Take your emails to the next level with everything you need to know about email design.
Image courtesy of Pexels.
While we often focus on the subject line and body copy of our emails, the design is just as important. In fact, having the right design can make a big difference when it comes to your conversion rates.
The design of your emails goes beyond the images you select to portray the story. It helps to move the reader along and push them towards the action you want them to take. Using design elements, you can indicate to the reader what comes next and where their eyes should go next.
In this article, we’ll take a look at everything you need to know about email design and more! From understanding why design matters in email marketing to design trends and tips to improve your email design — we’ll cover it all.
Here’s a quick overview of what we’ll discuss in this article:
- Why email design is important
- The benefits of email design
- Email design trends to know
- Effective email layouts
- Email design tips
- Examples of good email design
Why Email Design Matters
When it comes to creating emails, many people focus on the content within the message and how it is portrayed and the email’s design is often a second-thought. But to produce successful emails, this thought process has to change.
The design of an email should be just as important as the content that is going into it. In fact, there are many things that the design can do that the copy cannot. For example, the right email design can draw a subscriber in, move them through the email towards the call to action, and encourage them to click through the call to action.
While copy does tell the reader what to do, without the design elements they may lose interest before making it to the end of the message. On top of that, if the call to action doesn’t stand out visually, it could easily get missed and your sales numbers would reflect that.
The Benefits of Email Design
Taking the time to develop your email design will pay off in the long run. It can help you save time with pre built templates, stay consistent and build brand awareness, and improve accessibility for all customers.
There are a number of benefits that come with email design:
- Draw attention: the first and most obvious benefit is that the right design can capture the attention of your reader and draw them in
- Brand awareness: design elements can build brand awareness and recognition across all of your marketing efforts — including email
- Increase conversions: designing elements can help you move people through the sales funnel and increase conversions
- Accessibility: email design takes accessibility into consideration and ensures content is accessible for readers who may have a disability or maybe using a different device to access the email
While it might seem overwhelming at first, creating great email designs doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, in many cases, you don’t even have to have a designated design team.
There are many email marketing platforms available to make your design process easier with simple drag and drop editors and pre-existing templates. Here are a few of the best email marketing platforms to get you started with a drag-and-drop editor:
- Listrak: quickly and easily create emails with a simple drag-and-drop responsive editor
- Campaigner: easily create and personalize emails with an intuitive drag-and-drop editor
- Mailigen: utilize block building technology to make creating emails easier than ever
- Constant Contact: simply customize your email templates and design professional emails
Now that you know why spending time on your email design is so important and how it will benefit you, let’s dive into some trends you’ll want to know.
Top Design Trends to Know
As with anything in marketing, the trends around email design are always changing. It’s important to stay on top of the ever-changing trends to keep your designs up-to-date. In this section, we’ll take a look at a few of the top trends related to email design to help you stay ahead of the game.
Improving Personalization and Dynamic Content
One of the top trends in the email design world is the use of personalization and with the help dynamic content, you can take it to an even more granular level
According to SmarterHQ, 80% of customers are more likely to purchase a product or service from a brand that provides a personalized experience.
Personalization and dynamic content have come a long way in recent years. Partly due to advancements in technology, but also because marketers have put a stronger focus on gathering data around customer behaviors. Put these two together and you’ve got a recipe for success.
Not only do consumers want to receive personalized emails, but marketers agree that they contribute to business profitability. It’s a win-win for businesses who are looking to improve their bottom line and the overall customer experience. Image courtesy of Think With Google.
Here are just a few examples of how to improve personalization and dynamic content through email design:
- Serve content based on customer segments
- Share relevant products based on previous purchasing behaviors
- Use dynamic imagery that will change based on customer demographics or interests
- Implement artificial intelligence and machine learning tactics to send more relevant emails
Personalization and dynamic content are some of the most important elements you can include in your email design. Because personalization is welcomed by customers and improves engagement, it’s something you should consider adding to your email toolbox.
If you or your team don’t have the skillset to take your email design to the level of personalization you’re looking for, there are plenty of platforms available to help such as Campaign Monitor and ActiveCampaign.
Incorporating Live Content and Animation
Live content and animation are two more trends that are hitting the email design word. Both of these elements take the design to a new level with interactive and engaging content that can be customized based on the user’s experience.
