Why email signatures will never be perfect
Let's face it. Email signatures will never be perfect.
But how can we expect them to be, when you're dealing with extremely outdated technologies (Outlook 2007, ahem), tables and inline CSS, the Word rendering engine and so many email software programs, on so many different devices and screens.
Not to mention users have the ability to turn off images and change individual user settings, that change how their email software receives and send emails in HTML, RTF and plain text formats.
With the odds stacked against us, we have all experienced issues with email signatures, sometimes it's when you send an email signature, other times it's when you receive someone else's email signature.
Whether you have sent or received an imperfect email signature in your lifetime, there's a few reasons why they will never be 100% perfect all the time and why we shouldn't be focusing on perfection.
Let's talk about the issues we face when designing and coding HTML email signatures and why these issues exist.
My email signature looks messed up when someone replies to my email
So you have a chain of several email messages going back and forth between colleagues and you notice that your email signature has been converted to plain text or just looks completely un-formatted, under the reply.
When your email signature is sent to someone, it should look as you intend it to look (if you've tested it in all email programs prior to sending it) because the email message is in reading mode.
As soon as the recipient of your email message hits that reply button, their email software has now converted the email message into it's own HTML, RTF or Plain Text code to do with it whatever it likes.
So the person replying to your email message, and their email software, now have control over your email signature design. When you receive an email back from this person, it could have images stripped from it, it may be converted to plain text or it might just be a jumbled mess. There is no workaround for this, it's just how email clients work.
When I receive email signatures from other people they look messed up
If you are still in reading mode (you have not hit reply or forward on the email message) and the email signature is messed up, more than likely, the sender of the email message has not tested their email signature across all major email software, prior to sending it.
It's likely the sender used Word to create their email signature, or generated their email signature using a free email signature generator, which means their email signature is not correctly coded for all email software.
With over 20 major email clients in use today, it's extremely important to code and test your email signature (like we do) for all email software, so that you can be sure what you're sending is what the email recipient on the other end, is receiving.
Images are missing from my email signature when I send to other people
You have sent your email signature to someone with images inline in the body of the email message, but when the recipient opens the email message, the images are either attached to the email (as file attachments), are disabled or missing completely from the email signature.
If you embed images directly into your email signatures, for example, you simply copy and paste an image into your email message or into the email signature settings of your email software, without hosting them on a web server and linking to them correctly in the HTML code, you will have issues with your images.
Missing images or images coming through as attachments in email signatures are our number one complaint from customers. So we solved this by hosting the images for them and including them correctly in the HTML code, so that they appear inline, in the body of email message, where they should be, and not as file attachments or disappearing completely.
Disabled images are different from missing images or images coming through as attachments. Anyone can disable images from their email software settings. You cannot force images to be shown, unless the email recipient allows them to be shown. Again, this is how email software works and cannot be overcome by the use of any code or scripts in your email signature.
Images are missing from other people's email signatures when I receive them
You receive an email from someone and there are missing images, images are disabled or images are coming through as attachments.
The sender most likely embedded the images (copied and pasted the images directly into the email message or email signature settings) which is not the correct way to add images to your email signature.
If the images are disabled (not missing or attached) and you prefer to receive emails with images showing inline in the body of the email message, you can enable this feature in most email clients, or you can possibly add the sender to your safe-sender list, which in some email clients, will allow images to be shown, from that person, every time. Read more about this here.
I created my email signature in Microsoft Word
It's understandable if you're familiar with the Microsoft Office suite of products, you might think using Word to create your email signature is a good idea. After all, you might not know how to code a HTML email signature from scratch and you can easily just copy and paste it from Word into Outlook, right? But when you send your email signature to other people, they are complaining that the formatting is broken or the images are disappearing or appearing as file attachments.
You used Word to create a HTML email signature.
Unfortunately, Word uses the Word rendering engine to create the HTML, which in simple terms, generates it's own version of HTML code that plays nicely with other Microsoft products, but not so nicely with any other email software, using better technologies (like Webkit) to render the HTML, which is pretty much all of the other email clients available today. Read more about this.
Colors are missing when I receive an email signature from someone else
You don't see any colors, links or images in an email signature you have received from someone else, while in reading mode (you have not hit reply or forward on the email message).
Firstly, has the sender sent a HTML message or a plain text message. Most email software only sends either plain text or HTML, it cannot send a version of both. If the message has definitely been sent in HTML, it sounds like your email software is set to receive email messages in plain text.
Does your email software only receive email messages in plain text - do you ever receive colors, links or images in email messages? Or do you have a setting enabled to only show emails in plain text? This is most likely the issue. Enable HTML or RTF emails in your email software settings.
Colors are missing when I send an email signature to someone else
You send an email with your HTML email signature with different colored fonts and links, but the person who receives your email says that it was black text only.
The person who received your email, has plain text settings enabled in their email software, or their email software does not support receiving HTML emails. Advise the person to enable receiving HTML/RTF email messages in their email software settings. If HTML or RTF is not supported in their email software, there is no workaround for this, this is just how their email software is programmed to work.
In conclusion, there are many things that can go wrong with email signatures when sending and receiving them, which are mostly to do with how email programs send and receive HTML code. The issues listed here are only the tip of the iceberg.
If anybody says they can create you a perfect email signature, that will look exactly the same every time it's sent or received, they are either 1) lying to you, or 2) naive enough to believe it.
If you don't have experience in creating email signatures every day, like we do, you might underestimate how much time and energy goes into creating professionally coded and tested email signature designs that hold up against a lot of these issues.
But don't let that get you down. The positives of including a correctly coded HTML email signature, outweigh these negatives.
The best advice we can give, is to roll with the punches, and don't expect your email signature to behave perfectly all the time, but do expect it to look good when it's received most of the time. There are certainly ways of creating beautiful HTML email signatures that will decrease many of these issues, but they can never be fully avoided.