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Not so long ago I was asked the question, what’s the difference between a web page and an email newsletter? To the untrained eye they could be one and the same thing but actually they are quite different. In this blog post I outline why that is the case.

The similarities

Both web pages and email newsletters are built with a series of technologies know as HTML (which defines the content) and CSS (which defines the visual style). This is where the similarities end though and I will now explain why email newsletters are far more limited.


Because most email clients (e.g. Outlook) have quite a detailed user interface only a small amount of screen space is dedicated to the the email newsletter itself. For this reason newsletters should be much narrower than a standard web page and should use less complex layouts. Ideally the layout should only be one or two columns. Web pages can be almost twice the width of an email newsletter and as such more creative layouts can be used.


Some email clients only have a limited CSS features set (especially more recent versions of Outlook) which means your options for design are far more limited on an email newsletter. For example, Outlook 2007 and 2010 do not support background images, therefore they should be avoided (Outlook users represent a significant proportion of the market so they should not be dismissed).


Many users block images by default on their email clients so you need to make sure that your email newsletter is legible without images; on web pages this is not an issue.

Flash movies and videos do not work in emails. The closest thing you can use is an animated GIF–which is a very rudimentary form of animation. If you wish to use Flash or video you should link to it from your newsletter, rather than embedding it.


You will also run into issues when using form elements in an email newsletter so, again, these should be hosted on a web page and linked to from your newsletter.

The key to a successful newsletter is keep it simple! If you wish to use any fancy layout, media or interactivity do it on a web page and let your email newsletter be a gateway to that page. If you try to be too clever with your email newsletters you will only guarantee your failure.

For a really great website or HTML newsletter call me on 07843 483 078 or get a free quote online.

Tim Bennett is a web designer and developer. He has a First Class Honours degree in Computing from Leeds Metropolitan University and currently runs his own one-man web design company, Texelate.