Live content consists of design elements that are updated based on when the user opens the email. This can include things such as real-time countdowns and current inventory data. This is beneficial because it provides the user with the most up-to-date, relevant content possible.
Live content lets you add a sense of urgency when it comes to sales and discounts. Add a time clock that counts down and lets readers know when this special offer runs out. Image courtesy of Enchant.
On the other hand, using animation in your emails can spark interest and intrigue subscribers to keep reading. Grab a reader’s attention with unexpected movement and bring them back into the message. In today’s email world, you can use animated GIFs or CSS animation to bring your messages to life.
Coordinating Email Design with Cross Channel Marketing Efforts
Another trend in the marketing world is cross channel marketing. This is the idea of building campaigns that create a seamless experience across multiple channels, including email.
In previous years, email has always been seen as its own entity and never truly incorporated into larger marketing campaigns. But as brands move towards cross channel or even omnichannel marketing, it’s starting to be seen as a complementary tactic.
Companies are starting to realize the benefits to integrating their email efforts into other marketing channels. Cross channel marketing is quickly becoming the new norm for many companies. Image courtesy of Litmus.
Incorporating your cross channel efforts info your email design will help build brand awareness and move customers through the sales funnel. Email is a perfect way to quickly and easily reach your customers and integrate your cross channel efforts.
Effective Email Formats
There are a few specific ways that users read and engage with content. Generally, users quickly scan a page to see what is the most important information and quickly identify what content is relevant to them. After a quick scan, they focus on the information that is most interesting or relevant to their needs.
This is relevant to your email design because your subscribers will interact in a similar way. That’s why when you design your emails, you should create them in a layout that aligns with how users are interacting with web pages.
Let’s take a look at 3 common email layouts.
The inverted pyramid is a common design format that grabs a reader’s attention and results in high conversion rates — and it’s easier than you’d think.
While it might sound complicated, an inverted pyramid design is actually pretty straight forward. Start with an attention-grabbing headline and close the deal with the perfect call to action. Image courtesy of Stencil.
There are only three pain parts of an inverted pyramid design:
- Grab attention with a noteworthy headline
- Build anticipating with the body content
- Provide a clear and persuasive call to action
When it comes to designing emails based on the inverted pyramid, the goal is to draw people in and move them along to the next step. As a subscriber reads through the content, they will naturally be guided down the page toward the call to action.
A simple but effective example of how to utilize the inverted pyramid in your email design. This email pulls you in with the main headline and sends your eyes down towards the shop now call to action. Image courtesy of Mailbakery.
The inverted pyramid is an effective way to reach your email subscribers and move them through the content to the main call to action. Implementing this email design will result in more web traffic and higher conversion rates.
The Z-pattern, or also known as the zig-zag pattern, is another common way that users scan emails. In this pattern, recipients scan from the top left, move horizontally to the right, then diagonally to the bottom left, and complete their scanning on the bottom right size.
When a user reads with a Z-pattern, they start at the top left corner and zig-zag through the page, ultimately ending at the bottom right. Image courtesy of Mailup.
To effectively guide a reader through the email, you’ll want to play off of the Z-pattern with your design elements. With this design pattern, you’ll want to put your most important text and design elements in the areas that customers will scan.
The following example does a great job of aligning text, imagery, and calls to actions to the Z-pattern. Someone who was scanning this page would quickly be able to identify the main topic and know what the next steps are.
The Z-pattern moves customers through a message with both content and visual elements. When quickly scanning, a reader should easily be able to understand the context of the entire email. Image courtesy of Sendinblue.
The Z-pattern is a good solution for emails that are heavier on content. It allows you to group content and present the reader with multiple images and calls to actions to accomplish your goals.
Last but not least, is the F-pattern email design. This is one of the most common ways that users scan content. It starts in the top left corner and then scans across the page horizontally. As the readers move down the page, they often continue to scan down rather than across the page.
The F-pattern looks just as it sounds. Readers move from left to right and as they make their way down the page, slowly start to scan less and less. Image courtesy of Frescodata.
That means that the most important information should be towards the top of your email, to the left. The F-pattern is a great solution for emails that are copy-heavy and provide the most relevant information right away.
