Darcy Paterson Blog Easy Tips for Great Email Design

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Easy Tips for Great Email Design

By on October 19th, 2019

Designing emails is complicated. Unlike designing apps or websites, emails are stuck in the year 2000. Common things on the web like video remain a dream to email design.

This is just one of the many issues you’ll find when designing emails. Here are a few more along with best-practice advice for overcoming common email design problems.

Emails have no standards

When I say emails are stuck in the year 2000, I’m not joking.

Since the beginning of the internet, an organization called the W3C has set the rules for it’s development. It allows developers to confidently predict what happens when they write their code.

That code is interpreted by browsers like Chrome and Firefox who also follow those rules. As a result, when a developer writes code that states the margin space on some paragraph text needs to be 100 pixels wide, it won’t matter if the end user uses Chrome or Firefox, there will always be a 100 pixel margin.

The difference with email is that clients (the things that you use to view your email like Outlook or Gmail) all use their own rules. They make them up on their own. This means that Gmail might show the 100 pixel margin but Outlook won’t.

Email padding and margin issues
Same email, different results.

Keep it simple stupid

Having done hundreds of emails, I can tell you that the best designs are the simplest. Simple designs usually lead to less inconsistencies in the assorted email clients.

Here’s a list of a few things you’ll want to do to keep things simple:

  1. Use safe web fonts
  2. Copy first then images
  3. Single column layout
  4. Keep expectations low

Use safe web fonts

Using basic web fonts like Arial, Times New Roman, Georgia or Verdana will ensure that no matter the email client used, you’ll get a predictable result.

You can use other fonts like Open Sans that are available from Google Fonts but they don’t always work. With web safe fonts, you’re guaranteed they’ll work since fonts like Arial are installed on nearly every computer in the world.

Here’s a list of web safe fonts:

  • Times New Roman
  • Times
  • Palatino Linotype
  • Book Antiqua
  • Palatino
  • Georgia
  • Arial
  • Helvetica
  • Arial Black
  • Gadget
  • Tahoma
  • Geneva
  • Comic Sans MS
  • Cursive
  • Impact
  • Charcoal
  • Lucida Sans Unicode
  • Lucida Grande
  • Trebuchet MS
  • Verdana
  • Courier New
  • Courier
  • Lucida Console
  • Monaco

Copy first then images

One thing that I’ve seen some email marketers do to get around the limitations of email design is to create a visually amazing email in Adobe Illustrator and export it as a jpeg. The issue with that is most email clients turn images off automatically in emails. Whoever opens that email won’t see anything but a blank screen. Not so good for conversions!

By keeping the most important content as text, you’ll avoid that issue. Images shouldn’t contain any essential information. They’re main objective is to enhance the content visually. Save the important information like dates, call-to-action’s, contact information for the copy.

Single column layout

By single column layout what I mean is stack your content vertically like you would a hamburger. Footer at the bottom, call-to-action above that, BBI (boring but important) information above that…

By keeping everything in one column, you’re saving yourself a headache. Single columns alone are difficult to get consistent across email clients. Adding another column to your layout makes that challenge even bigger. Usually the payoff isn’t worth the time spent making it.

Keep expectations low

Unfortunately, the reality of email design forces those who dream big to scale back expectations. Email designs that are simple work best. Especially when you put them into context with the rest of your marketing initiatives and sales funnels. If you want to make a splash, landing pages would make a better place to put that creative energy.

Get a FREE template

I’ve created an email template design that will remain consistent in over 85 different email clients. Save yourself some time and download the FREE email template.

Get a Free Email Template

I’m available to help businesses and organizations get more out of there marketing budget. Reach out to me if you have any questions.

email: darcypaterson[at]gmail.com
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