When it comes to effective email design, there are three things you always need to keep in mind, whether you're creating an e-newsletter for your entire list or a sales-focused mailing to a select group of customers and prospects: the basics, the best practices, and the pitfalls. Let's take a look at each of these three categories and explore how each one can have an impact on your overall email design. Ask yourself each of these questions to ensure that your design makes the grade.
Checklist One: The Basics
Did You Create Two Versions?When scheduling the design time for your email marketing campaign, always plan to create at least two separate versions of your email - one in HTML and another in plain text. Why? Because if you only provide an HTML email, any subscribers whose email clients are set up only to handle text messages will display a jumble of text, odd characters and HTML code. You may also want to consider developing a third version in Rich Text Format (RTF) to take advantage of those email clients that do not render HTML but that are capable of presenting rich text.
Did You Design for the Top 5 Email Clients?
Keep in mind that your email design doesn't just need to look good in the email client you use; it needs to render properly in the most common email programs used today. According to a MarketingSherpa 2010 Email Marketing Benchmark Report, nearly 80% of email users use one of the following five email clients:
- Microsoft Outlook (MarketingSherpa's Report notes that 4 out of 10 email users open email in some version of Outlook)
- AOL mail
- Yahoo! Email
- HotmailIf possible, test email in more than one version of an email program - see how it renders differently in Microsoft Outlook 2010 compared to Microsoft Outlook 2007 - and also see how it appears in the same email programs on different computing platforms, like Macs and Linux computers or even the iPad.Did You Include a Link to a Web Version? Even though you test for a number of different email clients, you probably have at least one subscriber using a non-standard program - or perhaps you have a growing number of subscribers accessing their email from smartphones or other mobile devices. That's why it's important to include a link in your email to a Web-based version of your email message. Doing this will ensure that all subscribers can access the information as you intended even if the email they received didn't render properly.
Did You Use the Right Page Dimensions?
When designing for the standard email client, page width should be top-of-mind; after all, forcing readers to scroll horizontally isn't exactly their favorite thing to do. To stay on the safe side, ensure that your email designs are between 500 and 650 pixels in width. And don't assume that readers will scroll down a long page of content either - make use of landing pages to explain offers and benefits in more detail.
Did You Consider the Right File Size?
Page pixel width isn't the only number with which you should be concerned - you also need to ensure your message is the appropriate file size. Because some recipients may have file size limits within their email client, a good rule of thumb is to keep your message sizes to between 40 - 50 KB to avoid potential issues.
Did You Use Color to Your Advantage?
No one can deny the role that color can play in effective email design. Done well, color can highlight a call to action and draw the reader's eye to the email's most valuable information. Done poorly, color can confuse the reader, causing them to overlook important elements of your email - if they even read it at all.
Make color work for you. Ensure that the background colors, font colors and the colors of any buttons or images in your email complement each other and work well together. Experiment with color combinations until you find one that effectively calls out important information while staying true to your brand. And avoid any color combinations that may negatively affect readability.
Checklist Two: The Best PracticesDid You Follow W3C standards for HTML coding?
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has developed standards related to HTML coding. Abiding by these standards ensures that your HTML email marketing will be accessible to all recipients, including those with special needs.
Did You Use Standard Fonts?
No one enjoys squinting to read a tiny font, and even non-designers know how distracting it can be to try reading something printed in a font like Comic Sans or Impact. Help your readers more quickly and easily access your email's valuable information by using a standard, universally-supported font that is at least 10 pixels, 10 points, or size "2". Examples of fonts that are universally supported are Arial, Times New Roman, Verdana and Tahoma.
Did You Employ Appropriate Graphics and Buttons?
Images and buttons are an excellent way to add visual interest to your email, to break up or offset blocks of text, and to draw reader's attention to a specific area. Using graphics and buttons are an effective way of highlighting your email's call to action and compelling people to take action. Ensure that your graphics enhance your email rather than detract from it, and ensure that your call to action is the graphic that most gets your attention.
Did You Use Image ALT Tags?
Two-thirds of respondents in MarketingSherpa's 2009 report have their email images turned off by default. That means that all of the hard work you've put into the design of your HTML email may not ever be seen by email recipients. Email that arrives with blocked images oftentimes looks like a puzzle full of blank boxes with red Xs in the corners. Using ALT tags can help your email content better communicate with those whose images are blocked.
An ALT tag is a written out "ALTernative" to what is depicted in the image. Make use of ALT tags to describe your offers, and to spell out your call to action. If your large email image shows several cozy winter sweaters on sale, ALT tag text of “Cozy winter jerseys - in wool, angora and cashmere - are available in a variety of colors from R19.99!” may just be enough to entice the recipient to turn images "on" or click through to the Web version of the email.
Did You Include Plenty of Links?
Another method to increase your email open and clickthrough rates is by increasing the number of links within the email content. Why? Apparently a higher number of text, image, and navigation links appeals to the consumer because it signals to them that there are more ideas and actions available in the email.
Need help with email marketing? Let the experts take care of your email marketing needs. Contact Scream Media today on 021 559 0800