Hmmm, initially this post was tacked on to the end of the previous item about invalid HTML landing emails in junk filters. I think it’s more appropriate as a post in its own right though.
As far as I’m concerned, one of the strengths of email is that it’s plain text only. Plain text is speedy and efficient. It allows you to zero in on information and puts the focus on content.
I believe a successful strategy is to send email as plain text and refer people to a web page for pictures, layout and interactive features.
HTML is great for structuring web pages and that’s where it belongs. You can hang a style sheet on a good structure and with any luck enhance the presentation of your content. Generally though web pages also embrace all kinds of other “stuff” — sidebars, navigation, ads, notices, credits and the like. Visiting a website becomes an exercise in navigation, locating and selecting information from a multitude of colours and columns and links and other offerings. Every web designer has their own opinion of how best to present information to me.
A newer information channel which successfully combines both the plainness and efficiency of email and the power of HTML/XML though is RSS feeds. I find it interesting that I now read many websites via the RSS feed, which essentially gives me a plain and sensible rendition of the page content. It’s swift, simple, uncomplicated. It brings instant information. The RSS feed allows me to scan headings to pick out the nuggets which interest me. Distractions are gone. It allows a higher level of sorting. Instead of comparing items on a page to select nuggets from dross I’m now able to compare nuggets to select those of greatest worth (to me).
What’s more, I’ve set the font and font size in my reader (the fabulous NetNewsWire) and layout is pretty well irrelevant. I’m no longer battling against a designer’s notion of what I should want and am able to make those decisions for myslef. In the old days we would have called this “empowerment”, but that seems to be an old-fashioned notion these days.
Perhaps you will argue that I can apply my own stylesheet to web pages I visit — an idea fundamental to the use of stylesheets in the first place, but still web pages carry too much baggage.
And so the above few paragraphs of essentially thinking aloud lead me to this inevitable conclusion: I enjoy simplicity, directness and efficiency. RSS feeds give me all of those things.