Creating Emails in Compliance With the Accessibility Best Practices

Creating Emails in Compliance With the Accessibility Best Practices

Impart an inclusive experience to all your subscribers, irrespective of their cognitive abilities and any other physical disability with accessible emails.

Suppose you have sent a flashy email to all your subscribers. Such emails may look visually attractive to you when you hit the “Send” button but they might not be very impressive for all your subscribers. They may cause a problem to readers who have photosensitivity. Marketers try their level best to stand out in the subscriber’s inbox. Sometimes, in the quest to innovate, they overlook the accessibility best practices. 

Most of the emails that I receive in my inbox are not completely accessible.

The result looks something like this:

email accessibility

Source: Really Good Emails and Litmus

Let’s understand why email accessibility is important. 

Importance of Email Accessibility

  1. WHO states that about 15% of the world’s population lives with some form of disability. Therefore, you must create accessible emails that offer an inclusive experience to everyone. 
  2. Geriatric population, people with disabilities, and other social groups find it easier to consume accessible emails. Adhering to the accessibility best practices, you can reach a broader audience with your emails. 
  3. Accessible emails impart a smooth user experience to everyone, irrespective of any disabilities. 
  4. A good user experience translates to better engagement and more conversions. Accessible emails help to eliminate the friction that might act as an obstacle for engagement. 
  5. Not many brands are creating accessible emails. Hence, early adoption can work in your favor and help you stand out from the competitors. 
  6. By creating accessible emails, you come off as a considerate brand that cares about their subscribers. No wonder, premium brands can charge an exorbitant amount and still cater to a huge audience. 

Which Conditions Should be Considered While Creating Accessible Emails?

Marketers should consider five disability types when creating accessible emails. 

1. Visual

Visual disabilities may comprise of:

  • Mild or moderate vision loss in one or both eyes
  • Complete vision loss in both eyes
  • Reduced or lack of sensitivity to certain colors or color blindness
  • Sensitivity to brightness

2. Auditory

Auditory disabilities range from mild to moderate hearing impairment in one or both ears. 

3. Cognitive

Cognitive, learning, and neurological disabilities include behavioral and mental disorders in addition to neurological disorders. It influences the processing and comprehension of information. 

4. Speech

Inability to produce speech that is recognizable by other people or software programs are included in speech disabilities. 

5. Physical

Physical or motor disabilities include weaknesses and limitations of muscular control. It can be involuntary movements like tremors, paralysis, lack of coordination, limitations of sensation, joint disorders like arthritis, pain that interferes with movement, and missing limbs. 

Now that you are in the know about the disability types, let’s understand how to create accessible emails catering to all your subscribers. 

We shall start with Accessibility Best Practices for the Inbox. 

  1. Email subject line and preheader text should be long enough to capture attention but not so long that it gets truncated on small screens. They should compel the recipients to open the email. 
  2. If you are using emojis in your email subject lines, think about the subscribers using assistive technology. Refrain from using too many emojis or changing their color. 
  3. Screen readers cannot read words with all capitalized letters. Therefore, avoid writing in all CAPS. 

Accessibility Best Practices for Email Content

1. Write a concise email copy

Short emails are easier to read for people with reduced attention spans or those who have difficulty in reading long paragraphs.

2. Use a lucid language

Choose your words wisely. Most of your subscribers might not understand technical jargons and sophisticated native language So, use simple sentences that ensure better email readability. 

Hyperlink text lets your audience know where they will land after clicking the link. Therefore, avoid using generic phrases such as “Click here”. Write descriptive anchor text that goes like “Here, you can download our digital marketing trends 2022”. 

  1. Do not reference images in text

Avoid using phrases like “see the image below” in your emails. This can confuse people using screen readers and other assistive tools to access your emails. 

Accessibility Best Practices for Email Design

Just like your email copy, your design is equally important when it comes to creating accessible emails. 

Here are the points to remember while creating accessible email designs. 

