1. While I agree that email should be as visually appealing as possible, the fact remains that a substantial portion of people (about 40%, last time I checked) leave their email programs set to the default of showing images only upon request. Creating an email with only the design in mind is a recipe for failure. I always recommend that you make sure your alt tags are intriguing enough to make people want to see what they’re missing.

  2. I agree with you Scott, but I also agree with you, Jim. Email recipients are somewhat snobbish in their reaction to an email based on its visual appeal (or lack thereof), but it’s also true that image display in the typical preview pane still poses a challenge. Images are either disabled by default (in many cases), or if they’re too heavy, they render the email as ‘spammy’ in the eyes of the ISP so it ends up in your junk mail.

    If only there was a way to go nuts with your email design without having to worry about delivery or display issues!

    And of course, there is, or I wouldn’t be taking the time to comment. The solution is ActiveMail, which displays email content via an iFrame inside your email. As far as the ISP is concerned, there’s nothing more sinister in the email than a regular link to a web page that actually contains all the content. And because the content is essentially a web page, you can put anything you like on it: animations, videos, all manner of groovy images, forms, live feeds, etc.

    More on ActiveMail (and Scott’s ideas about emotional engagement) here: https://www.activepath.com/email-marketing/inspire-your-email-audience-by-tapping-into-their-emotions/

    So yes, design is king, or at the very least part of the email content royal family.

  3. Thanks for the comments guys. I must confess that this post was intended to be somewhat provocative. However we strongly believe in the power of design. We’ve seen the positive results first-hand.

    That said, I wholeheartedly agree that a design-first approach will not win the inbox war by itself but it can certainly help turn the tide…assuming that the strategy is tight and the offerings are strong and relevant.

    However, it’s important to remember that great design is not necessarily about using imagery it’s largely about layout and flow as well as how actionable the email is, no matter the environment. Specifically, we advocate that strong email design can be created with using a hybrid of images and html; so that the emails looks good with images off but great with images on.

    On a side note, their are a few products (new and old) which are helping email marketers to circumvent image blocking and bringing great design forward no matter the user’s settings. Style Campaign’s Image-to-HTML utility and Email on Acid’s Mozify are the first two that come to mind.

  4. I agree with everyone! Can’t we have the best of both worlds here, offering great, valuable, content in an intriguing, visually appealing and quirky and different way? I definitely agree that emotional engagement and evoking those emotions via campaigns is important in the quick, 3 second world we live in.

  5. Yeah, I get your point, but if the e-mail message you send is too graphic, it might get caught by anti-spam filters. What do you suggest to avoid that?

    1. Don’t get me wrong Jorge; I don’t believe that good design has much to do with heavy graphic usage. In fact, most of the well-designed emails that I’ve run across have almost exclusively been constructed from type and html.

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