HTML vs. Plain Text Emails

All marketers enjoy and appreciate a thoroughly planned and well-executed HTML email campaign and if you think about it, there’s certainly a lot to like about them. Quite simply, HTML emails have the potential to pack a solid punch. Let’s have a quick look at some of their endearing features:

  • Greater control over formatting, layout, colour, fonts, graphics and branding – meaning you can unleash your inner designer and be as creative as you like.

  • The result is a beautifully designed email that visually appealing (if you’ve done your testing)

  • Interactive functionality

  • You can include images that enhance your copy and corporate branding that helps establish brand awareness (make sure these are embedded properly and not just copy/pasted)

  • You can include links to websites, landing pages, videos, sign up forms, etc.

  • You can track the open rate and click-through rate

Before we get carried away with this, it should be noted that although HTML emails are a hugely popular choice for email marketers, plain text emails are not without benefits, many subscribers prefer to receive plain text emails over the HTML version.

This is because plain text emails are:

  • Straight forward and easy to read

  • Don’t require images to be downloaded

  • Always render correctly no matter the ESP or the type of mobile device it’s viewed on

Also, from an email marketer’s point of view, they’re easy to produce and don’t require hours or days of testing. HTML versions, on the other hand, may very well have you pulling out your hair at 2 am in the morning because for some reason it ‘looks a bit funny’ when you test it in different browsers or email clients. That is why marketers almost always include a plain text option alongside the HTML version so that those who can’t or don’t like to open HTML emails don’t miss out.

Of course, each version also has its share of downsides.

Downsides to HTML emails:

  • Emails invariably take much longer to open and download, especially if they’re image-heavy.

  • If you’ve downloaded the email to view it later offline the images won’t display and links will appear to be broken

  • Someone somewhere will undoubtedly have a problem with it rendering incorrectly when they open it

  • A busy design and too many images and/or links can be very distracting, which ultimately affects your click-through and conversion rates

  • If you’re an email marketing newbie, creating an HTML email might be a bit mind-boggling, although most ESPs (such as Mail Blaze) have pre-build templates which do all the hard work for you.

Downsides to plain-text emails:

  • Text can’t be hyperlinked

  • Any link that is included has to be typed out completely (e.g.

  • You can’t include any images or graphics

  • You can’t format the font at all

At the end of the day, when it comes down to it both formats have proven to work very well in terms of open rates and conversion rates, so the best thing that you can do is to create both an HTML and a plain text version of your campaign and give your subscribers the option to open either. That way you cater effectively to all your subscribers and it helps ensure your message gets across to as many of them as possible. In short, cover all your bases.


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