The basics of email design.
Email is an important way to communicate with an audience and it’s crucial to get the design right. Emails need a compelling harmony of copy, design, and must-click CTAs. Explore some best practices for both, along with good examples and tools that you can use to improve your overall email strategy.
Email design best practices.
Almost 40 percent of emails are viewed for about eight seconds or fewer, so it’s essential to make it quick and easy for readers to see what’s important about your message. Strategically structured email content makes it clear to the reader what you want them to do. With good design, you can streamline your message to increase click-through rates and inspire action.
A great place to start your email design is by tapping into current design trends to find inspiration. Many email campaigns use a multi-column layout. Separating content into two to three columns arranges it in a logical, grid-like structure.
This isn’t the only option, though. There are also hybrid layouts that more resemble a blog post or other piece of content, with a featured story on top, leading into a multi-column layout at the bottom. This allows you to create a content hierarchy with opportunities for clever calls to action, to boost customer engagement.
Your audience is likely pressed for time, so make sure that your emails are clear, concise, and easy to read from a design standpoint. Use designs that a developer can build and modify with HTML to carefully curate content, so it shows up well on multiple email platforms. Text should be broken down into larger headlines and grouped with small digestible chunks.
Don’t neglect white space, or areas that are empty except for a simple background color. This will ensure that your content doesn’t feel crowded or overwhelming and helps emphasize important elements.
Use web-optimized images that load quickly. Images for emails rarely need to be wider than 800 pixels. Include descriptive alt text in case images break or your reader is using a program for people with visual impairment.
Animated GIFs can add extra spice to your messaging, but keep in mind that too much movement can create loading issues or be distracting. Look for on-brand images that fit with your brand identity as well as the overall color scheme of your email.
Your email layout should encourage the viewer to keep reading. Build a wireframe to plan out the visual elements of your email to ensure there’s downward momentum. An inverted triangle works well for a simple notification email, a zigzag shape for a stylish e-commerce email, and a neat and tidy column for an information-packed email newsletter.
Be consistent with your branding.
Weave your brand’s visual identity into your email designs to strengthen your organization’s brand recognition with each send. Use brand-consistent design elements, like your logo, color palette, typography, and other building blocks from your brand kit.
Model your emails after your website as well as any landing pages your email leads to. Once your team has developed an email design that works, create an email template to save time when designing future emails.
Email copy best practices.
Your email copy is one of the best places for your brand to connect by being personable, approachable, and invested in customer experiences. If design provides the visual structure for the email, copy is what guides your audience to a purchase or other form of engagement. Inspire your reader, and make it clear what you want them to do.
Emails that are personalized to the recipient are opened 26 percent more of the time than those that don’t. That personalization can be as simple as including the customer’s name in the subject line or individually crafting emails to meet the needs of different customer personas (or individual customers, though this can be very time consuming).
There are also opportunities to automate this process to get even more specific. With marketing segmentation, deep personalization can go beyond basic information. Many email automation services allow you to create dynamic content that affixes to customer data points, like online behavior and purchase history.
Dynamic content refers to a specific type of marketing that creates pages or emails that are responsive to user choices and information. Through the use of variables and platforms that allow for this level of personalization, you can create emails that appear bespoke to each individual customer.
Be clear about where the reader will go when they click. If the email requires multiple calls to action (also called CTAs or action buttons), organize them in a hierarchy. Use colors that stand out or contrast your design to signify which action is most urgent. Your main CTA should be higher up in your email, with secondary CTAs coming later. Text-link CTAs or buttons with a simple outline can be effective secondary CTAs.
A subject line may seem like an afterthought, but it’s the most important part of your email — it’s your one chance to convince someone to open it. Make sure that it is tantalizing enough to get a recipient to open the email, but not too cryptic to be ignored.
Often, enticing customers to open an email with the offer of a sale or a coupon code is good, but crafting the subject line is an art. Sometimes a more provocative but less sales-oriented line works best. Try A/B testing different subject lines over time to see what resonates best with your audience.