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The Be Bold Email Marketing Guide | Part 2: the design

Good email marketing starts with appealing emails, but it goes much deeper than that. It’s about your relationship with your readers, how well they trust you and what your email marketing’s ROI is. 💸

In this second part of our Be Bold Email Marketing Guide, it’s all about the design of your email. Deep down, we’re all little magpies, always on the lookout for something new and shiny. We just like good-looking stuff! But there’s more to email design than just nice visuals and cool fonts. Your email design needs to convert your reader, it has to persuade him into thinking that you are worthy of his time (and money). Sounds interesting, right? Let’s keep reading then!

Emails and web design

Ok, what’s the deal: is this about email marketing or web design? Well, basically you could compare the design of your emails to the design of a website. Both the principles you use, and the results you want to achieve. You create certain expectations that you, of course, need to meet as quickly as possible. Preferably as efficient as possible, as well.

Reading tip: 5 tips to make your website user-friendly!

The foundation of your email

A solid foundation is indispensable, both in building houses or building relationships. The same goes for your email. Therefore, it is very important to always keep things like contrast, fonts, email width and brand recognition in mind.

1. Contrast

Make sure there’s enough contrast between your text and the background. It’s visually way more appealing, and it gives your reader visual clarity and calmness. It also makes your email much more pleasant and less tiring to read. Which in turn leads to your reader sticking around a little longer.

2. Fonts

Based on your corporate identity, you can use virtually any font in your email. But save the extra special ones for text on images only. Your body text should consist of a readable system or web font. What’s the difference, you ask? System fonts are fonts that look pretty much the same on any operating system or device. Web fonts don’t always give you that exact guarantee.

In terms of font size, we recommend body text to be between 14 and 16 pixels and headings between 22 to 24 pixels.

3. Email width

Yes, size matters, also for emails. For example, the perfect width for an email is between 500 and 640 pixels. It seems a bit odd, especially since screens generally get wider and bigger. However, keep in mind that not every email client works the same.

4. Recognition and your corporate identity

As a business, using your brand guidelines should come naturally. Your newsletter is no exception. Consistently using your corporate identity steadily increases the recognition and trust of your reader. If you don’t do this, your reader will grow more suspicious. Which, in turn, results in little to no conversions.

Don’t do this: use your artistic freedom to the fullest. Or misuse in this case. FYI, that email is not looking good.

Do this: replace that fancy font with one that is much more readable. The convenience of the reader is your top priority!

Structure your email

Structure is key. Your reader doesn’t want to think about what he must do when he opens your email. You take him by the hand and guide him straight to your call to action. Bringing structure can be done in different ways, both visually and in your copy. 🤓

1. White space

Ah, white space. The BFF of each email marketeer. White space in a text acts a bit as breathing room. It shows you where you are and where you’re heading. Not enough white space creates a stuffy and unprofessional feeling. As if you don’t have time for your reader.

There is no specific best practice for white space in email design. Test it out and see what works and looks best.

2. Text structure

By using headings, subtitles, bullets, and lists you create a clear structure. This way, your reader can scan your email. Nowadays, no one has time to read newsletters from A to Z, so making your text scannable and snackable gives you a huge advantage.

3. Images

Images are an effective way to set up your structure. Think about your header, accompanying visuals, images that amplify your text and so on. Like everything in life, finding the balance is important. So, keep the ratio between your text and images at 60:40.

Pick quality images with the right dimensions. Images for web should only be 72 dpi, otherwise they will make your email too heavy, causing it to get bounced. The exact measurements of your visuals depend on the purpose. Do you want an image stretching out over the full width of the email? Then you crop it to the exact same width. Logical, right? For height, we recommend staying within 250 pixels to avoid pointless scrolling for your reader.

Tip: to avoid images looking different on various devices, crop and resize them before you upload them in your email tool.

Don’t do this: serve your readers a whole chunk of text. Have fun figuring it out! 💁

Do this: bring structure to your email by deleting text wherever you can, adding white space and choosing the right images.

The layout of your email

1. The inverted pyramid

The inverted pyramid is a clever symphony between your copy, your images, and your CTAs. This unknowingly directs the reader’s eye straight to your CTA.

