It is always important to think about how your email looks with images turned off. Using alternative (ALT) text can prevent the message in the image from getting lost.

According to the StoneShot Digital Marketing Survey 2014, 48% of UK professional investors using a desktop – going up to 54% when using a mobile – will only see images once they choose to display them. In the US these figures are 44% and 45% respectively. Although they can easily enable the images in your campaign, 35% of UK (37% on mobile) and 29% of US (38% on mobile) of professional investors said that they ‘sometimes’ choose to do this, so you cannot always rely on your audience seeing them. Have a look at our handy infographics to see more on our research into enabling images in email – view UK results hereview US results here.

Knowing that their customers do not always enable images, some companies have gone to the next level with their images-off optimisation to ensure those customers have a similar experience to having images enabled. Pizza Express are well known for this, here’s a great example.

Images on:

Pizza Express - email with images onAnimated GIF

As you can see, the email is mainly built using images, including the use of an animated gif that demonstrates the waiter pouring a glass of Prosecco.

Images off:

Pizza Express - email with images off

With images turned off, the heading disappears but as the main message and voucher code have been produced using text, the email still serves its purpose. The imagery, although not as pretty as before, is still clear. Using different sized tables and background colours they have created a glass of Prosecco, including the bubbles!

This is a customer facing example; but what happens when email designers are given the opportunity to push the boundaries of ALT text in email? Litmus hold Community Contests and January’s was focused on just that; they wanted to see what their members could do when asked to go beyond basic styling. View the results here. Although not everything used would be practical for your brand, it shows how far email designers can go when it comes to alternative layouts to ensure the customer has an interesting experience with or without images enabled.

What goes into an email like this?

To produce this type of email, especially the ones seen in Litmus, requires carefully designed HTML, taking into consideration how the images need to be sliced, where the tables behind the images need to sit and what styling these tables need. Along with applying any CSS formatting and ensuring it renders the same on every email client. Done right it shouldn’t lose the message and the brand will still be recognisable.

Unless you have a brand that can be represented in this way – plus lots of time on your hands – then it isn’t always a technique that will work for everyone. Best practice is to keep it simple, make sure you have relevant ALT text behind every image and use as much text as possible in your email rather than building it based on images.

For help implementing ALT text in your emails or advice on any other aspect of digital design contact the StoneShot team at