Email Design

Don’t make these 8 email design mistakes…

Email Design Mistakes

Over half of all email opens happen on mobile devices, and that number only continues to climb. However, opens are high, clicks and conversions are lower on mobile compared to desktop computers, in part because of design mistakes. These rates are rising as marketers figure out how to optimize email design for mobile, but there is a lot of room for improvement.

If your email design is not yet designed for mobile, or you suspect it could be better, avoid these eight mistakes…so more of those opens become clicks, conversions and cash.

  1. Don’t forget that you’re working with a much smaller screen—much. This is perhaps the biggest consideration you must take into account when designing for mobile email. What does that smaller screen mean in the way of best practices? Lots.
  1. For one thing, you have less room for content and imagery above the fold. In addition to the smaller screen, you have smaller attention spans to work with too. Your emails have to rock. Period.
  1. You also have less real estate in general. Sure, you can ask people to scroll and scroll, but should you? No. You’ll need to tighten, tighten, tighten text and keep imagery to a minimum…and then put a lot of work into your landing page, because that’s where you’ll need to drive people if you have more to say than room to say it.
  1. Don’t forget about scrolling. There’s no way around it on a tiny phone, unless you’re doing a stand-alone promo with a clear CTA. However, beware the long scroll. There is a limit to how much you can expect people to do with that thumb!
  1. Don’t use small fonts. No, not because your audience is aging, but because email triage is a reality you’re dealing with and you don’t want to give your recipient any reason at all to delete your email at a glance. A larger font is immediately more appealing on a smartphone screen compared to a small one, because it’s more user friendly.
  1. Don’t use columns. This seems like a no-brainer, but I include it here just in case: Only use a single column when designing for mobile marketing. More than one column turns into a long scroll when rendered on a mobile device. Limiting your design to a single column will reduce your content too, and with mobile email marketing, less really is more.
  1. Don’t forget about contrast. You want to use more contrast in your design because a lot of people keep their phone screens dim to prolong battery life between charges. Remember what I said about larger fonts? A higher contrast results in a more user-friendly email on mobile too.
  1. Don’t cramp your layout. Using more white space is another design consideration for greater appeal when marketing on mobile. That increased use of white space has the same effect as the larger font and higher contrast: It’s more appealing to the eye at first glance, and therefore more likely to help you get those eyeballs to stick around long enough to draw someone into the content.

Although content matters more and testing matters most, design still matters in mobile email marketing. Give email design the attention it requires to be effective despite the limitations of small screens and fat fingers, and watch those clicks and conversions climb.

Art by Justin M. Buoni // Just Justin Art

Words by Scott Hardigree // Email Industries


Using Email Design to Increase Conversions

Email design best practices are recommended for a reason: They help engage your readers, convey your message, and (hopefully) convert your subscribers beyond clicks.

Let’s see how design can help increase your email conversions.

Create brand awareness

When I think of effective branding, I think of Tiffany & Co. It’s iconic little blue box says it all. In its email designs, Tiffany uses that blue color to build upon its brand equity.

Tiffany and Co Email Example

But it’s about balance, too. Tiffany doesn’t have to shout its brand name. “Tiffany & Co.” is tastefully placed at the top of the email. It doesn’t overpower the product, which certainly takes center stage.

Branding builds recognition and trust with your audience. That leads to sales. You’ve got to earn that trust, however. It doesn’t happen overnight. Over time, consistent messaging – coupled with exemplary products and/or services – will create a level of comfort and trust.

Pay attention to the preview pane

Because many email service providers have preview panes, it’s crucial that your most important message appears in the top left of your email. You’ve basically got 250×250 pixels to work with. It’s challenging. Deal with it.

A picture’s worth a thousand words…

OK, it’s a cliche, but let’s face it. In email marketing, you’ve got to get your point across quickly. Readers spend only seconds on your precious email, so you’ve got to make every aspect count. According to a study by the Nielsen Norman Group, “Email Newsletter Design to Increase Conversion and Loyalty”, 69% of email newsletters are skimmed.

So (sorry, copywriters) you need strong images to catch your readers’ attention. This email from MAC is an example of an eye-catching (pun intended) graphic. It proves that you don’t always need color to be compelling.

