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Number of posts in this thread: 12 (In chronological order)

From: Corbett, James
Date: Thu, Feb 14 2013 11:58AM
Subject: E-mail
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Hello:

Has there been any formalized standards set out for e-mail messages that are html based?

Jim

James (Jim) Corbett

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From: Shuttlesworth, Rachel
Date: Thu, Feb 14 2013 12:06PM
Subject: Re: E-mail
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We have been asked to write some guidelines for HTML email messages so that our campus PR and admin folks can send accessible messages to thousands of alums, students, etc.

I would love to hear how other organizations handle this.

Dr. Rachel S. Thompson
Director, Emerging Technology
Center for Instructional Technology
University of Alabama

From: Chagnon | PubCom
Date: Thu, Feb 14 2013 12:32PM
Subject: Re: E-mail
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Interesting topic. I haven't come across any formal guidelines, and it's definitely appropriate for this discussion list.

HTML emails should always have a plain ASCII text versions embedded into the email. You should be able to Google this to learn how it's done.

This dual strategy accommodates both AT users as well as those recipients who have HTML email disabled for security purposes, which is common in large enterprises.

My off-the-top-of-my-head guidelines are:
— For the HTML version, you must use a table to layout the design (I know, I know, but that's how it's done), so keep the layout table as simple as possible to more easily accommodate different AT.
— Avoid having one story or topic thread to multiple columns or cells.
— One topic or story per table cell, make sure that the graphics are in the same cell with the text, Alt-text on graphics.
— Since you can't link to an external CSS stylesheet, use inline CSS styles where you can define H1, H2, Lists, etc.
— Plan to do a fair amount of hand-coding with classes and attributes on the individual HTML elements in your design.
— Make sure each story has a link to a version on a live webpage.
— Build in as much WCAG as possible without breaking the email (yes, they often fail).

The ASCII plain text is identical to what you're receiving on the list. No formatting, no graphics.

—Bevi Chagnon

From: Jared Smith
Date: Thu, Feb 14 2013 1:25PM
Subject: Re: E-mail
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On Thu, Feb 14, 2013 at 12:32 PM, Chagnon | PubCom wrote:

> My off-the-top-of-my-head guidelines are:

A very good list. In general, I think it's best to keep things simple.
Remember that most e-mail clients (including Gmail) do not show images
by default. Only some of them will show alternative text instead of
images. So use images judiciously. Use appropriate headings. You can
use CSS to style them (or any other content). But remember that many
e-mail clients remove styling also, so be sure it works and looks OK
without them.

For our e-mail newsletters (http://webaim.org/newsletter) we give
users an option to subscribe to either the HTML or plain-text version.
When sending the HTML version, we (as Bevi suggested) also include the
text-only version as an alternative content component. The user's
e-mail client will present the HTML version if enable, otherwise it
has text-only content to fall back to.

We also do some basic formatting in the text-only version to make it a
bit more readable:

- Offset 'headings' by surrounding them with asterisks.
- Use "-- " (two dashes) at the beginning of what would otherwise be
lists to visually designate them.
- Use double line breaks between sections to visually separate them.
- Provide a link to the online HTML version so folks can read it
online if they choose.
- Provide an easy mechanism for the recipient to unsubscribe or manage
their subscription online.

Jared Smith
WebAIM.org

From: Joe Chidzik
Date: Fri, Feb 15 2013 1:28AM
Subject: Re: E-mail
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> Has there been any formalized standards set out for e-mail messages that are html
> based?
>

http://www.email-standards.org/ gives you an idea of the support across different mail clients for CSSHTML elements. Not a set of standards for producing mail, but possibly useful. Also allows you to test support for these elements in your own client.

Joe

From: Jukka K. Korpela
Date: Fri, Feb 15 2013 1:51AM
Subject: Re: E-mail
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2013-02-15 10:28, Joe Chidzik wriote:

>> Has there been any formalized standards set out for e-mail messages
>> that are html based?
>
> http://www.email-standards.org/ gives you an idea of the support
> across different mail clients for CSSHTML elements. Not a set of
> standards for producing mail, but possibly useful. Also allows you to
> test support for these elements in your own client.

The site looks very interesting! It took some time to figure out what
the proposed standards are there, though. It seems that their "Acid
test" at http://www.email-standards.org/acid-test/ is more or less meant
to specify the minimal requirements. And it is probably mainly based on
experience of what e-mail clients can be expected to handle,
realistically speaking. It seems to be rather cautious, even implying
that tables cannot be used at all. (Simple tables often work quite OK in
HTML e-mail, in many clients.)

On the other hand, this seems to be mostly about technical possibilities
of having your formatting obeyed by e-mail clients, rather than
accessibility. From the accessibility point of view, it is not essential
to have the sender's preferences on fonts imposed, for example. Rather,
accessibility is usually improved if text appears in the default font
face and size of the e-mail client, since this is what can be expected
to work for the reader (and can be tuned for him).

So although the site is very interesting for people who sent HTML e-mail
in general, it does not address the question how such mail should be
written in order to be accessible. I suppose the WCAG 2.0 guidelines
apply to HTML e-mail, too - but this is not a very operational
description, since those guidelines deal with the much more complex
world of web content (and do not deal with the important specifics of
e-mail).

Yucca

From: Alan M. Dalton
Date: Fri, Feb 15 2013 5:26AM
Subject: Re: E-mail
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Hi Jared,

That's useful information.

