“Can I Just Use a Big Image in My Email?”

When I talk to clients about email marketing, I get a lot of questions about the best practices for email design.

One of the most common questions I am asked is: “I want to send a single-image email, what is the easiest way to do that?”

Once that question is asked, I go through all of the possible scenarios of why a customer would need to do that, which method would be easiest for this customer, and exactly why I would recommend not doing it.

The short answer is yes, you absolutely can send an email that contains one large image—but you run a very big risk in doing so. In fact, your recipient(s) may not see the content of your email at all.

If the recipient’s email client doesn’t “display images” — your message is lost

When was the last time you checked your personal email account and found that all of the images would be loaded once you’ve opened your selected email? You probably can’t remember. In fact, you’re probably more familiar with seeing blank boxes containing a large “X” like the image below.

bad-email-without-image

By having no text in an email and having your campaign run only as one large image, you run the risk that your hard work—and your message—won’t be seen by your recipients.

Why do people and email clients block images in the first place?

Technology moves so quickly these days that maybe we’ve forgotten about the wonderful world of viruses and unapproved programs downloading onto our computers. With amazing antivirus software these days, it’s not that difficult to forget.

However, before these advances, when a spammer, scammer, or just the average malicious user wanted to harm your computer, they could easily bind a malicious program to an image file within an email. An email client would automatically download and display these images and put your computer at risk for viruses.

Most email clients these days will automatically remove the images from emails and ask you to click a link to display them—if you trust the sender. Most commercial emails also contain a link that allows you to display an email as a web page as well.

Images aren’t always accessible to all

In addition to the risk that your image won’t load, it’s also important to keep in mind that not all of your contacts may be consuming your emails in the same way. For example, those who are of limited vision or legally blind may be using a screen reader to consume your content. If your email is nothing but a large image, this inhibits them from being able to read it. While alt-text is always recommended to ensure accessibility, this is meant for short descriptions of an image rather than to translate a long text-based image.

In summary: make your emails accessible to all of your contacts by using text with accompanying images rather than one large image.

It’s all about trust!

Trusting the sender is a big deal to email recipients. If I don’t know who is sending the email, or what company it’s from, I will most likely not open it.

If I do by chance open the email and see nothing in it—no text, nothing—I probably won’t download the images either. “From” names can be faked, and I’m weary to download images from an email with no text content for fear that it is a scam or possible phising attempt.

Best practices = best results

I would suggest you resist the urge to send a single-image email to your contacts.

We can’t trust if there isn’t any text to prove who you are or what company you’re sending your email from. Plus, sending your email as a large image may guarantee that not all of your recipients will be able to read it due to lack of accessibility or an email client’s failure to load the graphic.

Bottom line: By sending a single-image email you’re not maximizing your reach or using your Constant Contact account to its fullest potential. Perhaps most importantly, you run the risk of losing the trust of those you want it from most—your customers.

Happy sending! And be safe out there!

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