11 email design best practices

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Lay the foundation

Remember the last great offer you didn't see? The savvy email marketer knows that you catch more conversions with honey than you do with vinegar, so make sure your email design is sweet!

If you're starting a new email marketing program, or looking for an edge to take your email campaigns to the next level, consider these ideas for designing emails that get your compelling offer noticed. These tips and tricks will start you off right, and even help experienced email marketers amp-up existing campaigns, turning precise communication into profits and visibility.

1. Before you start
Prior to constructing your email, make sure that your message is clear and concise. Develop and refine what you want to say so that readers don't lose interest or get confused about what your call-to-action is. What is your offer? How will reading and clicking through this email help the reader? Make sure they know what's in it for them. Before and during the building process, continually ask yourself, "What would I think if I got this in my inbox? Would I immediately delete it? Or worse, report it as spam?" Rule No. 1 -- don't be spam.

Even the most compelling message can be rendered ineffective if it's presented in an undesirable way to your readers. During this process you may encounter many challenges and obstacles. Your design team may want to create something striking and beautiful, but your audience may not want it. At the same time, don't throw readers for a loop with a design that is off-brand. Your email design should be able to flow well with the look of your website as well as any pieces collateral offered. Consistency is good. Also, design the email around your readers by responding to their personality. Are they tech savvy? Parents? Students?



Ryan Buchanan
Ryan Buchanan March 19, 2009 at 11:01 AM

Dan - great to get your insight on 30% of your audience on mobile devices - the shift has definitely been happening faster than we thought, but also consider that many mobile email readers will also read the email quickly on their laptops/desktops.

Michel - I'm going to check out your article. Thank you all for your comments!

Michel Depière
Michel Depière March 19, 2009 at 4:08 AM

Very informative post. I've written something similar in my own blog a few months ago. A lot of people try to do well but get some basics and details wrong that screw up their whole strategy. (

James Riker
James Riker March 19, 2009 at 2:49 AM

I just got a copy of and I would recommend to anyone who needs to send out an opt-in email mailshot. Its the best free desktop based email marketing software I have used so far.

Ann James
Ann James March 18, 2009 at 9:49 AM

had to laugh - I haven't read the article yet but the email announcing '11 email best design practices' surely could have been better thought out? I've got images turned off and could just see a big white image space with no copy below the headline for a whole screen as I scrolled down... Assuming from previous comment it's about driving to PDA though, very timely - we're working on optimisation for too (iMedia email is a waste of time on a Blackberry too btw!)
I'm sure there's good stuff in the content though!

Dan Green
Dan Green March 18, 2009 at 8:49 AM

Excellent post Ryan. We're finding about 30% on average are reading email first on mobile devices. Designing with an understanding of recipient preferences has had a significant impact on ROI.