This is a great example of how the F-pattern allows a reader to scan a page. With a bold image to the fairly heavy copy to the right, readers will scan an email like this in the true F-pattern. Image courtesy of Uplres Email.
If you choose to take the F-pattern route, just always make sure to include the most relevant information at the very top. As a reader moves through the page, the chances the content will be read become less and less.
Email Design Tips
Beyond the main layout of your emails, there are a number of design tips you should consider. From using the right images and fonts to optimizing for mobile — you need to consider every element.
In this section, we’ll take a look at a few different areas of email design and provide you with a few tips to make the most out of your time.
Selecting The Right Images
When it comes to images, there are a few important factors to consider. From choosing the right images to get your message across to ensure the dimensions and file sizes are right, your email imagery can make a big difference.
Here are a few things to consider when selecting and creating imagery for your emails:
- Make sure the images portray the message you’re trying to send, sometimes stock photography can’t do that for you
- Always include Alt text just in case the image does not load on its own
- The best image size for email is 600px to 650px
- Use high-quality image for best results
In many cases, your imagery is one of the most important elements in your emails. Don’t lose the attention of your customers by cutting corners or including poorly chosen images. Choose imagery that makes your message stand out and sets you apart from the crowd.
Our world is becoming more and more mobile and that holds true for email marketing as well. In fact, 55% of emails are now opened on mobile devices. Meaning if you aren’t already optimizing your emails for mobile consumption, you’re excluding over half of your customers.
Make sure your emails are optimized for multiple different mobile devices. The experience from a table, iPhone, and Android all differ and you need to consider these things when designing your emails. Image courtesy of Getresponse.
When it comes to email design, there are a number of things you can do to increase mobile optimization and improve the user experience.
Here are a few examples of how to optimize your emails for mobile:
- Keep images to a minimum for a clean experience
- Use a responsive template
- Make the most out of your copy
- Ensure buttons are easy to click with fingers on smaller devices
Mobile optimization may be one of the most important things you can do while designing your emails.
Make the Most Out of Call to Actions
Your call to action (CTA) should be one of the most important elements in your email. It tells a reader what action you want them to take next — whether that’s to make a purchase, download a resource or learn more about something.
Emails with a single call-to-action increased clicks by 312% and sales 1617%.
Your email CTAs are important because they are one of the tracking metrics to tell you just how well your emails are performing. But there are a few design factors you need to take into consideration for the best possible performance.
You don’t have to overthink your CTA design. Just make sure it stands out and lets the reader know what comes next. This is a great example of a simple, yet eye-catching CTA design. Image courtesy of Medium.
Here are a few of the most common CTA best practices in email design:
- Choose the right placement: make sure your call to action is placed above the fold so more users can see and engage with it
- Use action-oriented words: you want a customer to take a specific action, tell them what it is
- Incorporate the right colors: your call to action needs to stand out from the rest of the content in your email, makes sure to use colors that contracts the rest of the email
- Make sure buttons are clickable: if someone is reading your email on their mobile device, you need to make sure buttons are optimized for finger taps in addition to mouse clicks
Your call to action is one of the most important parts of your email. Don’t skip the design elements that make it stand out and help move subscribers through the sales funnel.
Choose the Right Colors
The right color choice can help build brand awareness and make your message stand out. You should strategically pick colors that align with your brand palette but can also help build contrast for the most important elements in your email.
Here are a few tips to help you choose the right colors for your emails:
- Choose colors that align with your brand palette and put a limit on the number of colors you use
- Use contrast to make certain items stand out — such as your call to action
- Colors can help you break up or segment content based on relevance
- If you’re looking to add more colors to your emails, experiment with different imagery to reach your goals
If you don’t limit your color palette, you might find your emails become inconsistent and lose sight of your company branding.
One of the benefits of email marketing is that it helps to build trust and brand awareness with your customers. Without this color consistency, you risk losing that brand recognition.
Use of White Space
It might be tempting to cover your entire email with color and fill it to the brim with content — but this isn’t a good practice. In fact, you’ll want to make sure to use plenty of white space throughout your email.
White space is simply the idea of leaving the areas around your content, images, and call to action buttons blank to make clicking easier. It also helps to separate those elements from everything else on the page.
If all of the information on your email is back to back with no white space, a reader won’t know when one element ends and another begins. That can be confusing and frustrating for the end receiver.
