Form and function are the most important elements in determining a design’s success, but understanding what that looks like and how it works is a challenge all marketers face. If an email looks great but functions horribly, you will lose out on clicks. If it functions well but looks amateurish, you will also lose out on clicks and, most likely, the respect of your subscribers. Balance is the key. However, it can shift depending on various factors. Some of these factors are easily identified, while others rely on designer instinct. But what if you aren’t a designer? Being able to think like one can have a positive impact on your next email campaign.
Keep in mind the fundamental goals of an email:
- To communicate a message
- To engage and entice interaction
- To uphold brand integrity
- To adapt to the target audience
With these goals in mind, adapt them for your purposes. For example, you want to send a sale-promoting email, where users can click a link to buy a wristwatch off your website. Your focus should be on a clear-sale message, a CTA that draws attention, and creative that matches your product landing page.
Once you have this framework in place, define your unique needs, and categorize them into two lists:
- The CTA must be clickable when images are turned off in the email environment.
- Customers will view the email on multiple devices, so it needs to be responsive.
- Preheader text should be designed to grab readers’ attention in the inbox.
- Copy needs to quickly notify readers about the savings.
- The CTA button should be near the top of the email and positioned close to the offer.
- The creative must remain consistent between the email and the landing page.
- The CTA button must draw attention to gain click-throughs to the site.
- Product imagery should appear desirable and accurate.
- A callout box and additional whitespace can make the email more scannable.
- Large headlines will create excitement and urgency.
- Animation can help engage subscribers.
At this point, it becomes simple to decide where to place things, how they should look, and what they should do. We can’t all be designers, but if you can attempt to think like one by visualizing the big picture, your emails will begin to look and perform better!
- The hierarchy of information is very important. Keep the email scannable, and keep the important elements close to the top.
- Copy should be kept to a minimum. Every word and paragraph needs to have a purpose. If it doesn’t, omit it.
- Embrace white space. It allows elements to breathe, while at the same time demanding more attention.
- Link colors should stand out, but they should not detract from the branding. Try to use accent colors that complement, rather than compete.
- Make sure the design functions on both mobile and desktop.
- The offer/CTA should attract the most attention over any other element in the message. If an email is long, don’t be afraid to duplicate the CTA at the bottom instead of forcing the user to scroll back up.