You said you use asterisks to designate headings, and double-dashes to
designate lists. Is there any reason why you don't use the Plain Text
Techniques for WCAG 2.0 ( http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20-TECHS/text.html )?

Regards,
Alan.

Alan Dalton
Access Officer and Accessibility Development Advisor
http://accessibility.ie
National Disability Authority http://www.nda.ie
25 Clyde Road, Dublin 4, Ireland http://goo.gl/maps/gOjcj




From: Jared Smith < = EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED = >
To: WebAIM Discussion List < = EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED = >
Date: 14/02/2013 20:27
Subject: Re: [WebAIM] E-mail
Sent by: = EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED =



On Thu, Feb 14, 2013 at 12:32 PM, Chagnon | PubCom wrote:

> My off-the-top-of-my-head guidelines are:

A very good list. In general, I think it's best to keep things simple.
Remember that most e-mail clients (including Gmail) do not show images
by default. Only some of them will show alternative text instead of
images. So use images judiciously. Use appropriate headings. You can
use CSS to style them (or any other content). But remember that many
e-mail clients remove styling also, so be sure it works and looks OK
without them.

For our e-mail newsletters (http://webaim.org/newsletter) we give
users an option to subscribe to either the HTML or plain-text version.
When sending the HTML version, we (as Bevi suggested) also include the
text-only version as an alternative content component. The user's
e-mail client will present the HTML version if enable, otherwise it
has text-only content to fall back to.

We also do some basic formatting in the text-only version to make it a
bit more readable:

- Offset 'headings' by surrounding them with asterisks.
- Use "-- " (two dashes) at the beginning of what would otherwise be
lists to visually designate them.
- Use double line breaks between sections to visually separate them.
- Provide a link to the online HTML version so folks can read it
online if they choose.
- Provide an easy mechanism for the recipient to unsubscribe or manage
their subscription online.

Jared Smith
WebAIM.org
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From: Jared Smith
Date: Fri, Feb 15 2013 8:00AM
Subject: Re: E-mail
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On Friday, February 15, 2013, Alan M. Dalton wrote:

> Is there any reason why you don't use the Plain Text
> Techniques for WCAG 2.0 ( http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20-TECHS/text.html )?
>

Though I've never seen these before, I think what I recommended is
perfectly inline with these great recommendations. They don't require only
one dash or prohibit the use of asterisks to add additional visual
significance to headings.

Jared

From: Cliff Tyllick
Date: Sat, Feb 16 2013 10:45PM
Subject: Re: E-mail
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Jukka (Yucca) Korpela wrote:


From the accessibility point of view, it is not essential
to have the sender's preferences on fonts imposed, for example. Rather,
accessibility is usually improved if text appears in the default font
face and size of the e-mail client, since this is what can be expected
to work for the reader (and can be tuned for him).

Cliff responds:

Jukka, I was discussing just this point with a colleague recently. We noted how the e-mail clients we are most familiar with (Outlook and Groupwise) do quite the opposite—in HTML format, e-mail is formatted as intended by the person who sent the e-mail. Unless we've missed something, it isn't possible to set up your preferences so incoming e-mail is displayed in the format you prefer. And, as you note, that is absolutely backwards from the standpoint of accessibility.

For example, in the situation we were dealing with, someone had sent an e-mail in light orange text against a completely white background. Neither of us could easily read the message, but the only way we could change the formatting was to hit "Reply (include message)" and modify the formatting in the draft message or, even faster, to copy the contents of the e-mail and drop them into a word-processing program or even a text editor.

All of which is wrong.

If the only color combination our author can see is light orange on white, then they should be allowed to use those colors as they draft the message. But if my friend and I need some other combination, we should be able to make that the default display on our computers.

So when will the people programming e-mail clients understand that?

Cliff

From: Chagnon | PubCom
Date: Sun, Feb 17 2013 9:08PM
Subject: Re: E-mail
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Cliff wrote:
"someone had sent an e-mail in light orange text against a completely white background. ... If the only color combination our author can see is light orange on white ..."

I don't know of any vision deficiency where orange text on a white background would be better than black on white.
Makes me wonder what was the sender trying to do by specking such a color combination!

—Bevi Chagnon

From: Ryan E. Benson
Date: Mon, Feb 18 2013 2:44PM
Subject: Re: E-mail
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I wouldn't rule out the color combination Cliff mentioned. I know somebody
who carries a bright orange piece of paper that she uses to read.

--
Ryan E. Benson


On Sun, Feb 17, 2013 at 11:08 PM, Chagnon | PubCom < = EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED = >wrote:

> Cliff wrote:
> "someone had sent an e-mail in light orange text against a completely
> white background. ... If the only color combination our author can see is
> light orange on white ..."
>
> I don't know of any vision deficiency where orange text on a white
> background would be better than black on white.
> Makes me wonder what was the sender trying to do by specking such a color
> combination!
>
> —Bevi Chagnon
> - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
> - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
> www.PubCom.com — Trainers, Consultants, Designers, Developers.
> Print, Web, Acrobat, XML, eBooks, and U.S. Federal Section 508
> Accessibility.
> New schedule for classes and workshops coming in 2013.
>
> > > >

From: Cliff Tyllick
Date: Mon, Feb 18 2013 6:36PM
Subject: Re: E-mail
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In this case, it was called "branding."

<eye roll />