MAC Email Design

… but …

You’ve got to design your emails expecting images to be blocked. That means, for one thing, that you must include alt tags. If you don’t, your email could look like this:

anthropologie email creatives

It will be hard to convert a subscriber who has no clue what your email’s about. Alt tags give your subscribers a reason to download the images in your email…click on the email…and make a purchase (or other action).

A word about color

Depending on your audience, color can impact how they respond to your email offer. Kissmetrics has studied how colors can affect conversions. Are you targeting women? Go with blues, purples and greens; avoid orange, brown and gray. Targeting men? Go with blue, green or black; stay away from brown, orange and purple.

Take this Sony email, for example. It’s designed to grab your attention:

Sony Email Marketing Example

Colors are associated with various qualities, so you might want to think about this when incorporating color into your emails. Here are a few to start with, courtesy of Color Wheel Pro, but keep in mind that if you have a global audience, colors take on different significance in other countries.

  • RedEnergy, danger, strength, power, passion, desire, love
  • Orange – success, encouragement, happiness, creativity, joy
  • Yellow – joy, happiness, energy, intellect (avoid dull yellows)
  • Green – growth, freshness, fertility, harmony, safety, money (dark green)
  • Blue – trust, loyalty, confidence, faith, truth, tranquility (light), power (dark)
  • Purple – royalty, nobility, luxury, wealth, creativity, mystery, magic
  • White – Safety, purity, perfection, goodness, innocence
  • Black – power, formality, elegance, death, evil, mystery


You’ve got to close the sale. In emails, that means you need a prominent call to action. It can’t hurt to be clever, too, as illustrated by this Christmas email. Even the colors are a softer version of the typical red and green. That’s one way to stand out from all the clutter in the inbox – especially at holiday time.

Xmas Email CTA

The key takeaway

You won’t have the Email Design Police coming after you if you fail to follow all the rules all the time. In fact, I’d encourage you to break test the rules occasionally. But if you fail to follow the solid practices most of the time, you won’t get the best results from your email campaigns.

4 Noteworthy Mobile Email Marketing Trends

Mobile email is becoming very important. One study estimates that 38% of email is now opened on a mobile device. That compares to 33% of email opened on desktop applications.

In my humble opinion, if your company is not paying attention to how your emails look (and behave) on mobile devices you’re already trailing the competition.

So today we’re going to look at a few mobile email marketing trends that you may be able to apply to your program.

1. Geo-location

Location-ased Email example

Location-based email marketing has come a long way in a short amount of time. Emails can now determine your current location, with each new open. So you could open an email from your favorite restaurant in one town and if you are in a new city the next day you could open the email again and it would list  the store that is now closest to your location.

Live email information goes beyond location though. There are live countdowns that can be used for promotions and flash sales. Live emails also include social media updates like a live Twitter feed or Facebook photo stream.

The example above is from a Movable Ink blog post, a company that is really doing great things with live email content.

There are lots of possibilities.

2. More Text, Less Images

Mobile-friendly Email Design

One issue with mobile email marketing is the time it can take to load images. But the biggest game changer when it comes to email content is that when images are blocked an image-heavy email is nearly unreadable. Sure, this is also true for emails which are viewed on desktops but given the slower load times it’s all the more important to use text over images, when possible and appropriate.

In the example, Apple uses a green background with a headline image and product image, but the text is actually text. Should the images be slow to load on a mobile device the user would still be able to read the text right away and they would still see the call to action to visit the local Apple retail store.

3. Responsive Email Design

Responsive Email design Example

Responsive design is being used on heavily on websites. The process gives users an optimized experience no matter what device they use to view the site. The site owner only has one site to maintain, which makes it different than a mobile site.

Nowadays, a lot of companies are using responsive email design too. Which, if coded properly, allows the email to render differently and depending on the device on which is open. You can adjust width, image size, font sizes and even hide or reveal content blocks or columns.

This example from Twitter, which was featured in this post from Litmus, not only changes (for the better) when viewing on a mobile device but the call to action changes as well, which we discuss in more detail below.

