Email: HTML or plain text?


A conversation this week raised the question, HTML email - that's the one with fancy graphics, colors and formatting, or plain text email - which gets your message across better?

The conclusion I've come to is, if its important, if the email contains any value it is (or should be) in plain text. Conversations with friends, online reset passwords, and other sensitive information. I makes no sense for HTML email with this kind of message, I mean, how many ebay phishing scams have you had in your inbox? How about paypal? If they were sent using plain text you'd know the link actually takes you to some phishing site. In fact any ebay or paypal email I get now I treat suspiciously and never click a link that they contain.

What does that leave HTML email for? Well I think, for anything else, i.e. email you don't want! Marketing campaigns, newsletters, they're email I wasn't expecting, and don't particularly want.

So why send HTML email?

Well, if I get some unsolicited email - and I include marketing 'eshots' from online stores trying to sell me that extra item - I am 100% more likely to give it my attention than a plain text email. If something looks appealing, I'll give it a few seconds before hitting delete, whereas it would have been deleted with a glance.

So they both have their place, however with the ever rise of phishing and spam filters, limiting images only to be downloaded if explicitly selected, is the benefit of sending HTML email fading?

Comments? Tweet me @mealybar, smoke signals, or homing pigeon, or something :)