email design basics

Email eats up our Monday mornings as we delete them en masse from our flooded inbox. We may stop to skim a few subject lines and might even open one or two. But aside from our Monday-morning attitude toward email, it’s still a highly effective marketing tool. Campaign Monitor’s recent industry report states that 59 percent of marketers say email continues to generate the most return on investment (ROI) for their organizations. That puts it well above any other digital strategy – at least when done right.

With effective messaging, interesting visuals and targeted subscriber lists, email can do a lot of the heavy lifting for your campaigns. Here are some simple design and usability tips to help you get the most out of your email content.

Interesting Visuals

interesting visuals for email design

I’m a designer, so of course I want to start with visuals. Make it look pretty. Well-crafted visuals lend credibility to your story and evoke an emotional response. Visuals help you tell a story. Plus, photos, videos and graphics break up chunks of text, making it easier to read by adding visual relief.

Good Balance

Visuals are important, but an email also needs text. Don’t create one giant image that includes your visuals, headlines and copy. These types of emails might not render in an inbox with high security settings. Sometimes, your single-image email will be marked as spam and won’t even make it to your intended recipient.

Clear Calls to Action

use a clear call to action

Create clickable CTAs and place them where they’re easily found. Buttons are the most effective format. Adding a hyperlink to text isn’t as strong and might get overlooked on mobile. Put the most important links at the top of the email, so they aren’t missed. Less important information can follow.

You have three to five seconds to attract the attention of skimmers running through their Monday morning inbox, so make it count.

Mobile Matters

According to Fluent, Inc., 75 percent of users say they check their email using a smartphone. That number is likely to grow each year, so it’s surprising how many emails aren’t programmed with mobile in mind.

mobile email design basics need to be finger friendly

Friendly for Fingers

It’s a lot harder to click hyperlinked text than it is to click a button. Buttons offer a better visual way to communicate a link, and they have a larger clickable area, which makes it much easier to activate with touch.

Easy to Read

Make sure mobile text is readable. Sounds simple, right? This is probably the biggest turn off when viewing email on a smartphone. If users can’t read your message because the text is too small, you’ve just wasted your budget and time – and created a bad user experience. Campaign Monitor reports that as many as 15 percent of users will even unsubscribe, instead of just delete the email, due to poor formatting.

email design should be easy to readMobile Image Sizes

Just like text, your images need to scale correctly in the mobile space. If an image doesn’t scale down to smaller screens, all email formatting will break, causing your email to side scroll as the text and image bleed off the edge.

The Power of Testing

There’s only one way to make sure your email works properly. Test it. Send tests to different-sized smartphones, different operating systems and different email programs. This is the same for desktop – and even for email templates. Testing across devices will help you troubleshoot formatting issues. Double check your font, button sizes, images and overall email length.

test your email design

A great way to determine the effectiveness of your email is through A/B testing. Even though it’s fairly easy to do, only around 50 percent of marketers take advantage of it. A/B testing allows you to see which of two variations of the same email campaign perform better. There are endless things you can test, but some of the most common are subject lines, call-to-action messaging or placement, image options and headlines. Depending on what you are testing – conversions, clicks or opens – one small change could dramatically improve the success of your email. Acting upon A/B test results helps avoid pitfalls in future emails and ensure campaigns perform well.

Good Luck

These email design tips ought to help you make your campaigns the results-generating, relationship-building tools you want them to be. Goodbye pesky issues. Especially those that crop up after you’ve emailed 600 subscribers.

This column originally ran in the November 15, 2018, issue of BlueSky News.