Cold Email · · 6 min read

Effective Email Outreach: 7 Proven Email Design Best Practices

If you’re about to launch a new email campaign, or even if you’re planning one, these 7 email design best practices aren’t to be missed.

email design best practices

It’s design time. You know the general feel of the email campaign you want to send. You’ve got crystal clear objectives. You’ve defined your projected outcomes. Now all you have to do is craft the emails and your outreach campaign is underway. Easier said than done, there’s more than you might think that goes into email design.

In this article, we’ll share insights, answer questions, and even share tips on how to get the most out of your email designs:

  • What is Email Design?
  • Why is Email Design Important?
  • 7 Effective Email Design Best Practices That Get Results

What is Email Design?

Email design is the action of creating email content that both delivers your brand’s content (in style, voice, and design) and speaks to your recipients. Email design works in a similar way to web design, it needs to be eye-catching, value-driven, and easy to navigate. Walls of text won’t cut it, the best email design uses beautiful visuals merged with captivating copy to entice the reader through the content from start to finish.

Why is Email Design Important?

The importance of email design can’t be understated. It’s a similar question to asking whether the design of an advert or your website is important. The design encourages people to engage with you while acting as a voice and visual for your brand. Your email design is, essentially, an extension of your brand that is accessible to all of your subscribers. With the right design, a campaign can truly achieve its maximum potential, a poor design won’t necessarily just hinder your campaign’s progress, but it might act as a detrimental factor to your results.

Attract Attention

Attracting the recipient’s attention should be at the top of your email design agenda. Simply because they’re on your email subscriber list it doesn’t mean that they’re going to read and engage with your email content. You need to entice them, pique their interest, grab their attention. This is where email design can help.

The majority of people receive tens, if not hundreds, of emails a day. The majority of these are treated as spam, ignored, or marked as read and then ignored. Your email design needs to stand apart from the crowd. This typically starts with the subject line but extends to what your recipient sees when they open the email. If they see a boring, typically corporate-style email the chances are that they’ll move on. A unique, compelling, visually interesting design, however, now is far more likely to get them to stay.

That’s not to say that there isn’t a time and a place for a corporate-style email design. You are the judge of the space that you’re working in. If that’s what your customers want, then go with it, but always remember that you need to stand apart from the competition, get recipients to remember you, and encourage them to read on.

Engaging Emails

If you’ve successfully completed the above step, then you can move on to the next phase. Keeping the reader engaged. This simply means that the content you write has to be engaging (of course, it does need to be), but also that your emails are designed to be easy to engage with.

The initial visuals should be designed to capture attention, but after that, you can allow your reader to relax. The email should be straightforward to read, easy to understand, and with content that is simple to engage with.

Layout, image use, and even font, play a massive part in how easy it is for your recipients to stay engaged with your emails.

Build Your Brand

When a recipient has had their attention grabbed, and they’re engaged with your email, you’re able to share your message and, potentially, your products and services. This is also an opportunity to build your brand.

Chances are these people are on your email list because they’ve been on your website or social media. That means they have also been engaging with your brand already. Keep your branding consistent across all of these platforms and you’ll begin to create deeper-rooted connections in their mind. It can be as simple as using your logo as your profile picture, or your brand colors across your design. Whatever you do, just keep it consistent.

7 Effective Email Design Best Practices That Get Results

These 7 tips will change your email design practices for the better. Implement them into your standard routine and you’ll be sending well-designed, engaging emails in no time.

Build Trust With Your Sender Name

Indeed, you can’t really design this element of the email, but the sender's name is an important part of the email as a whole so we’re including it here. The sender name is the visible line of text in your inbox list that says who an email is from. Typically this is a name or a business name. You’re able to edit these, and they have a major impact on the open rate.

If your business type allows, try and include a human element in this section. Sending emails that are just your business name sounds cold and informal, plus it sounds like it has just come from a mail merge. Add in a human element, “James from Instantly,” and you’re humanizing that content. It feels like this is a message from one human to another.

The trick is to pick a lane and stick to it. Change this too regularly and people won’t know what to expect, or who the email is from, and the trust is gone.

Optimize Your Subject Lines and Pre-Headers

Keep your subject lines and pre-headers short and concise. Remember that these are the lines of text that your recipients will read and use to make a decision on whether to open or ignore your email.

Email subject lines should clearly communicate the content, entice the reader, and build interest within no more than 5 characters.

The pre-header is your next opportunity. Often overlooked, you should treat your pre-header text as an opportunity to add a subheader to your subject line. They should be written with the same aims and style as your subject line but can be more prose in format.

Use Personalization

Personalization is a crucial component of any email. As briefly mentioned above, it adds a human element to the email exchange and helps recipients feel that they’re talking with a legitimate person. Personalization can feature throughout emails, from subject lines, to within the content itself. At scale, personalization can be a time-consuming task, but when combined with tools such as Instantly’s mail merge system, you’re able to complete it in very little time.

Keep Things Short and Simple

We’ve already touched on this when talking about subject lines, but the same goes for emails as a whole. Keep your emails short and simple. The message should be clear and easily discernible with minimal effort required from the reader.

Be Strategic With Images

Images are a great way to break up emails and add interest. If your email is beginning to look wordy (note: see last point for a start) then using images can be a great way to break up walls of text. Images are going to be more useful in some circumstances than others. eCommerce will also use considerably more images in their emails than say, a law firm. The best option is to test your emails when sending images, many filters block them. It might be the answer to why your emails are going to spam.

It’s important that you pay attention to how you are building your emails before adding hyperlinks. HTML emails allow you to link anything and everything like you can on a website. Plain text emails rely on text for links. If you’re going for branded and visually impactful emails, HTML is really the only option. The beauty of HTML is that you’re also able to include tracking code and parameters.

Use UTM Parameters to Track Performance

HTML-designed emails can be edited to include tracking of email opens and link clicks. These two metrics are critical to your performance data and give you an indication of the success of a campaign. There are many various tools you can use to achieve this process plus analytical tools such as Google Analytics can track email campaigns too.

Key Takeaways

The key to email design is to ensure that you’re always thinking about the recipient of your email. Consider what they would want to read, what they would like to see, and essentially the type of email that they would like to receive. By keeping the recipient in mind, you’re far more likely to create a successful, well-received campaign.

  • Clear, short, and concise should always be your mantra.
  • Personalizing your emails will always lead to success.

If you’re ready to start designing your next email campaign, get started by using Instantly. The feature-packed, free plan, will get your campaign underway quickly, efficiently, and with the best deliverability.

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