Email design best practices are crucial if you want your email marketing campaign to be successful. And with so many people using mobile devices to view their email, the importance of having an optimized mobile experience is even greater. That’s why ensuring you have the right tools for designing your emails is important. Marketing Cloud has everything you need in one place. Our Email Campaign Builder allows you to quickly create a responsive and branded email campaign on-the-fly, no coding required.
When it comes to email marketing, there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach. This isn’t just true when it comes to the content of your emails. It also applies to their design. What works best for an ecommerce store won’t necessarily work best for an SaaS startup, and a nonprofit may have different needs than a local coffee shop. But while the details differ depending on what type of business you run, there are some universal email design best practices you can follow across different sectors that will help ensure your emails get opened and get read. The good news is that we’ve compiled them into this easy-to-follow guide:
Design for Mobile First
The best way to make sure your emails are mobile-friendly is to design for mobile first. Mobile First Design is a web design approach that creates a mobile-friendly version of a website before a desktop version. In other words, it’s about designing with mobile in mind first, then building up from there as opposed to starting with the desktop and scaling down for mobile devices.
Mobile First Design has been around since at least 2010 when Luke Wroblewski wrote an article about it. So why haven’t more companies adopted this concept? Well, most likely because they’re stuck in their ways and weren’t familiar with this new technique (or didn’t know how easy it was). Or maybe they were just too lazy or rushed to learn something new. And while there are still plenty of companies who haven’t adopted Mobile First Design yet (and probably never will), there are plenty who have realized the benefits and now have nice responsive email designs that look great on any device!
Use Short Subject Lines
Short subject lines are more likely to get your emails opened.
If you’re using Marketing Cloud and sending emails, consider these best practices:
- Use a subject line that is short and to the point. Don’t use more than 50 characters, and don’t use more than two lines of text in your subject line. Longer subject lines will be truncated by Gmail or Outlook, causing recipients to see only part of the message they were expecting when they open it up—not a good experience!
- Don’t include exclamation points or question marks in your subject lines because they tend to make them seem unprofessional; also refrain from using periods at the end of sentences (except for specific occasions when this may be appropriate). This helps keep things consistent across all inboxes; otherwise some subscribers might think you’re being rude by ending a sentence with an exclamation point (or period).
Use Actionable Calls-to-Action
Call-to-action (CTA) buttons are the most important element in your email design. These buttons direct users to take a specific action and help drive engagement, clicks, signups and sales.
Use actionable CTAs that are clear — A CTA should clearly explain what will happen if you click on it or tap on it. You should consider using “Learn More” or “Get Started” instead of “Download.” Make sure the call-to-action is relevant — Use CTAs that match the content of your message. Don’t just add a generic call-to-action at the end of every message; make sure it’s relevant to what you’re sending people to do (e.g., don’t send someone an event invitation from your marketing automation tool). Keep them easy to find and understand— For example, place them near other CTAs so they stand out more prominently than inbox text content like emails from friends or coworkers (which often appear toward the top of an inbox).
Make Your Emails Readable
The first step to making your emails readable is to use a readable font. Email clients automatically format the text, so you can’t control how it looks, but there are still ways you can improve readability.
The second step is using colors that contrast well with each other. Many people have difficulty reading text on light backgrounds or dark backgrounds, which means it’s important to choose an appropriate color scheme for your emails.
The third step is making sure your font size and line length are large enough for recipients to read comfortably on any device they’re using (including smartphones).
Similarly, there should be adequate spacing between lines of text so that it doesn’t appear too dense or crowded together when viewed in Gmail’s preview pane or mobile app inboxes like Apple Mail and Outlook Mobile App on iOS devices.
Make Your Emails Scannable
- Make your emails scannable.
Here are a few best practices to help make your emails scannable:
- Use short paragraphs, bullet points, bolded text, and numbered lists. For example:
- Use subheadings to break up the content into digestible chunks. For example:
- Use a consistent structure in each email you send out—a consistent font style and color scheme as well as background image or pattern will help create a cohesive brand experience across all channels. Your recipients will also be able to quickly identify whether an email is from you or not on the first glance at its header information (which should include your logo). This makes them more likely to open it!
Use Consistent Branding in Your Emails
Consistent branding is a key factor in building brand recognition. Customers are more likely to recognize your emails and respond if they are familiar with the design and style of your content.
Consistent branding also helps users navigate their inboxes because they can easily identify which emails they’re reading from you, even if they don’t read every word of each message. This can be especially helpful if you send many messages over time or if your customers have multiple brands in their inboxes (for example, multiple email addresses).
Finally, consistent branding helps users recognize who sent them an email message—which is critical for companies that rely on customer loyalty for repeat business or for consumers who want to return to businesses with whom they already have an existing relationship.
Put Important Content Above the Fold
- Put the most important content above the fold.
- The fold is the bottom of your screen. It’s where you see all those neat ads on Facebook and Twitter, but it also happens to be a critical part of any email marketing campaign. When someone opens an email, they should be able to see what they need immediately; otherwise, they might just close it and move on (which we don’t want).
- In fact, some studies have shown that if your most important information isn’t visible within six seconds of opening an email, then you may lose up to 75% of readers! This means that if you don’t have anything in this section right away—or at least give them a compelling reason why they should scroll down—then there’s no way they’re going to read anything else in your message at all…even if something else might be more relevant later on down into your message body itself.”
Avoid Images Only Emails
The best thing you can do for your subscribers is to make sure they see your emails, no matter what. Avoid images only emails. Email clients have been around long enough that most people are familiar with them and how they should work—but most email clients won’t display images at all if the file size is too large. And even if they do load properly, there are many reasons why including text in an email is better than using images:
- Images only emails aren’t good for mobile users. According to Litmus, 41% of emails are read on mobile devices–and that number climbs every year. If you’re sending an image-only email blast out into the world, you’re missing out on a huge chunk of your audience!
- Image files can slow down load times significantly—and that’s not just an issue when people use older phones with slower connections; even modern smartphones like the iPhone XR struggle with high-quality image files (especially ones over 5MB). When a user receives an image heavy email from you that takes 10+ seconds to load and then doesn’t even work because he has low bandwidth internet speed or his browser isn’t compatible with the format, it could lead him to unsubscribe from future updates because he feels like he’s being spammed too much already.
If this happens enough times over time then all those precious leads start slipping through your fingers without ever knowing why–so don’t let this happen!
Balance Visual Elements and Text
It’s important to balance the visual elements with text. You can use images to break up text or highlight it, or even illustrate it. For example:
- The image above is used as illustration of the text below it.
- The image above is used as an introduction to the text below it.
You can use these guidelines to craft emails that work for your business.
- Use mobile first design.
- Shorten your subject lines, and make them actionable.
- Make your emails readable, scannable and consistent with your brand’s tone of voice and look & feel.
If there’s one thing to take away from this, it’s that the best way to make a good email is just to think like an actual human being. Too many companies send out emails that are ugly, boring, and hard to read. If you’re using these best practices, you should have no problem crafting successful campaigns.