Email Design: Getting It Right

What are the key ingredients of compelling, professional emails that your customers, contacts, and colleagues will actually want to read Unfortunately, there isn’t a simple, one size-fits-all answer to this question. There are many factors that go into the design and writing of a great email notice or newsletter, from the subject line and text to the graphics and layout of your mailing.

Subject Line, Headings, and Text

The first thing recipients will see is your subject line, so make it a good one. It’s important to grab your target audience’s attention without sounding like spam or overly “salesy”. If you have an extra-special offer or money-saving promotion, by all means, include it your subject line, but don’t go overboard or people may begin to ignore your emails if they see too many “amazing deals”.

If you have an in-house copywriter or marketing expert, it’s a good idea to have him or her write—or at least review—all of the subject lines and headers in any message you send out. Better yet, have a professional copywriter craft the entire text of your email! This is the best way to ensure that your message is straightforward, engaging, and conveys the core of your message.


Of course, once that snazzy subject line catches a reader’s attention and they actually open your message, the first thing they’ll notice is the visual appearance. If you have graphics—and why wouldn’t you?—they should be stunning, front and center, and relevant to your business and the message of your email. Anything less limits your email’s potential to get contacts interested in your business or convince prior customers to buy from you again.


One of the biggest mistakes novices make when designing an email newsletter is trying to cram too much into one place. It’s fine to add extra information as body text, sidebar, graphics, and keynote boxes, but make sure it doesn’t cause your email to become cluttered. Just as with website design, too much happening on a single page can cause readers to become overwhelmed and miss what you want them to see. It’s best to keep your layout simple, functional, and easy on the eyes.

Offer Alternatives

Whether your mailing list is targeted to other business or directly to customers, it’s important to cater to the ways your readers use email. That may mean a program like Outlook, or it could mean web-based email such as Hotmail, Yahoo, or Gmail. In many cases, people read their email on the go using handheld devices like iPhones and Blackberries. Make sure your graphics and layout are compatible with as many types of email programs as possible, and always offer a link to an online version that will be accessible to anyone who has difficulty viewing the email.

Whatever your business or the purpose of your emails, these simple email design tips help to increase your readership and boost conversions and sales.


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