Suppressing Previews in Outlook.com

If you use Outlook.com (Hotmail as-was), you’ll notice that it has an annoying habit of adding previews when you add in a URL. These previews are composed of the site’s metadata plus a picture, usually the logo (though sometimes it can be a bit random what gets thrown up), and as far as we can tell, you can’t turn them off.

If you’re a regular user you’ll just click the link to remove the preview and be done with it. Unfortunately, following deployment of a new website for a client, their email signature started including a preview below the link to their website when it was replied to using Outlook.com, the client wasn’t happy and, even though we were pretty sure it wasn’t our fault, we were required to find a resolution. Removing the link to their website from the email footer wasn’t an option we were told.

Once we could repeat the problem, we looked at how to prevent it from happening. We demonstrated that it wasn’t just their website, the same problem occurred even if we changed the link to Amazon.com or Google.com. Unfortunately we couldn’t find much in the way of answers, so we were on our own.

Going back to first principles, we looked at adding rel=”nofollow”, and then realised that we could prevent the problem occurring if we took the link out of the table tags that (quite reasonably) had been used to govern layout. We tried reformatting the signature with div tags, but the problem recurred. We then wondered what would happen if we rearranged the order of links, at which point a eureka moment occurred, Outlook.com was picking the content of the first link it came across.

The solution was then straightforward. We added an empty hyperlink <a href=”#”></a> before the link to the client’s website, and the problem went away. Presumably Outlook.com finds the link, sees it links to no-where and stops. Result!