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HTML, plain-text or both?

In the late 90s when the majority of web surfers used Prodigy, CompuServe and AOL, every email was formatted as plain-text. AOL 5.0 brought rich-text messages that allowed a user to bold or italicize text. However, AOL 5.0 and contemporary email programs lacked the ability to display full HTML messages.

Today, most email programs have the ability to display HTML messages. However, even today 5% of email recipients cannot view HTML messages or have switched this feature off.

The solution is to send multi-part MIME messages. A multi-part MIME message is an email that includes both an HTML and plain-text message in the same document. To take advantage of this, simply create your HTML message and include a plain-text version in the same document. Recipients who have HTML messages turned on will see your fully-designed message, while the other 5% will still receive your plain-text content. Most email clients can detect MIME messages and will display only the proper message.

Next time I’ll talk about how to time your message broadcasts for the highest efficiency.

About the Author: Ryan Allis

Ryan Allis is the CEO and co-founder of iContact, a leading on-demand email marketing service. As CEO, he's managed iContact from its start in July 2003 to its current size with more than 90 employees and 25,000 customers worldwide. In [...]