Best Practices For Email Design

13 Best Practices For Email Design | The Ultimate Guide

As we navigate the digital era, email has emerged as a vital communication channel, particularly in professional settings. Given the sheer volume of emails flooding our inboxes every day, it’s imperative to ensure your emails are designed effectively to capture attention.

This article aims to guide you through the best practices in email design, offering valuable tips on creating engaging and impactful emails. We’ll discuss everything from devising powerful subject lines to optimizing for mobile viewing.

Our goal is to help you enhance your email design skills, whether you’re an experienced marketer fine-tuning your strategy or a small business owner keen on maximizing your email campaigns. This article is designed with you in mind.

Overview of the current email marketing competition

Email marketing is a key player in the digital marketing arena for businesses worldwide. Here’s a fresh perspective on the current state of global email marketing competition:

  • The Scope of Email Usage

The user base for email is expanding annually. As of 2023, daily email users have reached 4 billion, and this figure is projected to rise to 4.6 billion by 2025. More than 306 billion emails are exchanged every day.

  • Revenue from Email Marketing

In 2023, the revenue generated from email marketing was over 10 billion U.S. dollars, and it’s predicted to approach 11 billion by the end of 2023.

  • Investment Returns (ROI)

Email marketing stands out for its impressive return on investment (ROI). A survey conducted in late 2022 revealed that about half of the marketing professionals reported a two-fold increase in ROI from their email marketing campaigns. The ROI for email is an astounding $36 for every $1 invested.

  • Strategies in Email Marketing

The top three strategies for effective email marketing campaigns are subscriber segmentation (78%), message personalization (72%), and automated email campaigns (71%).

  • Understanding the Competition

To grasp the competitive landscape in email marketing, it’s crucial to collect data and compare your brand’s emails with those of your competitors. This should be done across all types of emails that you send out.

In summary, email marketing remains a powerful player in the digital marketing field. Its remarkable ROI and expanding user base make it a highly competitive and profitable channel for businesses around the globe.

The benefits of having an excellent email design

The design of your email can be a game-changer for your email marketing campaigns. Here are some advantages of top-notch email design:

  • Boosted User Interaction: An excellently designed email can boost user interaction significantly. It makes your content more enjoyable and readable, prompting users to interact more with your email.
  • Elevated Brand Perception: A consistent and high-quality email design helps elevate your brand perception. It demonstrates your commitment to providing your audience with a visually pleasing experience.
  • Higher Conversion Rates: An effective email design can direct the reader’s attention to important elements like calls-to-action, leading to increased click-through rates and conversions.
  • Effective Communication: A well-crafted email design can aid in conveying your message more effectively. Using elements like headings, bullet points, and images can make your content more comprehensible.
  • Optimization for Mobile Devices: Considering that most emails are opened on mobile devices, a good email design ensures that your emails are visually appealing on all screen sizes.
  • Lower Unsubscribe Rates: If your emails are visually pleasing and easy to comprehend, users are less likely to unsubscribe from your mailing list.

Best tips and practices for an excellent email design

In the ever-evolving world of digital marketing, email design plays a pivotal role in engaging your audience and driving conversions. Let’s delve into the best tips and practices that can help you create compelling and effective email designs.

1. Craft a strong subject line

The subject line is the initial point of contact with your recipients and plays a vital role in your email’s success. Here’s how to master the art of crafting compelling subject lines:

  • Brevity is Key: Given that most email clients show only the first 50-60 characters of a subject line, it’s essential to keep it brief yet informative.
  • Add a Personal Touch: Personalizing the subject line can boost open rates. Consider using the recipient’s name or other relevant details.
  • Instill a Sense of Urgency: Prompting a sense of urgency can motivate recipients to open your email immediately.
  • Employ Action-Oriented Language: Commencing your subject line with an action verb can make it more appealing and dynamic.
  • Pose a Question: Asking a question can spark curiosity and motivate recipients to open the email seeking answers.
  • Steer Clear of Spam Triggers: Avoid words like “free”, “buy now”, or “limited time offer” that could potentially trigger spam filters.
  • Test and Evaluate: It’s crucial to test various subject lines and evaluate their performance to discern what resonates best with your audience.

Remember, an engaging subject line is pivotal for your email marketing campaign’s success as it significantly impacts open rates.

