13 Tips For a Perfect Email Design

Statistically, your email has 7 seconds to make an impact on someone. And one of the easiest ways to do that is with a clear and simple design. Something your readers will get value from within a few moments or at least be engaged enough to read for longer.

Our designers are big fans of telling us that simple designs are more effective. We’re sure you’ve heard it too. So we’ve taken all their advice, as well as what we’ve seen from our clients’ most effective email marketing campaigns, and listed some helpful design template pointers to ensure a successful email design.

We want you to use it for your emails and see if you can produce similarly spectacular results!

Please note: We promote sending Outlook style, text-only emails not just because they are quick to produce and render well across all kinds of devices.

We believe they also come across more personal and have seen better engagement and click-through rates because of it. In fact, we saw a 15% click through rate ourselves!

So here are 11 ways to focus on the best design template for your emails.

1. Take advantage of the preview pane

Your subject line and the first line of text will determine if they will open your email so make it count. Avoid images and make it a one-liner that supports the subject line effectively.

The content in this section should aim to draw the user in. It should be seen as an extension of the subject line.

2. Break up your content

Yes, we’ve said use a plain text template, but remember we do read left to right. Left-align your headings and links for maximum impact.

It’s also worth breaking up your text into small paragraphs of 2-3 lines max. A wall of text often puts a reader off who will be less inclined to read. Notice if we had created this blog post as a single wall of text how off-putting it may have come across.

Another consideration is that many of your readers will be viewing the email on mobile. Having broken up paragraphs helps the readability on a smaller device.

3. Use Clear & Concise CTA’s

Use no more than 3 call-to-actions (CTA’s) and make your main one in the first two lines of text, so at least one CTA keeps their attention.

The CTA should be clearly displayed and coloured favourable to encourage a click. Users tend to see buttons in green.

Breaking up your emails into three different sections and tracking which buttons receive the most clicks will help you further optimise and improve future email deliveries.

4. Focus on your content

66% of emails are viewed without images. Instead, focus on the message to the customer, not the visuals for them. Context that is relevant and personal to their needs will perform better.

The key here is to communicate good quality, valuable information in a timely manner that offers some form of solution to a problem that the receiver may have.

5. Outlook

As we’ve mentioned before, Outlook-style emails have worked well in generating leads previously. There are no unnecessary aspects involved, it’s simply the most important message as the focus of the email.

They’re quick to produce, render well and convey a more personal feel, all of which can help get better open rates. This style of email is entirely text-based, meaning that copy is the real star of the show. Make it focused on your aim, and relevant to your audience.

6. Inverted Pyramid

The inverted pyramid model is essentially a framework to help structure your email.

Imagine an upside-down triangle and use this as the guidelines for your elements. It means that your elements, perhaps a picture, heading, buttons, etc. will all guide the reader down to the call-to-action.

This method helps focus your readers and prompt them to click-through to the more important information hosted on your website. It helps to provide context around each call-to-action.

7. Single Column

As the title suggests, a single column design is another popular option. With every element organised in a column, this design works great for both desktop and mobile viewing.

As a ‘mobile-first’ design, it is typically compatible across devices. This format helps inform the reader of what the most important information is, and what to read next.

It also helps along with engagement as the reader isn’t having to scroll left to right to jump between different columns.

Ensure that your emails are responsive allowing it to scale down to mobile. If not, the reader may be left with a single column, but having to zoom in and swipe left to right to get all the content.

8. Multiple Column

Using multiple columns in an email design allows you to include more information in a smaller space. This allows more relevant information to be conveyed in a visually interesting way.

There is the potential to look cluttered, however. With multiple columns, you should also consider how the email will render on different devices, and adjust your layout accordingly. See our guide on Responsive Email Design to see how to adjust yours. 

9. The F in Email

This design is based on the fact that people naturally read left to right, and skim down the left-hand side of an email. To see the eye-tracking study which proves this, and more information on the topic, see our guide here.

This indicates that all your most important information should be left-aligned. Include your CTAs to the left and have your most important feature at the top of your email.

Things like images and text can be distributed across your email according to the location of key elements.

10. Email Width

Before sending, you should always test that your email renders well in different email clients. Gmail, for example, will not display background colour when the width is wider than 640px. We recommend an email width of 600px for the best of both worlds. 

11. Email Font

Not every font is supported by email clients, and so it is best to use a web font wherever possible. However, certain email clients won’t render all web fonts correctly, so check your email across multiple providers before sending. 

12. The Footer

Rounding off your email with a good footer can give all the information not included in your email (as well as making your email legal). Include social links and contact information, as well as the option to unsubscribe and your registrations details (it’s required by law). 

How your email looks can be a big part in prompting readers to click. There’s no one-size-fits-all for email and so the best way to discover what works for your readers is to test your emails regularly.

This will help to identify the top performing designs. It may be that particular pots of data even respond differently to each as we recently found from our A/B design testing

13. Keep it legal!

This isn’t the most exciting point we’ll make, but it’s certainly an important one.

Make the most of your footer content with the option to unsubscribe (however you want to label that), your registration details and social links as an added extra!

For more tips and tricks, why not check out the architecture of an outstanding email design or maybe dealing with the F’in email marketing?

