15 Effective Tips for Designing Emails

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published May 11, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

An effective email design can help encourage your audience to open and read messages from your business. Engaging with this content can help boost loyalty and support for your business, as well as increase brand awareness. Learning about and implementing design techniques can help you create more effective and interesting emails for your customers. In this article, we discuss the importance of email design for marketing purposes and offer 15 helpful tips that you can use to design effective emails.

Related: 13 Email Marketing Tips To Boost Your Strategy

What is email design?

In marketing, email design is the process of creating email messages for your audience, typically aimed at getting their interest and encouraging support for your business. Appearance represents one of the primary aspects of email design, and you want your messages to look visually pleasing or interesting. You also want to ensure that you provide direct, easy-to-understand content to ensure your audience receives your intended message.

Why is email design important?

When sending emails to an audience, particularly current or potential customers, your goal is to have them open and read your message. Effective email design can help you achieve this goal and boost support for your brand. Beyond visual appearance, email design can also refer to the user experience. Providing a positive user experience means that your audience can understand or engage with the content easily. When users enjoy engaging with this content, it can encourage them to continue supporting your business in other ways, such as making purchases or advocating for it on social media or with friends.

15 tips for designing emails

You can use the following advice to help craft more effective marketing emails for businesses.

1. Craft a compelling subject line

While the subject line may not represent a traditional design element, it is the first thing your audience sees when receiving your email. A compelling subject line can help you get recipients' interest and convince them to read your message. You can use the following tips for subject lines:

  • Be concise: There are no best-practice character limits or requirements for subject lines. However, a brief message can enable your audience to scan and understand your intentions quickly.

  • Provide value: When designing emails for marketing purposes, offering value to your audience in the subject line gives them a reason to open your messages. For example, you may tease a sale or discount code.

  • Incorporate visual elements: You may consider incorporating visual elements like emojis into your subject line to set you apart from other emails in recipients' inboxes. While emojis may not be compatible with all devices and platforms, they can add a fun personality to your messages.

Read more: How To Write an Email Subject Line That Gets Responses

2. Pay attention to preheaders

The preheader is a preview of what an email contains, appearing right after the subject line. You can use your preheader to add context to your subject line and further motivate recipients to open your emails. Like subject lines, you want to keep this component concise and tease the value your audience may gain from your message.

3. Use concise, specific language

When drafting your emails, use brief and clear language to ensure your audience understands the message. A concise email offers an easier-to-read and less time-consuming user experience and demonstrates respect for your audience's time. You can be direct by providing only the most relevant or necessary information to your audience. If you need to provide a significant amount of information, you can put the most important details toward the top or break up large blocks of text with bullet points.

4. Include visual content

Another way to avoid large blocks of text is to incorporate visual elements into your emails. These elements may include photographs, videos, animations or other graphics that catch readers' interest. Focus on visuals that are relevant to the messages' content. For example, if you are advertising discounts, you may include images of specific items included in the sale. Make sure to follow size requirements to ensure that your images look high-quality and comply with various platforms and devices. These steps can ensure that your email looks professional and is accessible to all recipients.

5. Implement responsive design

Using responsive design to develop your emails creates a better user experience. This technique changes the format of your emails to ensure they fit any screen, whether the recipient views them on laptops, tablets or smartphones. When you use responsive design, it ensures that your message looks as you intended, no matter how your audience chooses to view it. You can research specific coding instructions to make responsive design emails. Otherwise, email marketing services may provide responsive email templates you can use.

6. Utilize calls to action

A call-to-action (CTA) encourages email recipients to take a specific action. You can implement this technique through links, buttons or text. For example, clicking on an image may take a user to your website to purchase a specific product. When using text calls-to-action, make sure to use direct and clear language, such as "sign up here" or "buy now." When possible, you can include details that add value to the recipient as further motivation. For example, "Click here to receive a 15% discount on your next order."

Related: CTA: Definition and How It Works

7. Develop email layouts

An effective email layout keeps information organized and enables better navigation for recipients. If you send various types of emails to your audience, you may develop and use particular layouts for different purposes. Otherwise, you can use email marketing services or internet searches to find templates. Here are several example layouts you can use:

  • One-column layout: A one-column email layout represents a simple design that is easy to scan and adapt to various screen types. It typically includes the most important information at the top of the message, and the user can scroll down to learn more details. This design can incorporate more white space than a two-column layout, helping emails feel less cluttered.