2. Write an attention-grabbing pre-header

The email pre-header, also known as the preview text, is a potent tool that can significantly influence your email open rates. Here’s how to master the art of crafting compelling pre-headers:

  • Maintain Relevance: The pre-header should offer a glimpse of the email content. It should supplement the subject line and provide additional context.
  • Consider the length: Most email clients display between 40 and 50 characters of the pre-header. Ensure your key message fits within this limit.
  • Add a Personal Touch: Personalizing pre-headers, like subject lines, can boost open rates. Consider using the recipient’s name or other relevant details.
  • Spark Curiosity: Make your pre-header captivating to entice recipients to open the email.
  • Incorporate a Call to Action: If space permits, incorporate a call to action in your pre-header to motivate recipients to take the desired action.
  • Avoid Repetition: Avoid repeating your subject line in the pre-header. Utilize this space to provide new information.
  • Test and Refine: Always test various pre-headers to discern what resonates best with your audience and continuously refine based on your findings.

3. Be concise

Brevity in email writing is a critical aspect of professional communication. Here’s its significance and some tips on how to achieve it:

  • Time-Efficiency for the Recipient: Your recipients are likely juggling multiple tasks. A brief email respects their time and increases the chances of receiving a response.
  • Message Precision: A brief email is straightforward and reduces the possibility of misunderstandings.
  • Enhanced Readability: Short emails are more reader-friendly, especially on mobile devices where screen space is limited.
  • Demonstration of Professionalism: The ability to express your thoughts succinctly reflects professionalism and effective communication skills.

Here are some strategies for writing brief emails:

  • Pre-Write Planning: Understand your message before you start writing. This helps you stay on track and avoid superfluous details.
  • Employ Simple Language: Steer clear of technical jargon and complex language. Opt for simple, straightforward language.
  • Be Explicit: Avoid ambiguous language. Be explicit about your requirements or the action needed.
  • Edit Thoroughly: After drafting your email, edit thoroughly. Eliminate any unnecessary words or phrases.
  • Utilize Bullet Points or Numbered Lists: These can help you present information more briefly and make your email more digestible.

Remember, the objective of brevity is not just to write shorter emails, but to communicate more effectively.

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4. Keep your email on-brand

Maintaining brand consistency in your email marketing is vital. Here’s the significance and how to make sure your email design is in sync with your brand’s identity:

  • Brand Familiarity: Consistent branding in your emails allows recipients to instantly identify your brand, which can boost open rates and engagement.
  • Building Trust and Reliability: Consistent branding can foster trust and credibility among your audience, reflecting professionalism and making your brand appear more dependable.
  • Seamless Brand Experience: Your emails are an extension of the experience you offer as a brand. Ensuring they align with your brand’s identity can provide a consistent experience for your audience.

Here are some strategies to ensure your email is on-brand:

  • Logo: Always position your logo prominently in your emails. It’s often the first thing people look for when they open an email.
  • Color Palette: Employ colors that align with your brand’s palette. This helps reinforce brand familiarity.
  • Typography: Ensure the fonts align with your other branding materials, including the font style, size, and color.
  • Visuals: Use visuals that resonate with your brand’s aesthetic and values, such as product photos, illustrations, or lifestyle images.
  • Tone of Voice: The tone of your email copy should be consistent with your brand’s voice. Whether it’s formal, casual, friendly, or authoritative, consistency is crucial.

Remember, each email you send mirrors your brand. By ensuring your emails are on-brand, you can strengthen the bond with your audience and enhance their overall experience with your brand.

5. Incorporate unique visual content

Visual content is a key component that can amplify the impact of your emails. Here’s its significance and some tips on how to integrate distinctive visual content:

  • Boosted User Interaction: Visual content can boost user interaction significantly. It makes your emails more enjoyable and readable, prompting users to interact more with your email.
  • Enhanced Comprehension: Visuals can aid in conveying complex information in an easily digestible manner. Infographics, charts, and diagrams can be particularly effective.
  • Brand Recognition: Distinctive visual content can help reinforce your brand recognition. It can make your emails stand out and be instantly identifiable to your recipients.
  • Emotional Resonance: Visuals can evoke emotions more effectively than text. Using the right images can help you connect with your audience on an emotional level.

Here are some strategies for integrating distinctive visual content:

  • Employ High-Quality Images: Always employ high-quality images that look professional and align with your brand’s aesthetic. However, don’t break the inbox with your images. Use web-optimized images that load quickly. Images for emails rarely need to be wider than 800 pixels.
  • Design Custom Graphics: Consider designing custom graphics, such as infographics or illustrations, that are unique to your brand.
  • Incorporate Videos or GIFs: Videos or GIFs can be a great way to engage your audience and convey information in an entertaining way.
  • Test and Refine: Always test various types of visual content to discern what resonates best with your audience and continuously refine based on your findings.

