San Diego State University


HTML E-mail Guidelines

These guidelines are intended to assist you with creating e-mails formatted in HTML that can be sent to students. HTML-formatted e-mails can be complex with graphics and images or simple with bolded, italicized or centered text.

Please contact Enrollment Services Communications with questions.

E-mail Structure
  • The viewing area can be quite small, so either use a flexible, percent-based table, or else a narrow fixed table. Do not use a CSS-based layout structure, since it is likely to fail in the new version of Outlook (which uses the Word HTML rendering rather than the rendering from Explorer).
  • Make sure page displays okay if Microsoft viewer is turned off in Eudora. Some e-mail viewers will not see all the formatting. In extreme cases, even tables are ignored. Make sure the page linearizes properly without the tables.
  • Page title is not needed. Some Web mail packages will display the title as part of the message if it is present.
  • It is recommended to add a line to the top of your HTML file that gives users an option in case they are unable to view the HTML e-mail. For example, “Trouble viewing this e-mail? Go directly to the @State Web site:
Graphics and Links
  • Keep graphics small (total page less than 500K, but the smaller the better) and limit text. Some ISP's block large messages.
  • Use absolute URL's for images and links. Make sure you include the http:// or the https:// as appropriate.
  • Designate links to open in a new Window (target="_blank"). Most Web-based e-mail readers use frames.
  • Embed styles within the HTML. Do not link to or attach a style sheet. Security settings often block attached style sheets since they have been used to hide executable code.
  • Make sure page is readable without styles. Many Web-based e-mail readers ignore CSS.
  • Background colors should be set in the table (in the individual cells). Web-based e-mail may ignore styles.
  • Only use basic HTML tags (no frames, no JavaScript). Some security settings will automatically remove the message if JavaScript is detected.
Requesting HTML E-mails
  • Create a zip file of the HTML file. The only file that should be in the zip file is one HTML file. (Remember: all images have absolute URLs and CSS is embedded in the HTML.)
  • Send the Zip file to Enrollment Services Communications at the same time you submit the online request form.