Regardless of what email signature software you use, or if coded your own, or you made your signature in another way, many people are surprised when their signature gets messed up. It can be a frustrating experience to perfect an email signature and then have it look like junk after you worked so hard on it.
When Are You Noticing It?
Let’s be clear though, it matters a lot when the signature gets messed up. The first two situations are fixable, but the third is not.
- It gets messed up as soon as I paste it into my email program signature settings
This means that something about the signature itself or the process you used to copy and paste the signature may have introduced some issues. If you are using Signature.email, then your signature most of the time should be good to go unless you did something funny during the design process. If you got your signature from someone else, then its possible that the code they used may not work with your email program. We have spent hundreds of hours perfecting the code we use to generate our email signatures!
- It gets messed up when I first send it to someone
If you send it to someone, and it looks funny on their screen, then you may have a similar issue as the one above. To be clear though, this is the FIRST send, and not when someone replies or forwards your signature back to you. That is talked about below. Signature.email optimizes your email for the first send, it should look awesome when your email recipient first gets the email signature. If it doesn’t, there could be an issue with your design, feel free to hit us up on chat and we might be able to make a recommendation. If you got your signature from somewhere else, then there may be an issue with it.
- It gets messed up when they reply to my email and I see it again
This is the big bummer of the email signature industry. For the most part, there isn’t a lot that can be done about this. It doesn’t matter much how your email signature was coded, or where you got it made, no matter what email signatures will change as the original email gets replied to or forwarded to someone else or back to you, the original sender.
Why Does This Happen?
Lack of Email Standards
The main problem is that, unlike the web, where web browsers have all come together and agreed to a set of standards in how websites should work, email programs have never done this. It is still a bit like the wild west out there when you use HTML code in an email. Vendors like Microsoft (Outlook), Google (Gmail), Apple (Both iOS and Desktop Apple Mail) all handle HTML code, and any images referenced in that code, very differently at times. There was an attempt to rally email vendors to fix this many years ago, but it mostly went ignored from the likes of Microsoft, Google, and Apple.
Part of the problem is that using HTML in email hasn’t always been standard. When email was first invented everything was “plain text”. There was no formatting at all. Gradually email users wanted to be able to add bold text, and links, and colors, and images. Many email clients may have used HTML code in the background to format emails like this, but they generally only gave the email writer a basic set of “Rich Text” tools like bold or italics.
HTML Rendering Differences
Some email programs have opted to keep their basic editors to make sure they don’t break any existing functionality. For example Microsoft Office doesn’t actually use a web browser at all to render HTML code! Instead it uses the simple rendering engine built into Microsoft Word. (And we’ve all probably tried to design a flyer in Microsoft Word and been frustrated with the results at times!). Other email clients like Google’s Gmail are web-based, which presents a different set of challenges. They need to ensure any code you write inside of your email that they are receiving and sending doesn’t effect their program which is also written with HTML and CSS code. So they may change your code to keep their own website secure and consistent. Others like Apple have kept their email client up to date with their modern web browsers, but their mobile platform iOS come with unique sets of challenges.
Email Compose Mode
The problem happens specifically when an email reader switches from Read mode, to Compose mode. When you hit “Reply” or “Forward” in your email client, it switches from Read to Compose. This is the moment when the email program takes the html code it has been given and rewrites it to its own standards. Even though it is part of the “reply” content, it doesn’t matter, all of the code in the entire email must follow this new email programs standards.
Issues Happen When Sending Between Different Email Programs
To be more clear, issues come up when an email goes through multiple different kinds of email programs. If I write an email in Outlook, send it to another Outlook user, they write me a reply and send it back to my Outlook email client, then rarely do any issues come up because Outlook is consistent and hasn’t changed anything new about the code. However, if I write an email in Outlook, send it to my client who is checking their email from the Mail App on their iPhone, and they reply back to me in Outlook, then often my email signature will have changed in a frustrating way when I look at it again back on my own screen.
If you start an email chain that goes between many recipients that all use different email programs, then the problem is likely to be worse, with your email signature
What Issues Can Happen Exactly?
Email Signature Images Go Missing
Outlook doesn’t reference remote images in email signatures like an img tag, rather it “embeds” them almost like an attachment (but without the paperclip). Even though most other email programs don’t do the same thing, they can understand these embedded images and resend them. Some iPhones, however, can view them in an email, but when you switch to compose mode, they disappear.
|Microsoft Outlook||Some iPhones||Microsoft Outlook|
iPhone recipients can control this behavior by changing their settings, but unfortunately you as the sender cannot control this:
Settings > Mail > Include Attachments with Replies > Always
Email Signature Fonts Change
You will find that sometimes you get your email back and the font in your signature has changed. The most common is for the font to change to something more default like “Times New Roman”, a basic serif font. This may have happened because of the users preferences or because they lacked the font you sent originally.
|Any Email Client||Some versions of Outlook||Any Email Client|
Email Signature Increased Line Spacing
Because of the various ways email clients handle table cells and the contents inside of them, sometimes you can be left with wider gaps than you originally wanted. Outlook has a tendency of adding paragraph tags inside of table cells which some email clients then want to add a space by default after a paragraph tag.
|Any Email Client||Outlook for Web||Any Email Client|
Email Signature Links Get Underlined (and the underline is in a different color!)
Some email clients require underlines for all text links and some do not. You will often find that getting your signature back from Outlook or Gmail that all of your links will now be underlined. I believe this is a “Security measure” that Microsoft and Google have chosen to implement to try to protect their users from unwittingly clicking a link that they did not know was a link. In addition, sometimes the color of the underline itself does not match the text color.
|Any Email Client||Gmail||Any Email Client|
|Any Email Client||Outlook||Any Email Client|
All Email Signature Styles Get Lost
If someone forces their email client to always be in “plain text” mode, there isn’t a lot you can do about that. All of the formatting and images will be lost, leaving only the visible text from your signature left when the reply to you.
|Any Email Client||Any Email Client in “Plain Text Mode”||Any Email Client|
What Can I Do?
To be honest, there isn’t a lot you can do! I know it is frustrating, but we are all a bit stuck by the lack of standards in the industry and have to deal with the consequences of that. One way to think about this is that we all kind of expect this already, we just don’t really notice it until its our own signature. We have all noticed that some kinds of formatting for the content of your email (text color, for example) will change for email replies. Plus, some email clients are smart enough to show our emails in a thread or conversation view, when this happens you often don’t see the broken looking signature at all!
Obviously, the more simple your signature is, the less that can happen to it. If you only have your name at the bottom of an email, it’s likely to work every time! But we all like the idea of branding our emails with our colors, logos, and other information that is important to our business. So you often just need to evaluate if the signature looking great on the FIRST send is good enough, or if you are too concerned with the signature looking funny at times and you want to simplify your signature.