  • Inverted pyramid layout: The inverted pyramid begins with broad or attention-grabbing information. From there, the content builds anticipation while guiding your recipients to the point of your message, often a call-to-action. This simple method helps attract and focus users' attention on the specific message you want to send.

  • Zig-zag layout: The zig-zag layout serves as an example of a highly visual design, typically alternating between text and visual elements on either side. Beyond catching recipients' attention, it helps guide their eyes to the end of the message, much like the inverted pyramid layout. You typically use brief text elements to ensure the reader can navigate through this email quickly.

8. Incorporate colors

You can use colors to attract readers' attention or make emails more visually appealing. Including a few different colors in your emails can help you differentiate or emphasize different elements within your message. Consider researching color psychology to understand the connotations associated with various colors. Incorporating particular colors may help you influence customers' moods or behaviors. For example, yellow often promotes friendliness or happiness, while blue represents calm. You can also maintain brand consistency by incorporating colors associated with your logo, which helps make your emails immediately recognizable.

Related: Brand Color Psychology: 9 Colors and Their Meanings

9. Think about typography

If you use a particular font on other platforms, such as your business's website, you may want to use the same font for your email messages to establish consistent branding. The type of font you use can also represent your brand identity or personality. For example, serif fonts often suggest a more formal attitude, while sans serif fonts look more casual. Whatever font you choose to use, make sure it is easy to read in size, style and color.

Related: What is Typography? Definition, Elements and Why It Is Important

10. Personalize your messages

Incorporating personalized elements can also encourage audience engagement. A simple example is to include recipients' names in your subject line, pre-header or email content. This technique helps establish a relationship with audience members and offers a more personal approach. When possible, you can use other data you gather about your audience for additional personalization. For example, you can use demographic information, such as gender or location, to develop customized emails for particular customer groups. Or you can utilize customers' behaviors, such as sending a follow-up email to encourage a customer to purchase an item they added to their cart.

11. Incorporate interactive elements

While not all email clients support interactive elements, these elements encourage your audience to click on your content or otherwise interact with it. For example, you may embed quizzes or image carousels into emails. Another technique is the image rollover effect, which can show different angles or views of a product. If you worry about the compatibility of interactive elements, you can fake interactivity by using animated images.

12. Keep it simple

Using simple language and design gets your message to your audience efficiently. By getting straight to the point, you avoid overwhelming or confusing readers. One way to demonstrate simplicity is through white space, representing blank areas surrounding visual elements or text paragraphs. White space limits distractions and makes your content easy to navigate. Before sending out your emails, take a critical look at them. Remove any information or design details that you feel are unnecessary or relevant to readers to keep your message simple and efficient.

13. Stay consistent with your brand

A brand identity represents the visual elements associated with a business and often includes a logo and particular colors, fonts or design features. When developing emails, make sure to utilize the same brand elements that you use on other platforms. Your branding also includes the language or tone used for content, such as whether you take a more casual or formal approach. Maintaining consistent branding makes your messages immediately recognizable and differentiates you from the other emails in your recipients' inboxes.

Related: What is Brand Identity and How to Build Your Brand

14. Continue testing your designs

A/B testing is a process in which you test and compare the effectiveness of your marketing efforts. When implementing new email designs or styles, you can A/B test these components to understand what resonates best with recipients. For example, you may test and compare different email subject line styles to determine which results in the best open rates. You can use email analytics tools to perform tests or gather data. Do not be afraid to continue trying and testing new ideas because implementing trends or advancements can help your marketing emails stay modern and set you apart from competitors.

Related: What is A/B Testing and How Is It Used in Marketing?

15. Perform a final review

Always review your content before sending it to subscribers. You want to ensure that your text is free of typos or grammatical problems. Having an error-free message upholds your business' professionalism and trustworthy reputation. Another good idea is to send out test versions to yourself and your colleagues to ensure that the email formatting looks correct. Taking this step can help you fix any errors you may not have noticed during the design process.

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