What Is an HTML Signature?

Alex Paul

A HyperText Markup Language (HTML) signature is a small piece of text that is attached to the bottom of online correspondence. Unlike plain text signatures, an HTML signature can contain different style elements, such as bold or italicized text. Advanced styles also can be achieved through the combination of HTML and cascading style sheets (CSS). HTML signatures are often seen at the end of emails, where they are used to provide contact information for the sender. Members of online forums also often use signatures containing HTML code to provide more information.

An HTML signature uses HTML code to create a signature that is more than just plain text.
An HTML signature uses HTML code to create a signature that is more than just plain text.

In computing, a signature is a small piece of text that is attached to the end of a form of communication. The signature usually contains the name of the sender, along with information such as a physical address, email address, telephone number and website. A signature sometimes also contains the person’s personal motto or slogan. E-mails, for example, commonly end with contact information. Posts on social forums also end with the user’s signature, often with a significant quote or more information about the person.

Basic signatures just use raw text that doesn’t contain any formatting. An HTML signature, on the other hand, uses HTML code to create a signature that is more than just plain text. HTML is the markup language of the Internet, which is why it’s widely used in creating signatures for emails, social forums and other types of online communication.

HTML code can create a number of different effects to make text stand out. If, for example, a person wanted to create an HTML signature with certain elements in bold, then this can be achieved by surrounding the text in “B” HTML tags. Italics, underlined text and different fonts are all easily achieved with a small amount of HTML code. It also is possible to add images to an HTML signature. Creating an HTML signature requires basic knowledge of HTML, but most tags used in signatures are basic and easy to learn.

There are a variety of other, more complex, types of HTML signature code that can make a signature stand out from the rest of an email. Changing the background color or adding extra padding around certain elements can help to make certain text more noticeable. Advanced HTML signatures often require a basic knowledge of CSS, which is another type of markup language that’s often used with HTML. CSS allows a user to change the layout of the signature as well as the type of text.

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Discussion Comments


A major problem with HTML signatures is that a lot of email clients and servers will not automatically download images. On a lot of them, the recipient has to elect to receive images.

So, let's say you spent a lot of time crafting that complex, HTML signature and you are proud of it. You send out some emails with it. Instead of seeing the signature you have developed, they see some messages asking the recipient to click somewhere to download images and a bunch of broken links.

The lesson here is to avoid getting too creative with those. Some people try to sneak in viruses and spyware through images, so getting them through email servers and clients these days can be tough.


@Vincenzo -- That is why board moderators have to keep a tight lid on this type of thing. Individual signatures are fine, but ones that take a few seconds to load are not fine. If the moderators don't stamp out this kind of thing, you can rest assured that people will go nuts with them and really slow down the more active, popular forums.


It is very important not to go overboard with these things. Just remember that every image that someone calls to be included in a signature, every snippet of Flash and anything else that relies on a call to an external server takes time. Hey, the Internet should be fast and people who go nuts with digital signatures can really slow a message board down.

Hey, that spinning icon and animated gif might look pretty cool, but is that worth increasing the amount of time a page takes to load?

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