Posted 14th December 2009 by APSIS

What about your preheader?

Today, most email clients block images by default. This is naturally a huge problem for anyone who designs newsletters and other email circulars with images. In the US, many designers try to make the best out of the situation by using preheaders. A good preheader may not be the perfect solution, but it will certainly help you along the way. Let’s take a look at how it works!

A preheader is, as the word suggests, visible above the header. To be more specific, it is the first line of text in the email message. Usually, you see a text link here to a web version of the letter saying something like “Click here if you can’t read this email”. But you could use this space to more than that.

By pushing the text link to the side, it is possible to write a short sentence that sums up the contents of the letter or highlights your main offer. The preheader becomes a second subject line. In the example below, we see that the sender is “APSIS’ Newsletter” and that the subject line is “Improve your newsletter design”. But the third line – the preheader – says that the letter deals with transactional mail and welcome letters. And the letter has not even been opened yet. Pretty smart, don’t you think?

A preheader is visible directly after the subject line in the inbox of certain email clients. Above, we see the email client “Mail” on an iPhone.

This works even better in Gmail. In the image below, the entire preheader is visible.

What is the link between preheaders and blocked images? Take a look at the example below, where Victoria’s Secret has done something really clever. Since their newsletters are almost entirely based on images, nothing is visible when they are opened and the images are blocked. Except at the top, because there is a preheader. The preheader says the same thing as the text in the image, so you get an idea of what is in the letter and what you will see if you choose to download the images.

Having said that, it is probably not a very good idea to design image-based newsletters thinking that preheaders will solve everything. But it is a good tool for anyone who wants to use images in their newsletter.