Email marketing is a great way to reach out to an online audience. Flyers, campaigns, advertisements, and announcements can be made and distributed online. This method of marketing has been increasing over the years due to high consumption of technology.
Since email marketing can impact a large audience, it is important to have all marketing materials accessible.
Note: California State University, Northridge does not endorse an email marketing platform. Information is included here for reference only. Any contract with an email marketing service requires approval and a risk assessment.
Why is Email Marketing Accessibility Important?
Email marketing accessibility is important because content must be equally accessible and readable to all types of audiences. The goal for marketers is to have a successful campaign and reach the most of amount of audience as possible. If email marketing content is not accessible, marketers can miss a large target audience due to accessibility barriers.
There can be limitations when custom HTML is used due to the complexity of the email design. Some email applications may not fully support a highly complex email or screen readers may not be able to read it properly. An HTML email needs to be tested to ensure it meets accessibility criteria and that it is compatible with the most common email applications. Applications such as MailChimp and Campaign Monitor can be used to easily create HTML emails. Some applications also have templates that support accessibility.
MailChimp supports various accessibility features in its emails and allows the creation of accessible emails through its built-in templates. The templates have been tested to be accessible to screen reader users and support a variety of email best practices for accessibility including headers, text formatting and design, lists, alternative text, and descriptive link text.
Headers: Mail Chimp templates have heading levels 1-4 to organize the content in a hierarchical structure. Headings are located under the “styles tab” in WYSIWYG.
Images: Alternative text can be easily added onto images. When an image is selected, there is an “Alt” tab where the user could input alternative text.
Links: Content creators can set link text for their hyperlinks. Hyperlinks are also underlined and have a different font color to distinguish it from regular text.
Plain Text Version
All HTML email marketing campaigns have an auto-generated plain text version. Additionally, MailChimp also allows creators to distribute plain text emails to specific users who wish to opt-out emails with CSS. Plaintext emails strip down the CSS and only contain text. Refer to Create a Plain-Text Campaign to build a plain text version.
Campaign Monitor is a platform where people can create online marketing campaigns. Some templates allow you to build newsletters easily. The features are simple to use; content creators can easily add videos, text, images, and buttons.
Headers/Styles: There are heading levels 1 - 3. In addition, creators can choose from normal text. Numbered or bulleted lists, and blockquotes..
Personalization: Content creators can decide to personalize their emails by adding features such as "First name" which will customize each email to the recipient's first name.
Images: Images can have alternative text added. Images can also have links embedded if a link is inserted, ensure that the alternative text describes the destination of the link. Another feature is "add image spacing," creators can decide to add more space around their images to prevent a cluttered look and allow for easier readability.
Links: When inserting a link, the appearance of the link-text is automatically changed. Links are underlined and appear in the color blue to distinguish it from normal text.
Buttons: Users can also present links in the form of a button. The buttons are more apparent and can vary in style. The "button text" serves as the link text and the "Button link" is where the website URL is inserted.
Videos: Videos have an alternative text feature. This feature is crucial because screen reader users will be given a brief description of the video before deciding to play it.
Plain Text Version
When you are done designing your email campaign through the templates, a plain text version is automatically created. Content creators can preview or edit the plain text version before sending out emails. Plain text version emails can be sent to a designated recipients for those who prefer not to have the HTML version.
Note: Campaign Monitor cannot track opens or clicks for plain text campaigns.
Advanced designers and web developers can import their custom coded emails. This gives creators more flexibility with designing if they don't want to customize the default templates. After the email has been imported, designers must format the plain text version. Instructions on how to import custom coded emails, or format a plain text version refer to Campaign Monitor's Import custom coded emails from your computer page.
Note: All imported HTML pages must included a unsubscribe tag.
It is recommended to include an "Unsubscribe" link on your marketing emails. Users should have the option to manage spam.
Permission reminder: Remind your contacts or audience why they are subscribed to your emails. (e.g., "You are receiving this email because you have signed up for our mailing list.")
Create plenty of white space in emails for better readability.
Offer plain text versions of your email to your audience.
Use descriptive subject lines.
Ensure that your emails have a logical reading structure.
Test your content for color contrast; this includes text and images.