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Why does my email always look different in Outlook?

  1. Email service providers such as Outlook interpret HTML code in different ways.
  2. Outlook use Microsoft Word to render HTML/CSS. Because of this, an email display may look slightly off in Outlook.
  3. You may see issues with the following HTML Emails in Outlook 2007/2010/2013/2016.
  4. Outlooks support for HTML and CSS in these versions are no different to when Outlook 2007 was first released.

Why Does My Email Look Different When It Lands In My Inbox?

One of the most common questions the Swift Digital support team receive is something along the lines of;

“My email looks fine when I preview it. Why does  it now look different in my inbox?’

The Swift Digital Support team will then ask:

“Are you using Outlook, by any chance?”

Despite their popularity, Microsoft’s Outlook 2007, 2010, 2013 and 2016 are four of the biggest offenders when it comes to email formatting. It can certainly can be frustrating and unless you live and breathe email design, it can be difficult to wrap your head around.

During the build and design phase the Swift Digital production team will test all templates across a all of the main  email clients, testing across both mobile and desktop, but there are particular circumstances where your emails may display a little differently.

7 Tips to Make Sure Your Email Doesn't Look Different in Outlook

Publishing and testing with Outlook

  1. Testing Software – Use testing software like Litmus or Email on Acid to test your emails across Outlook versions before you send.
  2. Outlook Settings – Update your settings in Outlook to make sure that your emails do not use Microsoft Word In Outlook. Go to Tools menu, then Options item and then click on Mail Format tab. Make sure that both check boxes that reference Microsoft Word are unticked. This will allow Outlook to use its own faster and more lightweight editor instead.
  3. Table Cell Alignment – Whilst it might look fine in a preview, the default alignment might be different in the inbox. Don’t rely on the defaults, specify the alignments for each cell, and make sure it is all lined up neatly.
  4. Outlooks Poor Support for Padding and Margin Attributes – This can be patchy, so if you’re having trouble getting an image to sit in the right place, we suggest laying things out in a table.
  5. Image Borders – The HTML code for image borders is not supported by Word. Consider adding the border to the image itself.
  6. Animated GIFs – Animated GIFs will not play in the inbox, only the first frame will show.
  7. Gaps in Email Content– The Word engine renders long emails just like a multi-page Word document. This can result in a ‘page break’ in exceptionally long content, about 1800 pixels down the page.

How Does Outlook Differ From Other Email Providers? (Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail)

Outlook 2007, 2010, 2013 and 2016 can be a bit tricky to work with. For reasons known only to a mystical inner cabal at Microsoft, these four use the Microsoft Word engine to render HTML emails.

Yep, a word processor rather than, say, Internet Explorer. The bane of email designers all over the world. There are certain elements of HTML and CSS that Microsoft Word does not support, which can cause display discrepancies in your emails.

Swift Digital is an Australian owned Marketing Automation and Events Software. It is built with all the tools you need to automate your email marketing and events. Before we release any newly designed beautiful templates we make sure they are tested across all the top email clients (including Outlook) so you aren’t left with any nasty surprises when it comes to publishing.

If you’re interested in learning more about email marketing best practices, please contact the Swift Digital team today on 02 9929 7001.

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