PizzaExpress Inspires With Images-Off Email Optimization

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In all of my Inspiration posts thus far, I have commented on how important it is that an email looks great whether images are enabled or not due to the majority of email clients blocking images by default.

I’ve seen numerous tweets and read a few blog posts (by Email Design Review and Campaign Monitor) about how great PizzaExpress’s emails look when images are disabled, so I was excited to sign up for their emails and see them for myself. I’ve been extremely impressed with the emails I’ve received thus far and the amount of intricate detail they have put into making sure that they look great when images are off.

This week’s email: images on

PizzaExpress Images On

This week’s email: images off

PizzaExpress Images Off

As you can see from the screenshot above, the email is most impressive when images are disabled, reproducing the imagery with a series of colored blocks. The striped-shirt chef tossing a pizza is still there, although perhaps slightly pixelated and robotic-looking! While it, obviously, doesn’t look like an exact replica of the chef in the images-on version, it does give subscribers a very good idea of what the image will be if they download it.

Achieving the PizzaExpress effect

How did PizzaExpress manage to create such a detailed images-off view? Through the use of carefully planned image slicing, lots of nested tables and strategic background colors! To show you just how much detail and time went into this email, we’ve set all the table borders to “1” so you can see all of the tables visualized in the email:

PizzaExpress Table Borders 1

As you can see from the screenshot above, PizzaExpress went into painstaking detail in order to make the images “appear” even when images are disabled. In order to achieve this format and contrast, they used nested tables upon tables containing many separately colored cells.

In addition, PizzaExpress’s use of styled ALT text paired with the aggressive use of table cells makes certain text in the email stand out when images are disabled. This can especially be seen in the main header, “£10 Fresh Offer For You,” and all of the headings in the sidebar. While it wasn’t necessary to slice the headline or the sidebar header into many separate images, PizzaExpress did so in order to include a separate, styled ALT tag for each image, achieving the desired effect. In order to show how they manage to do this, we’ve again set table borders to “1” and compared the images off view vs. the images on view:

PizzaExpress Images On Images Off Comparison

More PizzaExpress examples

Other examples of PizzaExpress’s great images-off emails can be seen below.

Images on:

PizzaExpress Dough Balls Images On

Images Off:

PizzaExpress Dough Balls Images Off

Images On:

PizzaExpress Dine Out Images On

Images Off:

PizzaExpress Dine Out Images Off

Does aggressive images-off optimization pay off?

Without question, PizzaExpress’s emails look fantastic with images disabled. While email marketers, like myself, most definitely appreciate how great the email looks with images disabled, does the general population notice—or care?

Since all of their emails are different, PizzaExpress is not using a standard template, which means that each time they create a new email, they must invest time and resources into creating such an amazing images-off experience. Is it worth the investment? Since they keep sending emails that look fantastic with images off, we are guessing that it is working!

What do you think of PizzaExpress’ emails and their efforts to create such an elaborate images-off experience? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=693571015 Jess Heitland

    Aside from this technique being cool, I’d posit that the ‘sell’ is really to the client (or,at least, the marketers that provide input to the client). “The message is conveyed, with images off. And the brand standards still present themselves.” …that’s a powerful message.

    However, building the email using RWD would be quite challenging. And I’d hate to be talent that would have to make last minute creative/messaging changes…..

  • http://www.facebook.com/gguglielmetti Germain Guglielmetti

    It took me 3 minutes and 2 readings of the article to understand that the table blob does represent the pizzaiolo’s head and body. And I’m still not 100% sure about the first one. They still forgot the alt attribute on their last campaign’s logo, thought. But hey, good work, trainee.