How to make your emails more accessible


As every marketer probably knows all too well, email open rates average around 20%, which means that for every five people who receive your email, four don’t. won’t even open. It might sound depressing, but there are two ways to look at email open rates.

On the throughput side, 80% is a lot of wasted communication. Yet, given that there are approximately 15 trillion commercial emails sent each year (of which SparkPost handles 40%), there are still plenty of emails being read.

The big question for marketers is inevitably “how can open rates be improved?” »

There are plenty of reasons why branded emails stay intact – after all, the average person receives over 100 emails a day. For some, however, the reason they haven’t opened the email may not be because they don’t want to know what’s in it or because they’re “bloated.” meeting,” but rather because they can’t actually read or understand the email in the first place.

They may be among the 2.2 billion people worldwide that the World Health Organization considers to be near or far sight impaired. Or, if the email is sent only in English, it may be one of the 3.6 billion Internet users across the planet for whom English is not their primary language.

As email marketers, we need to make sure our messages can be read by anyone who wants to access them. They must be easy to read and understandable for everyone, regardless of disability or language. This is why accessibility considerations should be at the heart of the entire email creation process.

Following basic accessibility guidelines for email creation also has the added benefit of ensuring that marketing messages don’t end up being too complex, which, in turn, could also have a positive impact. on open and interaction rates.

Meanwhile, creating emails in different languages ​​should not be seen as a benefit for marketers either. If you’re a brand with a global footprint or global ambitions, multilingual emails could seriously improve open rates and give you a significant edge over your competition.

Establish sensitive and accessible style rules

It’s important that you or your designers develop an accessibility mindset. This process involves combining company brand guidelines with a set of ground rules for delivering accessible and effective email.

In some cases, that might mean tweaking design elements, but in my opinion, the benefits of higher open rates far outweigh the drawbacks of a potential slight deviation from brand design rules.

Take point size for example. Your company may have an established point size for the type, which it may have stuck with for decades. However, if that point size is less than 14pt, when it comes to email marketing, you may have a problem.

The text should be large enough for everyone to read. If your readers are squinting, zooming, or even worse, jumping for reading glasses, you may have already lost their attention and all opportunity for interaction will be gone. So stick to a font size of at least 14 points and think about line height so that readers have enough space between lines to read clearly.

Also ask yourself if your company’s typeface is easy to read? Before sending emails, test the font to see how it looks and reads on different screen sizes and devices (for example, find out what percentage of your target audience reads your emails on mobile and, if if necessary, optimize emails for small screens). Simple, classic fonts work best. There’s a reason some fonts are more widely used than others.

Think carefully about embedding image content

For many marketers, the jury is out on the effectiveness of integrating GIFs and videos into email newsletters.

From an accessibility perspective, there are very good reasons not to use GIFs at all. First, not all of your readers will see them because background images and GIFs are not fully supported in Outlook. Plus, a flashy GIF with fast-paced frames will not only annoy some of your readers, but it can also trigger seizures in people with photosensitivity.

If you insist that including GIFs will increase engagement levels, be sure to include “alt text” to provide context. This helps visually impaired readers understand the message of the image or GIF.

Other things to keep in mind are making sure links are clear and underlined (if you just color them in, they might be skipped by people who are color blind or visually impaired) and breaking up text with subheadings clear and bold. If you have specific title, header, and sub-header elements in your template, screen readers can identify these different areas of the email and treat them as such, rather than add everything in a text field.

Watch your words

Creating email newsletters in different languages ​​is something many marketers should aspire to. Once you’ve optimized a newsletter to the point that it works effectively in one language, if you’re an international business, then explore localization.

If you offer multilingual emails, people who might not otherwise read newsletters can receive and interact with them. At the same time, even people who speak English as a second language should make less effort to read their emails, which could make them more likely to open the email in the first place.

There are easy ways to translate content using online tools like Google Translate. Yet these are only partially effective and can end up creating content that is confusing to readers and possibly detrimental to your brand.

At the other end of the scale, you can invest in local translators, although this can create cost and efficiency issues. Employing 20 different people to translate a newspaper into their local language is both expensive and time-consuming.

Then there is also the matter of the loss of meaning of the language as it is translated. For example, the first James Bond film, Dr No, was released in Japan in 1962 with the bizarre title “We Don’t Need No Doctor”. Then there’s a notable global fast food brand whose tagline “Finger Licking Good” means “eat your own fingers” in Chinese.

At Sparkpost, we call the process of optimizing email content in different languages ​​transcreation. We have a tool called Taxi, which helps your marketing and translation teams translate the context of your email, rather than just the content. This ensures that the content actually works in a local culture, avoiding embarrassing errors or strange phrases and structures.

Don’t forget to think about images too. They need to be optimized to work in local markets. An obvious shortcut is to make the images of the people you use as diverse as possible, with different ages, ethnicities, and genders.

That said, nothing beats offering bespoke images on a market-by-market basis. The visuals should reflect the real world and therefore help make the newsletter as customer-centric as possible.


Email is, in my opinion, the primary customer communication tool for marketers. No other platform can compete with its direct, dynamic and interactive approach. Yet, as marketers know all too well, their customers receive a lot of email and only have a limited amount of time each day to consume content. Marketers need to work as hard as possible to make their brand emails stand out.

Making email accessible is the right thing to do from a business perspective – surely everyone should be treated fairly. But it can also improve email delivery and open numbers. And in many businesses, small margins like these can lead to big gains.

For an easy-to-use 10-step guide to accessibility, download our 10-step checklist here.

Elliot Ross is an email evangelist at Taxi for Email, a Spark Post Company.


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