Monkey Monday - April 18th, 2022

What is the purpose of an email signature?

Monkey Mondays | Content

It’s common for companies to ask us to create branded email signatures. You know, something cute with the logo and their job title and some hyperlinks. Sounds easy, right?

The problem is that email signatures are like stray cats when it comes to standardising them and making them look good. We can spend hours and hours herding them this way and that, only for them to scratch us, give us rabies and run away.

A lot of time people attach a load of jpgs to their email and hope it will come out okay, but this always looks awful and bloats email threads with unnecessary noise. Have you ever opened an email looking for an important attachment, only to have to sift through dozens of useless jpgs of social media icons to find what you need?

The only good way to create a branded email signature is to build it in HTML, like we would a website. But unlike a website, emails are decoded by email clients like Outlook, Mail and others. Unlike web browsers like Safari and Chrome, email clients aren’t really designed to decode HTML in the same way. 

So in order to create a good branded email sig, you have to create bespoke HTML. Then you have to test it across countless browsers and email clients and devices to make sure it works universally. Then it has to be constantly monitored and updated each time new technology comes out.

That’s a lot of expense and effort, and for what?

Not only that, but just think of the processing power that goes into uploading and downloading the billions of emails that get sent every day. From an environmental point of view, it’s really not great practice to add all that additional stuff.

That’s why we advocate simple text email signatures. Standardise how you format them, what they should include, and the order of information in your brand guidelines. You can even keep a template in a text document for new employees to copy and paste into their signature. It’s so easy, and it means that people receiving your email will quickly be able to access the information they need.

Of course, if you do want to send out branded emails, we recommend creating newsletters containing great, engaging content, and using a client like MailChimp to produce them.

Speaking of which, sign up to our newsletter. It's fab.

Transcript Show / Hide

Dear Christopher Goor, I'd just like to thank you for, uh, your previous email. Um, hope we can catch up soon, kind regards, Matt Burton. Creative Director. Rusty Monkey. Um, here's my phone number. Oh, and here's a picture of, uh, my, uh, a link to my LinkedIn account and here's a picture of my Facebook account and here's my logo as well. Go on, take it, have my logo as well. Um, and here's my policy on recycling and here's some legal stuff.
Unsubscribe. It was getting rather laboured there, wasn't it. What are we talking about this week, then Matthew, on a Monkey Monday with Matthew and Christopher.
This, this week today on Monkey Monday with Matthew and Christopher, we are talking about email signatures, branded up email signatures.
And what are they really for? They are, they are a pet peeve of, uh, especially Mel. Hi Mel.
Well, I dunno, I, I, are they a pet peeve of, of just us being in a creative agency because we get asked to do them and we have to ask why, or do they wind everyone else up as well? I kind of sense all of us have had the frustration of somebody sending us an email through with all of this stuff on it, and everything's as attachments cause they haven't done it properly. You end up replying and you'd then resend them all of the attachments back. Oh, it's just horrible. And what's actually, what purpose is it serving?
Um, I don't know, but it just ends up being, but I've seen some, the, like the graphics go bananas on my Apple stuff. So it's like about three pages too long. It's kind of crazy.
So I guess we're here unpick it, I suppose. What generally happens is organizations care about their brand, they care about putting their brand and important things like social links and stuff like that on a lot of their correspondence and they kind of rightly or wrongly think it's important to put that on their emails as well, but I'm not sure that's great anymore, perhaps it was okay back in the day, but I kind of sense that nowadays it's causing more bother than actually any purpose. Because why, most of the time, when you're emailing people, you already have kind of a connection with them. If you're going to do branded emails, then you have an entirely different platform over here, which is your email marketing platforms such as MailChimp or CreateSend, or something like that. And that's where you send branded emails to your audience, where you say, Hey, we are this organization, and here's the content that we think you're going to love. Actual day-to-day correspondence when you're dealing with people - do you really need all that gumf on there? And what value is it really bringing anybody other than just a load of pointless noise? And if they were really easy and really nice and, uh, great to use everywhere, then maybe it's okay, but they're kind of not. To build them well, um, in HTML and have that adopted across your organization so that when somebody new joins, you have them using the same email signature... can be a kind of a tricky thing. It's not an easy thing to particularly roll out and get right. And there is some expense to maintaining this and having it work well on a new mobile device. And we've all had the janky broken email signatures, right? And does that look good?
I wonder if anyone does look at them because I know, I don't think I've ever clicked on someone's email signature that says, follow me on Facebook. I don't think I've ever clicked on one of those. That's probably the same for everyone out there.
Yeah. I mean, they're a bit spammy. I just think if you're thinking of getting a branded email signature, ask yourself why? And is it worth the investment and upkeep and time and technology to do it well? And if you're doing them yourselves and just attaching images, then you really shouldn't be doing that because it's just all the bloat you're creating. And actually, if you think in terms of the environment, uh, if you think of the billions of emails that are getting sent every day, all with these little attachments, the billions of megabytes that people are downloading to their email browser all takes a little bit of energy. And just why? Just for a little bit of, a little bit of companies' vanity. I say just put a nice text signature at the bottom and don't stress it.
So what, what if we, if you were to do it properly, what, why is it so difficult to get it consistent?
Well, I guess, um, the biggest issue is one around, um, mobile, well it's around devices and it's around for want of a better phrase, your, your email browser, we all have web browsers. Web browsers are really good though. Safari, Chrome, Edge or whatever you're using. They're designed to go to web pages, but with HTML and CSS, and to render that out and they have brilliant engines behind them and that's their purpose, but the same technology that sits in a, in your email window isn't really designed to interpret HTML. So you can't build them using the same exactly the same kind of technology you'd use to build a website because it doesn't have all of the modern stuff it needs to interpret the HTML and CSS. You kind of have to use fairly old school HTML, build the stuff and build it in kind of tables sometimes. I mean, it's getting better, but it's nasty. So if you think of web design, when you design something for the web, you have to make sure it works across all these browsers, it's the same for your email signature. You want to make sure it's gonna work okay in somebody's fairly old version of Outlook, or somebody's looking at it in Safari. It's not Safari, email on their, the Mail app on their iPhone and Android phones. Each of these email applications will interpret this in a different way, and that's why they sometimes look janky. And then when you forward them, it re puts it into the flow of the email and it just, it can get just really clumsy.
I suppose the, the original idea was that all the emails from one company should look identical. So the only way other way round that is by creating a single format and putting it in your brand guidelines and sharing it to the team to say, this is what we should be doing. Is that right?
Yeah, that's right. And, uh, you could do it really simply just to have, you know, get rid of all of the logos, get rid of all the links, get rid of all of the noise of the bottom and just keep it nice and simple. Um, but you've probably going to have to have something maintained somewhere, but how much, how much do you really need? Just like with most good design, strip away all of the noise you don't actually need that isn't bringing you purpose. Um, the purpose of an email signature for me is, oh, please, I hope they put their mobile number at the bottom of their email signature so I can give them a call. That's what I like from an email signature is the actual point of contact that I need to make. Uh, so yes, that's my advice. Try not to overly complicate it, get rid of all of the noise. Keep it really simple.
Go zen on your email signatures.
Oh, bring some, yeah, bring some happiness to everyone. You're sending emails to, and stop attaching stuff. You please print this vlog out responsibly and do not waste paper.

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