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Best Practices For Email Design


6. Use a responsive design

In today’s mobile-centric world, adopting a responsive design for your emails is essential. Here’s its significance and some tips on how to implement it:

  • Enhanced User Experience: Responsive design ensures that your email displays well on any device, offering an improved user experience.
  • Boosted Open Rates: Emails that render correctly on mobile devices are more likely to be opened and read.
  • Elevated Click-Through Rates: A well-crafted, responsive email can lead to elevated click-through rates, driving more traffic to your website or landing page.
  • Improved Brand Image: A responsive email design indicates that your brand is up-to-date and prioritizes customer needs, which can improve your brand image.

Here are some strategies for creating responsive email designs:

  • Adopt a Fluid Layout: Fluid layouts adapt to the screen size of the device they’re viewed on. This ensures your email displays well on all devices.
  • Optimize Images: Make sure images scale correctly on different screen sizes. Also, use alternative text for images in case they don’t load.
  • Streamline Your Design: A streamlined design with clear call-to-action buttons is most effective for responsive emails.
  • Use a Single Column Layout: Single column layouts are best for mobile devices as they’re easier to scale down.
  • Test Your Emails: Always test your emails on different devices and email clients to ensure they render well everywhere.

7. Optimize your email with calls-to-action (CTAs)

Calls-to-action (CTAs) are pivotal components in your email marketing strategy. They direct your email recipients towards the next steps, steering them towards your intended goal. Here’s how to enhance your emails with impactful CTAs:

  • Precision is Crucial: Your CTA should be precise and straightforward. Inform your readers exactly what action they should take next, such as “Download the eBook,” “Sign Up for the Webinar,” or “Begin Your Free Trial.”
  • Instill a Sense of Urgency: Instilling a sense of urgency can motivate recipients to act promptly. Phrases like “Offer for a Limited Time” or “Sign Up Now” can be effective.
  • Ensure Visibility: Your CTA should be one of the most conspicuous elements in your email. Use contrasting colors, large fonts, or even a button to make it stand out.
  • Consider Placement: Position your CTA in a noticeable location where it’s easily visible to readers. The most common placements are at the conclusion of the email or in a P.S. line.
  • Test and Refine: Always test various CTAs to discern what resonates best with your audience. This could involve testing different phrases, colors, placements, or even the number of CTAs per email.

8. Add an “unsubscribe” button

In the realm of email marketing, it’s essential to honor the recipient’s choice and offer them an option to opt-out or unsubscribe from future emails. Here’s its significance and how to incorporate an “unsubscribe” option in your emails:

  • Legal Compliance: Many jurisdictions mandate businesses to include an unsubscribe link in their marketing emails. Failure to comply can lead to substantial penalties.
  • Respecting Recipients: Offering an easy opt-out option demonstrates that you respect their choices and value their time.
  • Maintaining Engaged Subscribers: An unsubscribe option aids in maintaining a list of engaged subscribers who have a genuine interest in your content.

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9. A/B test your email design

A/B testing, also known as split testing, is a technique used to compare two versions of an email to see which one yields better results. It’s a valuable strategy that can significantly enhance the effectiveness of your email marketing campaigns. Here’s how to conduct A/B testing for your email design:

  • Select a Test Variable: Choose one component to test at a time. This could be anything from the subject line, call-to-action, email layout, images, or any other element in your email.
  • Develop Two Variants: Develop two variants of your email – the original (version A) and the modified one (version B).
  • Divide Your Recipients: Split your email list into two random segments. Ensure the groups are large enough for the results to be statistically significant.
  • Dispatch and Monitor: Dispatch version A to one segment and version B to the other. Monitor the performance based on your objective (open rate, click-through rate, conversion rate, etc.).
  • Evaluate and Apply: Assess the results to identify which version performed better. Apply the more successful version in your subsequent emails.

Remember, A/B testing is a continuous process. Regular testing and optimization can lead to ongoing improvement in your email marketing performance.

10. Design an email signature

An email signature is a small block of text placed at the end of an email message. It typically includes the sender’s name, contact details, and often a few extra details like social media links or a brand logo.

Here’s how to craft an impactful email signature:

  • Simplicity is Key: An effective email signature should be brief and informative, not exceeding 3-4 lines of text.
  • Incorporate Essential Information: Generally, an email signature includes your full name, your role or title, your company name, and your contact details. You might also want to include your company logo or a professional headshot.
  • Employ Dividers: Use pipes (|) or colons (:) to separate different components of your signature.
  • Link Social Media Profiles: If you wish to promote your professional social media accounts, you can include icons linked to these profiles in your signature.
  • Choose a Professional Font: Stick to basic, professional fonts like Arial, Helvetica, or Times New Roman.
  • Test Your Signature: Ensure your email signature appears well on all devices and email clients.

