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How to make the most of your email design

Good old Murphy’s Law dictates that no matter how much time, energy and testing you put into creating that stunning email campaign, it will inevitably end up rendering more like a Picasso Cubism painting in at least one of your subscriber’s email clients.

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This is of course hard to avoid, unless you are perhaps willing to die through sheer frustration and even that might not clinch it. There are, however, a few things you can do to ease the situation and help keep your email design looking great when your subscriber clicks to open it.

Let’s take a look at what you can do.

To start, set up free email accounts

Sign up for a free email account across all major email clients. Hotmail, Yahoo!, Google Mail and AOL are all popular and are a good place to start. This will make testing your campaigns much easier as you as you can simply send it to yourself and see which emails render correctly and which need tweaking.

Setting up a free account is a quick and painless process and it’s really worth doing. It’s also a good idea to download as many web browsers as possible, including Explorer, Chrome, Firefox and Safari, so that you can also test what your campaign looks like when your subscriber clicks on the link: “Can’t see this email correctly? View it on your browser”, where they can get the full effects of the email there.

Use existing email templates

If you’re new to email marketing and already have an ESP, then use one of their pre-designed templates, which would already have been tested. This will save you heaps of time and trouble and it’s the perfect way to go until you’re more comfortable and up to speed with creating templates from scratch.

Keep it Simple

The golden rule is, when in doubt go for the simpler design option. Yes, of course you want all the bells and whistles, but unless you are sure that you’ve tested as much as you can and are happy with the results then don’t hit the send button. Yes, subscribers appreciate a beautiful campaign, but even more, they appreciate receiving an email that they can actually read clearly and that renders correctly without them having to download a dozen images first (or turn their head sideways in order to make sense of it). The cleaner the design, the easier it is to create (and code) and the less chance there is of it developing any irregularities along the way.

Avoid using background images

Often, these never open the way you intended and even less so if you try to include text. The best thing you can do here is to have block colours as a back ground. It keeps the email in line with what we’ve said above about having a clean, simple design, and it still looks good.

Consider your subscriber’s preferences

Many people skim read an email in the preview pane before deciding whether or not to open it. Based on this, it’s best to play it safe and keep the width of your design under 600px, which is around the size of the smallest preview panel. Also consider the very real possibility that your subscribers are viewing their emails on a smart phone, which is all the more reason to keep the design clear and free from too many images and links.

Remember to use alt tags for all images

Don’t laugh; you’d be surprised how many people don’t do this. I can’t count the number of times I’ve opened an image heavy email that hasn’t rendered correctly, or the images are blocked by default and there is no indication of what the images are. This becomes especially frustrating if the images are intrinsic to the message of the email. Alt tags allow your subscribers to see what should be there, and to take action if they think it’s worth it, which they won’t do if they can’t see what it’s about. Comprende?

Test your campaign (and then test it again)

Seriously, this may seem like another no-brainer, but the emails that land up in my inbox speak for themselves. We of all know that it’s hard work churning out designs that could consistently be considered for the Top 10 Design Awards, but there is a lot you can do to help your cause.

Don’t only test your campaign across different email clients and web browsers, but also test it with A/B split testing, which can be used for everything from subject lines and body content to image placement and background colour. Basically, cover all your bases and you’ll be infinitely closer to creating email designs that your subscribers look forward to receiving (and being able to read for that matter).

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