4. Pushing Apps

Detecting Mobile Device Example

LinkedIn has an increasingly good email resource for professionals. What’s most interesting about this email, though, is the call to action for the LinkedIn Mobile App.

Like responsive email design, it’s a great way to provide a better experience to users based on the device they are currently using.

Final Thoughts on Mobile Email Marketing

Mobile email marketing is becoming something nearly every company will need to pay attention to in 2013. People are viewing email on their phones at an increasing rate. If the experience is not optimized subscribers will lose their patience.

Take inspiration from the trends above for your email programs.

What else are you seeing in the mobile email marketing world? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Emotional Email Design and Copywriting: The Secret to Driving Engagement and Sales

Most people respond to marketing messages according to how they feel about a product rather than logic.

Noted psychologist Robert Plutchik created what is now known as the “wheel of emotions” which describes how emotions are related, which marketers can use to cultivate the desired emotions and response.

Emotional Factors That Influence Engagement

Now let’s explore how as email marketers we can cultivate these emotions in our subscribers, and influence their engagement.

Anticipation: Humans are curious. You can use this to your advantage when crafting your emails. Enticing imagery, trigger words, and teaser content all help to motivate your prospects.

Joy: Happy customers mean well engaged, repeat customers. Keep customers happy by offering valuable content, positive imagery, and well-written copy.

Trust: Your prospects want to feel safe when interacting with your offer. You can build trust through endorsements, well-known referrers, and reviews.

Emotional Factors That Influence Purchases

Research suggests that up to 90% of all purchase decisions are made unconsciously and in a matter of seconds. Below are some emotional factors that can influence those split-second purchase decisions.

No-brainer: People prefer to buy without thinking. If people are required to think too much when interacting with your offer, you are exhausting them, and the subconscious mind doesn’t like that.

Make it easy. Narrow your product choices and cut out unnecessary information.

No Risk: People have a natural aversion to risk. As a general rule, people feel loss more powerfully than they feel gain.

Consider positioning your product as being the “safe” option rather than the “new” option or give them the option to kick-the-tires before committing.

Social Proof: People will follow the crowd. As humans we all like to move with the herd and see what other people like.

Provide your customers with proof that other people are buying, and benefiting from, your product.

An Example of Emotional Email Design and Copy

All of the work we do as creative marketers uses the abilities we have to play with emotion.

But as email marketers we have additional considerations, which run parallel to emotional triggers, such as preview text/panes, image rendering, mobile views and subject line/content/landing page continuity. All of which must also be considered.

Now let’s take a look at how this animated email from Litmus which beautifully illustrates most, if not all, of the emotional engagement and purchase triggers mentioned above.

email design

Here’s a Breakdown

  • Joy: Snappy Headline + Professional Imagery
  • Anticipation: Simulated Video Animation + Crisp Body Copy
  • Social Proof: “Mind. Blown.” Tweets
  • No-brainer: Solo Offer + Clean Call-to-action
  • No Risk: Free Trial or Learn More

This email also successfully addresses the limitations of the medium. For example, note how well this email rendered on my mobile device.

Note too this slick screenshot that was created by a new, free service from MailChimp called Smartphones@.

What’s The Takeaway?

If your emails aren’t tuned to resonate with your audience’s emotions, you could be losing business. If you are having problems developing engaging emails that resonate with your audience, you can look into an email marketing company such as iContact to help you. By cultivating one or more of the desired emotions in your email creative, nay…your email program, you’ll boost click rates, decrease attrition, and grow your revenue.

But remember this…emotional engagement doesn’t begin and end with email creative…but you can use it unleash the power of this creative thinking in all of your marketing or professional endeavors, not just design or copy of the email itself.

About the Author: Scott Hardigree is the Founder of Indiemark. He can be reached at or

P.S. Props to Justine Jordan who created the Litmus email. I’m a fan but not just because she wears an awesome cat hat. Justine’s work reflects that she has strong sense of how aesthetics and copy should work in partnership.


Zombie Survival Guide for Email Marketers

Email Marketing to ZombiesIf you’ve seen Zombieland or The Walking Dead you know that there are rules for staying alive in the midst of a Zombie plague. I know what you’re thinking, “How can I apply those rules to my email marketing?” No?!