Here’s a sample of a straightforward, professional email signature:

Jane Smith | Head of Marketing
ABC Enterprises
[email protected] | (123) 456-7890

Remember, the objective of an email signature is to provide the recipient with your contact details and leave a lasting impression.

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Keeping pace with the latest design trends in email marketing can give your campaigns a competitive advantage. Here are some of the leading email design trends for 2023 that you can leverage for inspiration:

  • Elevated Products: This trend involves creating a 3D effect by making product photos appear as if they’re floating in midair. It’s an effective way to highlight the product photo in your email.
  • Non-Traditional Frames: Many emails are adopting unconventional frames, such as starbursts, pill shapes, and other abstract shapes. This trend adds a playful aesthetic, reminiscent of arts and crafts cutouts.
  • Overlapping Typography: Overlapping letters and words is another trend that adds depth and interest to email designs.
  • Vibrant and Patterned Drop Shadows: While drop shadows are not new in design, using vibrant and patterned drop shadows is a fresh take in 2023.
  • Dimensional Mix: Mixing 2D and 3D elements in email designs can create a unique and engaging visual experience.
  • Animated Product Showcases: In 2023, animation is taking center stage, and incorporating video animation into your product showcases can make your emails more dynamic and engaging
  • Bold Color Schemes: Bold and vibrant color schemes are trending in 2023. Don’t hesitate to experiment with eclectic color combinations.
  • Gamification Elements in Emails: Incorporating game elements into emails is revolutionizing email marketing. Gamified emails encourage recipients to interact more with your emails, leading to increased engagement.

Remember, while trends provide great inspiration, it’s important to stay true to your brand’s identity and consider what resonates best with your audience.

12. Use a design that guides the eyes downward

In the realm of email marketing, the layout and design of your email can significantly influence how your content is consumed. A successful strategy is to implement a design that directs the reader’s eyes downward, encouraging them to continue reading. Here’s how to achieve it:

  • Establish Hierarchy: Create a clear hierarchy in your email design. The most crucial information should be at the top, followed by supporting details, and finally a call-to-action at the bottom.
  • Use Visual Guides: Employ visual guides to direct readers down the page. This could be arrows, lines, or even the arrangement of images and text.
  • Effective Use of Whitespace: Utilize whitespace effectively to avoid overwhelming the reader and guide their eyes down the page.
  • F-Shaped Reading Pattern: Most people naturally read in an ‘F’ pattern – horizontally from left to right at the top, then down the page, and a shorter horizontal scan on the lower part of the content area. Align your content to this pattern.
  • Z-Shaped Reading Pattern: For visually-focused emails, a ‘Z’ pattern works well where the eye starts at the top left, moves across to the right, then diagonally to the bottom left, and finally across to the bottom right.
  • Content Chunking: Segment your content into manageable ‘chunks’ or sections. This makes your email easier to scan and guides the reader’s eyes downward.
  • Contrasting Fonts and Colors: Use different fonts and colors to create contrast and guide readers through your email.

13. Use video to drive engagement

In today’s digital era, engaging your audience can be a daunting task due to the continuous flood of content. However, incorporating video content in email marketing has emerged as an effective strategy to captivate audiences.

Videos serve as a potent instrument that can render your emails more interactive and unforgettable. They are capable of presenting intricate information in an aesthetically pleasing and easily understandable manner. This not only elevates the user experience but also amplifies the chances of your message being retained.

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Step-by-step guide on how to incorporate video in your email marketing:

  • Step 1: Set Your Video Objectives Start by identifying what you aim to accomplish with your video. This could range from enhancing brand recognition, advertising a new product, or increasing website traffic.
  • Step 2: Produce Your Video With your objectives in place, proceed to produce your video. This process may involve scripting, shooting, and editing. Keep your video concise and captivating.
  • Step 3: Host Your Video After producing your video, host it on a video hosting platform such as YouTube or Vimeo. This will give you a link or embed code that you can use in your email.
  • Step 4: Incorporate the Video in Your Email There are several methods to include the video in your email:

Embed the Video: Some email clients support direct video embedding in emails. However, not all email clients support this.

Use a Thumbnail Image: A more universally accepted method is to include a thumbnail image of your video in the email. When clicked, this image can redirect the user to the video hosted on an external platform.

Use a GIF: Alternatively, you can use a GIF that provides a preview of the video content. When clicked, it can also redirect the user to the full video.