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  • November 25, 2008

Alert: Rendering problems caused by Gmail Themes

The introduction of Gmail Themes—which allows users to change default background, text and link colors in their inbox—has made it even more difficult to code HTML emails so that they render consistently in Gmail. The problem arises when subscribers use certain Themes and marketers don’t define the color of every background, text and link. Under certain circumstances you can end up with light text or links on a light background, or dark text and links on a dark background, making the email difficult or impossible to read.

For instance, here’s a Nov. 21 JC Whitney email viewed in Gmail with the “Classic” theme (left) and the same email viewed with the “Contrast Black” theme (right):

Click to view this Nov. 21, 2008 JC Whitney email larger Click to view this Nov. 21, 2008 JC Whitney email larger

In this case, the preheader text and product names disappear (because it’s black text on a black background) and the vertical navigation menu becomes practically unreadable (because it’s yellow links on a light blue background). So what was a well-designed email with a good balance of images and HTML text is now partially illegible.

Based on the findings of the 2008 Retail Email Rendering Benchmark Study, my estimation is that approximately 40% of all retailers have the potential to be significantly affected by this rendering problem.

The solution is to define all your background, text and link colors.

A big tip of the hat to Michael van Hardenberg at AbeBooks for pointing this rendering problem out to me.
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