1. Maintain a logical reading order

Generally, developers use tables to design email templates as it ensures flawless rendering across different devices and email clients. One of the most important rules of creating accessible emails is to follow a logical reading order. The content sequence must comply with the left to right and top to bottom order so that screen readers can read out the content the way you want it to be accessed. A single-column layout helps to ensure a logical reading order in responsive emails. 

2. Use dark text on a light background for best readability

Your emails are the most readable when they are designed with dark text on a light background. When a low-contrast color combination is used, it will make your text difficult to read and render a bad experience to the readers. For instance: It will not be a good idea to create an email with white text on a yellow background. Color contrast is an important aspect for readers with color blindness. 

Some marketers also use a dark background and light text. This is a great alternative for your actual email. You can even design a traditional email with dark text on a light background and create its dark mode version. Subscribers who are sensitive to light like to access their emails in dark mode. 

Ideally, the contrast ratio must be greater than or equal to 4.5:1 for small font size and 3:1 for large fonts. 

Tools to Check Color Contrast Ratio

a. Contrast Ratio

b. Contrast Finder

c. Monsido

d. Coolors

3. Align your email copy to the left

Dyslexic patients find it difficult to read emails that are not aligned to the left. Many marketers design center-aligned email copies for better aesthetics. However, it is advisable to create left-aligned emails to comply with the accessibility rules and make the email copy easy to read for everyone. Also, some email clients impart a bad experience with justified text. Therefore, left alignment is the safest bet. 

4. Choose simple fonts 

Avoid using too fancy fonts that are too difficult to read. Font size should be greater than or equal to 14px. Serif and Sans Serif are extensively used fonts in emails. Marketers like to use sans serif fonts but web-safe fonts that fall in both these categories are the most recommended. Nonetheless, this does not mean that you can not use fancy, decorative fonts at all. You can surely use them for your occasion-based emails. Just make sure you provide an appropriate fallback while using custom fonts. 

For emails using a custom font, the email rendering engine first checks if the custom font exists on the subscriber’s device. In case it is not installed, it will display the first web-safe font provided as a fallback. If that too does not exist on the device, the second fallback font will be displayed. 

5. Have short line length and suitable line height in your emails

45 to 75 characters is ideal line length for emails. If the line gets too long, it will get too tough to concentrate on the text. On the other hand, if the line length is short, it will break the reading rhythm as the readers will have to go back to the left again and again to read the next line. 

Experts recommend you break the email content with headings, pointers, and images to make it easy to consume. 

When it comes to the ideal line height, it must be 1.5 times the font size. Lines placed too close to each other are difficult to read while lines separated too much will break the connection. 

Check out this email by Email Uplers. While the font size used in this email is 15pt, the line height is 25pt and line length is 71 characters. 

6. Use visuals correctly

Add visuals that are not too much in the face for the subscribers. Always include a suitable alt text with every visual in the email. If you are using GIFs, make sure that the animations do not change too quickly. Avoid using bold patterns and colors with high contrast. GIFs with smooth transitions are the best choice if you want to make your emails accessible. 

7. Draw the user’s attention to the core purpose of the email with ample white space

Your email purpose should not get concealed with too many elements and visuals. Give your email enough white space so that it prompts the users to take action without any distractions. 

Take a look at this email by Ritual that has plenty of white space to encourage the readers to convert. 

Wrapping Up

Do you check every email for accessibility? If not, we would highly recommend you start doing it as soon as possible. Tools like Litmus, Accessibility Insight, Accessible Metrics, and WAVE are great to check your emails for accessibility. Start using email to its maximum potential by abiding by following all the tips shared here and increase the reach of your emails. 

Kevin George is Head of Marketing at Email Uplers, one of the fastest-growing custom email design and coding companies, and specializes in crafting professional email templates, PSD to HTML email conversion, and free responsive HTML email templates in addition to providing email automation, campaign management, and data integration & migration services. He loves gadgets, bikes, jazz, and eats and breathes email marketing. He enjoys sharing his insights and thoughts on email marketing best practices on his blog.

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