Can We Retire Inline Images?

Brandon Dixon
2 min readMay 18, 2017
Example embedded image with screen zoomed over 60%

E-mail, one of the most celebrated and hated forms of communication. With hundreds of client implementations, millions of active users and billions of messages sent every day, it’s reasonable to expect that some features may not survive the test of time. Embedding inline images is one of those features and here are a few reasons why you should avoid using them.

Responsive design breaks

When most email clients encounter an embedded image, they respect the original size of that image and expand accordingly. For smaller graphics, this isn’t a huge deal, but when it comes to high-definition or extremely wide photos, chances are you will break the responsive nature of the email client. Not only is it annoying, it also makes responding to the email difficult as the bounding box for the reply may also respect the image width.

Bandwidth isn’t always free

In an increasing mobile-first world, we need to be conscious to the size of our applications and content. Loading a 5MB embedded image on my desktop computer, connected to unlimited high-speed connection isn’t a big deal. However, having that same 5MB load on my mobile phone where my bandwidth is already constrained and in some cases, capped at a certain limit, is extremely frustrating.

Reading the email can be a challenge

A lot of communication is already lost in an email, so why make it more difficult? Attempting to navigate through several images can take-away from the points you are trying to make or worse, hide them from even being noticed.

Saving may not be supported

Depending on the email client being used, embedded images may not support being saved locally. Couple this with the difficulty in rendering the image and you could have a recipe for users deleting your email completely. Not to mention, if you need to forward the email, you yourself are spreading the pain of viewing the email.

Your images may never render

Unlike an attachment where you can easily see it being there or not, an embedded image is blank until rendered. If you are using a plain-text client to read your email, not only will the image not show up, but a reference that an image was there in the first place could be lost. Similar to saving, the rendering of inline images also depends on the client being used.

As an alternative to embedding inline images, consider the tried and true method of attachments. Not only do you avoid all of the issues I outlined above, but you also gain control over details like the filename, size, and format. Oh, and you can rest easy knowing someone likely read the content of your email instead of just shipping it to the trash bin.



Brandon Dixon

Founder of @BlockadeIO, PDF X-RAY, and @PassiveTotal. Partner and developer for @TheNinjaJobs. VP of Strategy for @RiskIQ. Roaster at @SplitKeyCoffee.