An inverted pyramid always starts with an attention-grabber, for example an image at full width of your email. Below, you’ll have some copy in which you build up the expectations or give the reader a taste of what’s coming. Typically, this text is not as wide as the image. The bottom of your inverted pyramid is a triggering call to action.

2. 1-column template

An email template with only one column looks the same on desktop as it does on mobile. That’s what we’re really striving for these days, since mobile is getting increasingly more popular. A 1-column template is, in most cases, your safest bet.

Can’t help yourself and decided to pick a 2-column template anyway? Keep in mind that on mobile, these columns will be positioned above each other. The left column on desktop will be on top of the right column on desktop. So, did you put your copy on the left, and your image on the right? On mobile, your image is now positioned below the text. Quite an important detail, if you ask me. 😉

Don’t do this: choose a super fancy email template with multiple columns.

Do this: pick a 1-column template and apply the reverse pyramid.

The call to action (CTA) of your email

And… action! 🎬 Your email’s purpose is to encourage your reader to take action. Going to your website, clicking on a specific product, or answering the email. All of those are important steps that your reader can – and ideally should – take, and eventually, those are the steps that’ll make you money. But first, you must persuade your reader to act. You do this with a carefully designed call to action that attracts attention, is clear and adds value.

1. Attract attention

A call to action that doesn’t stand out won’t get clicks. It’s as simple as that. So, give it some extra TLC. Best practice is to limit yourself to just one CTA, but if you have a second one, make a clear distinction between the primary and secondary call to action. For example, put the primary CTA in a brightly coloured button, and the secondary CTA as an underlined link. The rule of thumb: the less CTAs, the more powerful they are.  

2. Be clear

Create clear call to actions. Use active language, but also keep it short and concise. Avoid buttons with “click here”. Rather, use “start your free trial now”, “subscribe to our newsletter” or “adjust your email preferences”. Those CTAs say a lot more and convince your reader faster.

3. Offer value

What’s in it for me? 😏 And by me, of course, we mean the reader. In email marketing, it’s once again your customer who is the center of attention. Remember that with every CTA, the benefits must be very clear for your reader, not for your company.

Don’t do this: write a passive call to action that you put somewhere at the bottom of your email. What do you mean, let those clicks pour in?

Do this: put extra time into your CTAs, make them your money-makers.

Check out the preview

You just created a gem of a newsletter, really, you are so proud. “This one is going to work so well, I can feel it in my bones!” you remember thinking. You send out your campaign, the email arrives in your inbox and… It’s bad. None of your hard work paid off. The CTAs are wrong, the font doesn’t come through and each link is underlined. Recognise this situation? I bet you’re not the only one. 😉 Our advice: test, test and test it again. This is the one and only way you can be sure your email looks the way you designed it.

We use the Litmus tool to see what our emails would look like in different email clients. Especially the mobile version is very important nowadays.

Don’t do this: the email is looking great in the program? Let’s go, send it! Nice and easy.

Do this: use a tool to see how your email performs with different email clients.

A/B testing, email marketing’s best friend

Is this the real life, is this just fantasy? The perfect email, does it even exist? It all depends on your brand and target group. Therefore, using A/B testing to see what works and what doesn’t, is vital. Experiment with different lengths of emails, a different structure, a formal or informal tone of voice and various calls to action. This is the only way to know what makes your target audience click!

Did you know that some tools offer you the possibility to add, remove or adjust content for the mobile version of your email? This way you can delete the header, add “download the app”, or use shorter copy in your mobile version. A perfect A/B testing experiment!

Don’t do this: assuming your email is okay. Surely people can’t react that differently to the same email, right? 🤔

Do this: Use A/B testing and optimise your emails based on the results.

Voilà, now you know all the do’s and don’ts of your email design. Be as creative as you can or want, but make sure to play by the rules of this blog post. Guaranteed success! 🎉

The next part of our Be Bold Email Marketing Guide is about the timing and frequency of your emails. You want to know more about the settings of your emails? Take a look at the first part of our Be Bold Email Marketing Guide.

Are you stuck on certain aspects of your email design? Or do you have a burning question about email marketing? Book a call with one of our experts. They are happy to help you out with some more tips and tricks!