be sure to designate a fallback typeface — Helvetica, Times, or one of the other typefaces that everyone already has on their devices — in your code so that the recipient’s computer doesn’t choose an uglier fallback for you.