How to determine email testing requirements

Elevate email deliverability, engagement, and open rates. Uncover essential testing needs with this guide for optimal email performance.

Email testing is one of the best things you can do to improve your email deliverability, engage your audience, and encourage people to open your emails again and again, but how do you figure out what your email testing requirements are? This guide will help you determine what you need to test and why.

What is email testing used for?

In short, email testing makes sure the emails you’re sending are working properly. Testing an email that will be sent to a large audience is more complicated than just sending a quick email to yourself. This is because emails can look different depending on what clients, browsers, devices, and settings are being used to view them. Your audience will almost certainly have a diverse range of technology combinations, and the only way to know what they’re going to see is to test your email under those combinations.

Why is testing emails important?

Most companies sending out mass emails will have a dedicated step in their process just for email testing. Without testing your emails, you might send something to your audience with some of the following:

  • Broken links
  • Images that won’t load
  • Formatting errors
  • Missing alt text
  • Incorrect information

Any mistake in your email will cost you time, money, and some professional reputation at the very least. While something like a poorly sized image might not have much of an impact, a faulty password reset email could jeopardize your company and customers’ safety. Testing your emails is a critical preventative measure.

Why do I need to know my testing requirements?

Setting up a good email testing plan means knowing what you need to test to make sure your emails are functional. Unclear requirements can waste time and resources better spent on other tasks, cause confusion on your team, and make it difficult to get reliable results. It’s important to have clear, measurable goals and a structured, documented test plan. It makes testing more efficient, repeatable, and transferrable between colleagues.

How to determine email testing requirements

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer. The requirements for your email test will depend on your audience, the type of email, and other factors. This section will give you some things to consider when evaluating what your testing requirements should be, with more details in each subsection:

  • Identify the email’s purpose
  • Choose a primary objective
  • Choose your testing variables
  • List user interactions
  • Understand your audience
  • Identify tools

Identify the email’s purpose

A well-designed email should have one main objective, otherwise your audience might not know which objective is more important. Sending a clear message is easier when your email has a clear goal in mind. If it doesn’t, consider revising it before structuring your testing requirements.

A clear purpose can be something like informing your audience of a new offer, resetting a password, verifying a subscription, or sending a link to a download. Once you know what the purpose of the email is, you can set up your test around that purpose.

Choose a primary objective for each test

Every test you run should have a clearly defined goal. Often this goal is in line with the purpose of the email, even if it isn’t exactly the same. It could be something like: “Make sure this promotional email loads properly in the three most popular email clients,” which is a slightly more specific goal set from an example email’s main objective: “send this promotional message to our audience”.

Other tests might have goals that are focused on a specific element in an email, particularly if an email has a lot of interactive elements. A goal like this might look like: “Test this embedded survey question blocks incorrect inputs.”

A helpful framework to structure a good objective is to set a SMART goal, or a goal that is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. These types of goals help keep everyone involved in testing on the same page, and will ensure your test has a tangible, valuable result.

Choose your testing variables

Sometimes it might seem tempting to add another goal to an already existing test. The problem with testing multiple objectives is you can’t isolate what caused something. If your test reveals a problem but you were checking too many variables at once, you’ll have to rerun tests many times to isolate the cause of the problem.

If you have a lot of little things to test, you could use this to your advantage and consider bundling some of them into a single test to check if anything is wrong, and then splitting the test into smaller pieces to check individually. Just keep in mind that this strategy for testing should be planned in advance so you can set aside enough time to rerun tests as necessary.

List user interactions

You’ll need to have a thorough understanding of how someone could interact with your email in order to test its full functionality. You may want to write out every step that someone could take for your email. Here’s a small list of interactions to start from:

  • Receiving in inbox
  • Opening the email
  • Clicking links
  • Downloading images
  • Resetting passwords
  • Unsubscribing from email lists

A good testing plan will have a step to test each of the relevant user interactions. Outlining all the interactions will also set you up to write a use case for your test, which is a helpful way to document what a person might do when receiving your email. Mailosaur has a guide on use cases for email functional testing.

Understand your audience

Understanding your audience is key to sending the right message at the right time and running an efficient test. Since how emails are displayed depends on so many different combinations of technologies, you’ll want to figure out which combinations are the most widely used by the people you want to send emails to. Spend some time learning about what technologies your audience is using, including the following:

  • Browsers
  • Email clients
  • Settings like light and dark modes
  • Desktop, tablet, or mobile devices

Many email campaign management software tools will give you some data on the technology the people getting your emails are using. If you don’t have this data, you can do some research on what your audience is likely to use based off generalized characteristics like age, geographic location, and others. You can refine this estimate later once you’ve sent enough email campaigns to collect enough useful data.

Use software tools to make testing more efficient

You’ll want to spend some time researching what email testing tools are available to find the ones that will help you run better tests. The best software will depend on your goals and current testing capabilities. A place to start is looking through the documentation for the software you use to send your email campaigns out; most of the major options have some basic testing capabilities built in.

If you have more complicated testing, or more complex needs, you’ll likely need better tools to help you work quickly. You might also find it helpful to automate some of your email testing, either with specific software, or with custom solutions created by your team or outsourced. Automating some or all of the steps for your test can drastically reduce the time and money spent on testing, increase repeatability of tests, and make your job a lot easier.

You might also need software to create fake email addresses and servers so you can send test emails and respond to them as a customer might, especially if you’re automating parts of your test. Fake email addresses are great for email testing; there’s no risk of an email still in testing going to real customers. Mailosaur has software that provides unlimited fake email addresses, and it can be integrated with a lot of other email testing software. It can even be used with more general tools like Cypress or Selenium if you want to write your tests from scratch.

Learn more about email testing

Mailosaur offers software tools to help you create fast, efficient email tests that can be automated to test everything from account verification, email tracking, broken links, and more. Our software can show you previews of what your emails will look like in any email client. We also have software you can use to send your emails to an unlimited amount of unique email addresses hosted by a test server, so you can test every step of your email functionality (and even stress-test your systems under load). Learn more about how we can help!