White space makes a big difference in your email design and usability. This is a great example of how white space can change the entire design for the better. Image courtesy of Medium.
The example above is a great visual to see just how much of a difference the use of white space can make.
In the first image, everything is stacked on top of each other and feels very cluttered. By adding a little more space between the elements of the email, it’s much easier to see the copy and call to action.
Email Design Examples
To close it out, let’s look at a few different email design examples that stand out and utilize some of the different elements we discussed throughout this article. As we look through these, you’ll be able to start identifying areas of great design and maybe even areas of improvement.
This first example we’ll look at make our list due to its stand out call to action. When a subscriber receives this email, they will know exactly what the next step you want them to take is — RSVP.
Not only does this email do a great job of building contrast and making the call to action clear and easily identifiable, but it also helps build branding. At first glance, you can quickly connect that this brand’s color palette focuses heavily on red, black, and white.
This is a great use of a bold and direct call to action. There is no doubt in the reader’s mind about what their next step should be. Image courtesy of Email Design.
The next email makes our list because of their bold use of colors to break the content out into different sections. While it is a long email packed with content, the use of color throughout the email makes it easy to follow and understand the different groupings.
Through the color segments, you can easily jump between sections and understand that each provides you with a little different information. Although this one doesn’t necessarily build brand awareness with the typical Target red, that’s okay — because people already know Target.
Target makes good use of colors to segment their emails. This allows them to provide you with an action-packed email that makes sense and is easy to follow. Image courtesy of Target Marketing.
This email from New York & Company is a great example of using the inverted pyramid design format. The design of this email leads the reader through the email with the content hierarchy and lands them at the call to action.
Here’s the breakdown of how this email fits into the inverted pyramid:
- Attention-grabbing headline: the use of“Exclusively Online” an a big, bold “50% off everything”
- Exciting content and information: “Including 100s of new arrivals and celebrity collections”
- CTA: “Shop Now”
New York & Company makes use of the inverted pyramid to move readers from the headline down to the main CTA. This email is likely to convert, especially with the extra discount incentive. Image courtesy of New York and Company.
Staples does a great job of using their brand colors throughout their emails. They pull in the red from their logo and use contrasting white and black in the message to help make the important information stand out.
This email does a great job of building brand awareness and using colors to tell their story. A reader’s eyes will quickly jump to the areas in red meaning they will see the details on the main offer and the call to action.
This example is another great use of color. Staples used their brand colors to make the most important information in this email quickly standout. Image courtesy of Staples Marketing.
This email from YETI has multiple things that make it a great design. From eye-catching animation to great imagery that aligns with the brand’s reputation — it all comes together to create a beautifully designed email.
It’s hard to tell in this image, but the first section of this email was animated and grabbed the reader's attention right away. You wouldn’t necessarily expect an email about a lunchbox to start moving. It was a cool design element to include and definitely did what it was supposed to.
The second thing that stands out about this email is the imagery used throughout. When you see this, there is no doubt that it is a YETI brand email. They played off of their branding and used images that appeal to their specific audiences — another great design choice.
YETI does a great job of pulling their branding in through the realistic customer images. With a little animation at the top, this email has a little bit of everything. Image courtesy of YETI Marketing.
This next example is another good example of use of color to build brand awareness. Throughout this entire email, the company’s bright blue is used to let you know exactly who the message is coming from.
By incorporating their logo at the very top, it brings the colors together nicely and will keep the brand in mind as customers read through the email. They also did a great job contrasting the bright blue with white text and call to actions. Everything is clear and easy to read, which could be challenging with this bright blue color scheme.
This email is a great example of using brand colors in emails to build brand awareness. The branding stands out throughout this entire email. Image courtesy of Fifty Five and Five.
Good Email Design is Good for Business
Whether you have a full team of graphic designers or are using email marketing platforms that allow you to create spectacular emails through a drag-and-drop editor, the design is important. It helps tell the story of your email beyond just the words on the page and move customers towards the action you want them to take.
Good email design is good for business. Using the tips and tricks from this article will help you take your email design to the next level. It won’t take long for you to start seeing the difference in your monthly metrics from engagements to conversions.
Whether you choose to adopt one or many of these things into your own email design strategy, you won’t be disappointed.