What is an E-Card?

An “E-Card” is short for “electronic card”, and it is simply that – an electronic or digital version of a print greeting card. E-Cards began appearing in the mid-1990s as an efficient, more cost-effective replacement for traditional print cards. They contain all of the hallmarks of a typical greeting card: a warm message, professional graphics or images, and the ability to send to a recipient of your choice. However, rather than being physically mailed like a print card, e-cards are mailed electronically, or e-mailed.

Just like print greeting cards, e-cards can vary in their quality and style. The most basic e-card, and the oldest style, is a static e-card. These e-cards are typically a single image or graphic that contains a written greeting. As these e-cards are small in file size, and are a simple digital image, they can be embedded directly in the body of an e-mail. The most popular style of e-card is of the animated variety. These include animated GIF e-cards, Flash e-cards, and HTML5 e-cards. Animated GIF e-cards contain a series of moving images or “frames” that provide a basic animation sequence in a small file size. This style, however, is generally considered outdated, has it has very limited animations, does not contain audio, and can appear a little “cartoonish” or unprofessional.

Flash e-cards and HTML5 e-card are the contemporary choice, as they possess complex animations and treatment of text, can integrate high-quality images, and have the ability to incorporate music and sound effects. This leads to a richer, more immersive experience for the e-card’s recipient. Video e-cards are also an emerging product, allowing for either a video capture of a rich animation e-card, straight video, or a mixture of both video and animation. These video-oriented e-cards are becoming increasingly relevant as both video file size decreases, and Internet bandwidth increases.

As previously mentioned, just like a print card, an e-card needs to be delivered to your intended recipient in order to be viewed. E-mail delivery is necessary for all styles of e-card, but can be handled in different ways. Simple e-cards, such as static or animated GIF e-cards, can be embedded within the body of an e-mail message. This allows for a simple, streamlined delivery that some senders prefer. However, the trade-off of its simple integration into the e-mail body is its often dull, outdated look and feel.

As current e-mail clients do not allow for the embedding of rich media, Flash, HTML5 and video e-cards cannot be embedded within the body of an e-mail. E-cards need to be hosted externally, and then linked to within the e-mail. So for example, if an e-card is hosted at http://www.companyxyz.com/happyholidays, this URL must be present in the e-mail itself. This isn’t to say that the link must appear as text, as an image or button can be embedded in the e-mail body, which can then link to the external e-card URL. An advantage that hosting is that is can provide the sender vital statistics for how many recipients viewed the e-card. This allows the sender to track how effective the e-card was in reaching their recipient, and thus, the worth of using an e-card over a traditional print greeting card.

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