Creating Engaging Email Design Templates

Email open rates aren’t the be all and end all you know. In fact, your click-through rates are much more important because they tell you one simple thing.

You didn’t just get the subject line right, you actually gave your email recipient useful content. You wrote an engaging email.

Create the correct content!

Not many email marketers are capable of sending useful content that actually engages with their audience. You have to provide relevant information based on the audiences user journey and it has to be personal enough for them to react to it.

A hard feat for anyone, let alone an email marketer juggling a thousand other tasks.

For those mere mortals who are struggling with the concept of providing relevant content, we have a few suggestions.

1. Start using dynamic content to address different members of your target audience with the right information. For example, send information relevant to their job title.

2. Define levels in your campaigns and start using content relevant to that level. For example, a non-engaged audience member will be more likely to engage with lightweight material such as blogs.

As they start engaging you can begin sending guides and whitepapers and as they show more purchase intent activity they can receive product information and case studies.

What design template should I be using?

Of course, it wasn’t just your content alone that created your engaging email. No, you also wrote it in such a way that the reader felt compelled to interact with your call to action. The design of your email is paramount to its success.

No matter what content you are promoting, there is always a design that can make your content stand out. Let’s take the F’in Email design as an example.

You’ve written one sentence that your reader has read completely. Perhaps it even included the link to your content within the first two lines to avoid being cut off by the preview.

The F Structure

Then you’ve realised your reader’s attention span is waning.

You’ve shortened your sentences.

You’ve included a call to action.

They’ve clicked.


See the F structure above? That is the most effective way to write an engaging email because it is short, sweet and to the point.

In fact, if you’re sticking to plain text emails, that’s all the design you need. Attention spans for inboxes are only shortening after all.

Graphic heavy html templated emails would still work for your newsletters but test this approach on some of your other campaigns – we’d love to hear about your results!

Then, once you have your engaging emails, learn how to ensure you can use it as a highly effective aspect of the digital marketing mix.

Get your copy of our ‘guide to creating highly effective B2B email marketing campaigns’ here.

7 Email Design Mistakes to Avoid for a Better Click-through-rate

The design of your emails is the foundation of your click-through rate. Poor design produces poor click results. The majority of marketing is visual. Build your emails with this in mind.

Even small design errors can cost you big. So, get your emails on point every time with these 7 mistakes to avoid.

Image only emails

Most email clients block images so if you’ve spent hours designing the prettiest email in all the land, you’ve wasted your time I’m afraid.

All you’ll end up with is a load of red crossed boxes. Not so pretty anymore.

Embed the images that matter and discard the ones that don’t. Try and use an even balance of image and content so it is more exciting and aesthetically pleasing but it’s also relevant and to the point.

Ignoring the F in email

Even the stone-ages knew what the F in email is all about. Ok, maybe not quite. They probably didn’t get good enough wifi in their caves. But the point is it has been around for a while.

Eye tracking studies prove that we read left to right. Simple.

Make sure your most potent pieces – images, call-to-actions, stats or the things you really want to get read are on the left-hand side and follow the proven method of influencing your email design for better click-through-rates.

It’s a mobile generation

Well hello, we are in the 21st century after all. Everyone is mobile-friendly. We’re all on the go constantly, hopping from tube to tube, meeting to meeting, coffee shop to coffee shop.

Obviously, everyone’s audience is different but no-one is really desk-bound anymore. Make sure your emails reflect this. Take into consideration how it will render for all email clients and devices, use responsive templates and hit the spot every time.

Missing the call-to-action

All of your emails have a purpose, a goal, an objective. The smart thing to do is to make that purpose obvious.

But you’d be surprised how many marketers get carried away with designing emails for the sake of it and forgetting to make the CTA the most obvious thing.

Keep your links or strap-lines above the fold for maximum effect and make them pop.

For the love of fonts

Be consistent and brand-friendly when it comes to the fonts of your emails. There’s nothing more amateur than too many fonts.

Stick to the easy-to-read versions. Don’t over-clutter your emails and distract from the message at the heart of it.

Make sure your emails flow directly to your call to action and don’t interrupt the pattern with messy, uneven fonts.

One size fits all

Gone are the days of blast and grab marketing. Blanket marketing. Email blasts for ‘everyone’ are dead and buried I’m afraid.

One size most certainly does not fit all. Not everything you produce is relevant for your entire audience. Using data segmentation, you can apply relevant sending based on the content your audience cares about.

Whether it’s leads, customers or prospects, their needs are going to be entirely different to the next. The best way to improve your CTR? Sending content that your audience wants.

Cluttered content

We’re all guilty of scanning content quickly to see if it’s relevant to us. To decide what to do next. Delete or engage.

Often the things that get absorbed first are the sub-headings or bullet points. Don’t over-clutter your emails with too much content, after all, you’re sending them to a landing page which reflects your email message right?

So why would they need to click on your email and head to your website if all the content they need is within the email? Less is more as they say.

Serve up your most important pieces at the top of your email, then drop in two or three extra messages with bold headings to easily catch the skimmers.

For more email design hacks, take a look at the architecture behind a successful email design.

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