In a perfect world, all email services would display emails the same way. There would be no default setting to block images, or funky changes to the color of your text. Nor would you have to worry about your email content getting clipped (we’re looking at you, Hotmail and Gmail).

And you wouldn’t have to worry about your subscribers seeing a different (ugly) version of the email you originally designed and sent.

But email services don’t display all emails the same way. ☹

As a result, we must find ways to make sure that our emails will display correctly for all of our subscribers, regardless of where they choose to host their inbox.

The best way to do so? By testing them first.

Test your emails before sending

Previewing your emails before sending them to your list allows you to view your email from your subscriber’s perspective: in an inbox similar to theirs from your desktop or mobile device.

However, simply sending a test version of an email to yourself and viewing it in your favorite email account won’t cut it.

Why’s that? Because different email clients render (AKA display) emails differently. Which means if you only view your email in one email client before sending, you don’t know how that email will display for subscribers that open it in a different email client.

For example, if you view an email on your iPhone with Yahoo Mail app and view it again on your Mac with Apple Mail, you’ll probably notice some rendering differences. If an email hasn’t been tested before being sent, those rendering differences may translate to a cut-off image, misplaced text or worse. And that’s a big turnoff for your subscribers.

How can you avoid rendering issues? Here are two email testing methods I recommend:

1. Create different email addresses and send emails to yourself.

Managing a variety of email addresses may not sound appealing, but it’s a good (and free!) way to check how your subscribers will see your emails in their inbox.

When using this method to test your emails, it’s important to view your emails in a variety of email clients. Because as I mentioned before, emails render differently depending on where they’re opened – whether that’s with Gmail or Yahoo, on an iPhone or Android or in a web browser or desktop application.

There are an overwhelming number of email testing scenarios. An email viewed on an iPhone with the Yahoo app. An email viewed on a PC with Outlook. Viewed in a web browser with Gmail. On and on it goes.

Managing all those accounts and apps will become unwieldy fast. And who has time for that?

To avoid this time-consuming issue, you might want to focus your testing on the most-used email clients. Although you won’t be previewing your emails for every possible email viewing scenario, you’ll (most likely) test for the majority while avoiding killing your time with testing.

Which email clients are most popular? Here are the top 10 as of April 2016:

  1. Apple iPhone (34%)
  2. Gmail (15%)
  3. Apple iPad (11%)
  4. Google Android (10%)
  5. Apple Mail (8%)
  6. Outlook (7%)
  7. Yahoo! Mail (3%)
  8. (2%)
  9. Windows Live Mail (1%)
  10. Windows Mail (1%)


Takeaway: Create an email address/account for the top email clients listed here.

The downside: These stats aren’t necessarily true for your unique email audience. Which means you might be testing for what you think is the majority while it’s actually the minority.

2. Use a third-party tool to test and preview your emails across different clients.

You’re probably a bit peeved that my first testing method falls short of perfect – it’s time consuming and can be inaccurate. What gives?

I get you. If my first method isn’t your thing, try an email testing service. With a testing service, you can see at a glance how your email will render across numerous email clients.

At AWeber, we use Litmus to test our emails. In the below screenshot, you can see how Litmus helps us preview our emails on numerous devices in minutes. In this instance, we were previewing an email for our fabulous customers to promote our new app, Curate.


Although Litmus is a good fit for us, you might like another service better (like Email on Acid and Previewmyemail).

Takeaway: Use a testing service to quickly preview your emails across multiple email clients.

The downside: email testing services aren’t free.

Share your email testing advice.

Have you run into troubles with your emails displaying correctly? Tell us how you’ve dealt with that in the comments below!