Pure Knowledge – Email marketing: Design

Why is it important?

Users will make very quick decisions when they open an email: Can they see something they want? Is it interesting to them? If not, they will close it. Users generally consider the following:

  • Usefulness – the email’s content and purpose should be immediately clear and relevant
  • Usability – users need to see they can quickly find what they want
  • Desirability – do users actual want to read on – does it feel like a positive experience?

A well-designed, eye-catching email is going to pay dividends in any marketing campaign as it will present your message in the best light and draw traffic to your website.

Good design also helps people scan the email to find out what is of interest and find what they are looking for.

What should it look like?

Your design should be dictated by your brand – the look and feel of your email should fit into your wider communications such as your website and offline materials, eg direct mail, brochures etc.

As with all areas of communication, understanding your audience is critical when designing emails. You should consider the kind of design that appeals to your target users in the wider world and ensure your ideas fit within this.

What else can help?

Design is not just about look and feel, it is also about usability. You should use design to guide your readers through the email – leading them to a call to action. The email should be easy to scan so users can assess what they want to read.

Elements such as a contents panel or ‘in this issue’ panel will help users navigate. Well chosen pictures will underline the points made in the message.

Remember, your email is going to be seen out of context so you need it to reflect the style of your web site. Amazon.co.uk do a smaller version of their site where clicking on, for example, a book cover brings up the relevant page on the site.

Design checklist

Use your design to structure the page and make the information easy to scan:

  • Design style should suit the audience
  • Graphics should not increase download time so much that users don’t bother
  • Use design to lead readers through your email
  • Help readers with a contents panel
  • Integrate interactive content that downloads as you read
  • Follow your brand’s existing look and feel

Are there disadvantages to using graphics?

If an email takes too long to download, it’s going to lose the recipient’s interest, no matter how brilliant the end result. Try to keep any pictures small so as not to slow the download time. You should direct users to your web site for more content.

Give me an example

Lastminute.com’s newsletter appeals to impulsive types and structures its promotional material around that image. Its colours are bright, its photography humorous and sexy, and its language hip.

The layout may be too chaotic for some brands but their market is aimed squarely at young working singles and young couples with a good-sized disposable income who can travel at short notice.