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I have to design emails on mobile first for B2B users. Some professional mailboxes don't support HTML5, and display may be broken. I wonder if the mirror link (e.g. 'If you can't see this email, click here') is mandatory in any email? Is this a good practice? Or can we proceed differently to ensure the access to the content of email?

Thanks in advance for your feedback

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Is mandatory in any email?

I don't think 'mandatory' is the right adjective here. Who may have the mandate?

Is this a good practice?

For:

  • More users will be able to see the email correctly (good for your business).

Against:

  • An extra line.

Consider:

  • Do you know the portion of emails that do not render well?
  • Can you do this the proper UX way: A/B testing to see the effect of having or not having the line.
  • Have you searched "HTML 5 email fallback". Here is one source on the topic.

It's next to impossible to answer such question since without data it's impossible to do cost/benefit analysis.

But I would say that if the additional line is not intrusive, and if indeed some people won't be able to see the HTML5 email correctly, then it's on the verge of win/win.

Think inclusive

For people like me, who believe that accessibility applies to all users, the following two words come to mind: Inclusive design.

The British Standards Institute (2005) defines inclusive design as "The design of mainstream products and/or services that are accessible to, and usable by, as many people as reasonably possible..."

Why would you ignore a portion of your target audience, small as it may be, if the cost is adding a line to an email?

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No matter what you do your email will not work for everyone.

Providing a link to open in a web browser is a great way to make sure any really interested user can view it.

Make sure your main message and CTA is near the top and in a standard HTML format, so that at the very least users will be able to see that.

There are dozens more "tips and tricks" for creating HTML emails, but I think they'd be beyond the scope of this question (and probably this particular form).

  • 6
    "No matter what you do your email will not work for everyone." You could just use plain text. That always works. – Daniel Beck Jan 24 '17 at 17:05
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    @DanielBeck. I've upvoted your comment, but even with plain text emails things can go wrong - There Ain't No Such Thing as Plain Text. – Izhaki Jan 24 '17 at 21:35
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Generally include mirror links, but don’t use them “as a crutch”

If you are designing your email (instead of just typing it) and you don’t know who is receiving it, a mirror link is generally a good thing.

“The Browser Wars” never came to email clients, and capabilities of email clients vary greatly. And testing is more difficult for emails, since you have the added dimension of the web client (e.g., gmail.com) which can run on various browsers.

It’s good for your brand, in general, not to send users things they cannot read, even if they are a small minority or users.

If you don’t have a good reason not to have a mirror link, include one.

Exception: platform-filtered email lists

If you control your email list very tightly, you can sometimes skip the mirror link. For example, if you have an email list that is limited to users who read their emails exclusively on iPhone, you might develop to that platform and skip the mirror link.

Your conversion analytics will tell you if that is a good strategy for you.

Vital and personalized data

For emails that contain vital information (instead of sales material) it is typically best to under-design them, so there is a high likelihood they will simply work. This is especially true for transactional emails that are not sent at a time of your choosing.

Emails that contain personal data would need to be behind a login wall on your website. Therefore, it is doubly important that your user be able to read the email rather than relying on a mirror link.

Personalized, but not personal content

If your email campaign involves sending recipients personalized content, it may not be appropriate to have that content available at a public URL.

Of course you would not want identifying information in the publicly-available URL (a la, Dear John Smith, we thought you’d like the following embarrassing products). But even if user privacy is protected, such a system could reveal competitive intelligence to competitors.

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