Okay, surviving the (un?)likely event of a post-apocalyptic zombified wasteland might take priority over the success your email marketing efforts but given the season, and my fascination with Zombies, it seems appropriate to share a slightly modified version of these rules with you now.

  1. Cardio. Like outpacing a Zombie hoard you must be able to run your email marketing program for an extended period of time. No sprinters here. If you’re going to survive thrive, endurance is key.
  2. Double Tap. It takes at least two gunshots to safely deal with a Zombie. This is the same when dealing with customers and prospects. You’ve got to tap them again and again and again to demonstrate your value.
  3. Beware of Bathrooms. You are at your most vulnerable to a Zombie sneak attack when you are in a bathroom. If you become comfortable and relax for too long; your email marketing program can run into the same problem. Be vigilant. Keep testing. Always be on the lookout for opportunities and dangers.
  4. Travel Light. It will be harder to out run a Zombie if you’re carrying more than you can handle. No dead weight. This goes for both the objects and people (practices and vendors) you carry with you. If they can’t pull their own, ditch ‘em.
  5. Dress smart. Clothing should be tight-fitting and purposeful, with easily accessible pockets. The same holds true for your emails; tight in their construction, purposeful in their message and accessible across mobile devices and desktops.
  6. Limber Up. When entering a Zombie zone you’ll want to be as limber as possible.  Have everything in order before pushing the “go” button. Your contact strategy. The creative. Landing page. Sales support. Let’s do this!
  7. Know your environment, use it to your advantage. Outside of their apparent supernatural sense of smell, Zombies have limited insight into their surroundings. You’re no Zombie. Observation and information are your most powerful weapons. Previous purchases, subscriber behavior, stated interests, calendar dates. Data is the next best thing to Zombie repellant.
  8. Buddy System. Never, ever, ever, under any circumstances shall you EVER go anywhere alone (yes, this includes the bathroom). You can’t always see a Zombie coming from every direction. Having an email marketing partner can be a huge help, preferably one with extensive Zombie hacking experience. They can be objective to things you may not want to see, try or do; helping you save time and money.
  9. Enjoy The Little Things. When fighting Zombies you’ll need to take time and entertain yourself (and your subscribers) every chance you get. Enjoy getting to know your clients and enjoy testing new ways of selling. Enjoy the added-value (e.g. branding, social sharing) that email marketing can provide. Have fun but never rest.

This list is intended to be a living document, designed to be passed from survivor to survivor. Please comment so that we can add, edit or consolidate these rules. Our future depends on it.

Scott Hardigree | Indiemark | @indiescott |

Using Animation in Your Email Marketing

It’s been said that creating an HTML-based email in 2009 is like developing a web page in 1999. It’s sadly true; the coding is archaic and, compared to modern 2.0 functionally, the limitations are huge.

So when email marketers want to convey motion and visual direction they use animated GIFs. Prior to Flash, simple GIF animations were the order of the day. Nowadays the use of animated email is increasing. Why? Firstly, animated GIFs are well-supported by the major email clients and webmail interfaces, second, it helps marketers to stand out, and most importantly, they seem to work.

Stronger ROI

This recent A/B test by BlueFly found an animated email pulling in 12% more revenue than the non-animated equivalent. Likewise, this case study on Marketing Sherpa, Lake Champlain Chocolates experienced a sales increase of 49% at Christmas in relation to a campaign using animated GIFs compared with a campaign the previous year.

More Advantages

Firstly, marketers can use a relatively small amount of space to highlight multiple products, special offers, or calls-to-action, as well as increase click-through rates to hosted videos. Smart marketers can also use animation to encourage scrolling in exceptionally long (or horizontal) emails.

The Disadvantages

The most relevant compatibility issue is how animated emails render in Outlook 2007. That is, only the first frame of the animated GIFs is displayed.  So you’ll want to communicate your message in the first frame, just in case. You’ll also want to keep in mind that the size of the animated GIF (in kilobytes) can negatively affect the speed and order of which your images are displayed.

Animated Email Examples

With a solid understanding of your objectives and an experienced email designer you’ll be able to increase click-through and conversion rates using animation.