In last week’s post on making better use of email, we looked at ways to cut down the number of emails you send and streamline your communications. This time, we’re going to talk about one of the biggest problems with emails: images and attachments.
Don’t attach – link
Quite simply, email is not a great way to send large files. Many email servers will refuse to handle anything over 25Mb. Some corporate servers may have limits as low as 10Mb or even 5Mb. To put that in perspective, a single photo can be 8Mb. A corporate presentation containing images, audio, or video can easily exceed 50Mb. When you send large files, the entire mail service slows down, especially if you’re sending them to a lot of people. It’s even more of a problem for people who are accessing their email on mobile devices: your large email could be chewing up a significant chunk of their data allowance, and if they’re in an area with poor reception, it could take a while to download it.
Worse than that, most people don’t save copies of files you send them, and then you get the inevitable email asking you to resend the file, because that’s easier than finding it in their saved email. That’s just creating more unnecessary email.
Attachments are often okay for small files, but linking is often a better alternative. Post the file on a cloud server, such as Dropbox, SkyDrive or Copy, then just send the person the link. They can then download the file when it’s convenient for them. If you’re sharing a lot of files, it’s far more efficient to put everything in a shared folder instead of creating a lot of attachments.
In many cases, you can use collaborative tools to cut down the need to email anything. Instead of sending everyone a document and asking for their comments or revisions via email, create a shared document using Google Docs, and then get them to comment in the actual document, or allow them to edit it directly.
Before you click attach, ask yourself whether there’s a better way to get those files into someone else’s hands.
Images don’t always work as you expect
Images suffer from the same problem as attachments – they’re big. It’s very easy to send an email with your photos of your trip to Vegas – you just drag and drop, and you’re done. But without realizing it, you’ve created an 80mb behemoth that will grind email services to a halt. As we said above, it’s far better to put your pictures up on Flickr or somewhere and send out a link instead.
There’s another big drawback with images, though. They may not appear the way you expect. Your email may look all fine and dandy when you compose it in Outlook on your desktop PC, but there’s no guarantee that your recipient will see it like that. If they’re using a different email client or service, or they have their email preferences set up differently, they may not see your images at all. If they’re on a mobile device, your images may not fit on the screen. And if you’re trying to do one of those fancy layouts with multi-part images that jigsaw together, it’s highly likely that they’ll get jumbled up for at least some of your intended recipients. That doesn’t look polished or professional – quite the opposite of the effect you were going for.
If you need to use images in your emails, then the best way to do it is to host them on a Web server and then use a link to that image. The image will be displayed when your recipient reads their email – if they choose to display images – but you’re not creating an unnecessarily large email. Use good alt text to tell your readers what’s in each image, so they can decide whether they want to see it.
Think twice before putting an image directly into an email. Use a link if you want to send an image file, or use HTML if the image is a necessary part of the layout.
Next time, we’ll get straight to the bottom of your email – your signature.