How to design email campaigns that are accessible to everyone
Just like the web, email should be accessible to everyone. It's estimated that around 15 percent of the world's population lives with some form of disability and as a result of that, may have difficulties accessing online content. Think of people using screen readers, colorblind folks but also those with auditory or cognitive impairments.
Accessibility matters. It's also good to remember that accessible content is, in general, more usable for everyone.
The guidelines below are far from complete, but will hopefully help you create more accessible email campaigns.
Accessibility best practices
- To make sure messages look the same across email clients, a lot of emails are formatted using tables, which is kind of a workaround. To make sure screen readers don't interpret these tables as data tables but as presentation tables instead, just add
role="presentation"to your table tag. Omitting this tag means that the HTML within the table will be read out loud by the screen reader.
- Use h tags for headings and p tags for paragraphs so screen readers know which is which.
- Set a language attribute (such as
lang="en") to tell screen readers which language to expect.
- Add alt attributes to images to describe the images. So an image of two red cars would get the alt attribute
alt="two red cars". It's not necessary to add 'image of' to the description. This is useful not just for the visually impaired but also for email clients that block images for security reasons.
- Consider color contrast. Subscribers with a form of color blindness might see your email campaign differently than you do, and making sure the text contrasts well with the background ensures readability.
- If you use images to convey a message, make sure there's a text-only alternative.
- Use meaningful anchor text on links, instead of 'click here'.
- Avoid walls of text. A massive blob of text is tedious for anyone, but can be problematic especially for people with dyslexia.
- Use a widely supported sans-serif font, such as Arial, Verdana or Tahoma and use a minimum font size of 14px to make your message easier to read.
A short note on performance
Finally, consider the size of your emails. Most email servers will outright reject emails larger than 20 MB, but fast-loading emails benefit everyone. Even with a size over 100 KB deliverability issues may occur. In emails, the usage of images is the most common cause of slower load times. Limit the use of images and use the .jpg format for photographs.
You may be on a 4G connection yourself and have no problem pulling in larger emails even on mobile, but if you're also targeting subscribers in regions with a less developed mobile infrastructure, consider that a large portion of them may be on 2G or 3G for years to come. Taking email file size into account makes your campaigns more accessible for them, too.