30 Second Summary
If you believe that email design is merely about making your emails visually appealing, then you've missed the mark. Email design is the final step in email strategy to drive revenue & convert customers.
In this blog post, we will explore the 7 email design best practices to beyond aesthetics & make your emails effective:
- Visual hierarchy
- Information architecture
- Copy-to-image ratio
- Call-to-action (CTA) placement
- Brand consistency
Get ready to redefine your approach to email design & master these concepts to create high-converting emails.
- Email design plays a crucial role in the success of DTC e-commerce businesses by capturing attention and compelling action.
- Visual hierarchy guides readers' attention, and scannability enhances engagement.
- Customizing the copy-to-image ratio based on industry, brand, and email type optimizes the impact.
- Strategic CTA placement and clear, compelling button copy increase click-through rates.
- Personalization goes beyond addressing recipients by name and focuses on relevance and meeting individual needs.
- Brand consistency fosters recognition and recall, creating a cohesive brand experience.
Anatomy Of An Email: Using An Email Layout
Email design all starts with the email layout. An email layout is the bones of your email design. Without a strong, high-converting email layout, an email can look beautiful but it won't convert. Think of it kind of like the wireframe of your website. It helps you plan the structure of your email & the contents of each section.
Use Backbone's Email Layout Builder to generate high-converting, custom email layouts for your brand in seconds.
7 Email Design Best Practices
1. Visual Hierarchy: Guiding Readers with Email Layout and Design
The visual hierarchy is how you structure an email to tell readers what is most important & helps them quickly understand what they are looking at.
Establishing a clear visual hierarchy involves strategic organization, placement & sizing of elements such as headlines, images, body copy and call-to-action buttons. This is where the true value of an email layout comes into play. Much like a website wireframe, it enables marketers and designers to establish a well-defined visual hierarchy for each section which makes the purpose of each section crystal clear.
For instance, when presenting a product recommendation section, the structural design should inherently resemble a product recommendation, even without any copy or elaborate design elements. This consistency in structure allows readers to immediately grasp the essence and relevance of the content such as, "Oh, I'm being recommended products I might like!" to keep their attention & drive them to action.
The Zoom-Out Test is a useful way to check the quality of your visual hierarchy. If you zoom out on the email so you can’t read any of the body copy (ie. you can only read the headlines and see the images), does the main message of the email come through?
2. Information Architecture: Structuring the Flow of Information in Your Email
Information architecture involves structuring the flow of information within an email so that each part of the email builds upon the previous one to drive the reader to action. Each email is like a mini sales funnel
Subject Line —> Email Header —> Section Headlines —> Section Content —> CTA Button
The role of the subject line is to drive the audience to open the email to read the header…the header needs to hook them in to want to skim the section headlines… the headlines of each section need to be clear & interesting enough to hook them to read the content of each section… and the content of each section need to be interesting enough to get them to click through to shop on site.
Use the No Scroll Test to gauge the effectiveness of your email header: Imagine yourself on a busy bus, quickly flipping through your inbox without scrolling. Focus solely on the email header - is it immediately clear what the email is about & does it make them want to continue reading?
3. Copy-to-Image Ratio
The copy-to-image ratio is the balance between the amount of text and visual elements in an email. Finding the optimal copy-to-image ratio varies based on industry, brand, and the specific type of email.
For example, a health & wellness brand that their customers look to for nutritional education may find that emails perform better with long-form copy, while a fashion brand like Reformation has higher-performing emails when they primarily use images showcasing their products.
The email layout itself provides a visual representation of the copy-to-image ratio, helping marketers and designers evaluate the balance between text and visuals. By considering the overall look and feel of the email, one can ensure that the copy and images work together to communicate a message more powerfully than they can on their own.
Scannability refers to presenting information in an email in a way that ensures it can be easily skimmed and understood within seconds. It's important to remember the short attention span of recipients. Approach email design with the mindset that you only have 1-3 seconds to grab their attention before they close the email.
You can make an email design easier to scan by using visual elements such as headings, subheadings, bullet points, and bold text to enable recipients to quickly grasp the key points of the email.
Use the 5-Second Scroll Test to evaluate the level of scannability: Imagine quickly skimming through the email with a quick scroll. Does each section clearly communicate a distinct message to drive them to want to read the next part of the email or click to the site?
5. CTA Placement: Guiding Readers to Take Action
When it comes to email design, strategic placement of your call-to-action (CTA) buttons is key to driving engagement and conversions. As a basic email design best practice, make sure there prominent CTA is placed in the header, visible above the fold, where it catches the reader's attention right away. This prime position encourages immediate action and sets the tone for the rest of the email.
Additionally, consider incorporating CTAs in each section of the email. By strategically placing CTAs throughout the content, you give readers multiple opportunities to take action & can drive them to the pages on your website they're most interested in. However, remember that more is not always better. Too many CTAs can become distracting & confusing.
Two other useful email design best practices include creating hierarchies of CTAs & designing them to be clear buttons. Using visual design to distinguish between major and minor CTAs based on their importance, as well as making them clickable helps guide their focus and prioritize the actions you want them to take.
Personalization in email design goes beyond addressing recipients by their names. At its core, personalization is an email design strategy to customize the content of each email to make it as relevant to the individual recipient as possible to get them to click & purchase.
It goes beyond surface-level details and delves into what someone truly needs to see in an email to drive them to action...which means you have to deeply understand your customers. This can include personalized product recommendations based on their browsing or purchase history, curated blog content that aligns with their preferences, or reminders of offers unique to them.
For example, you could customize the header design of your email to feature a different product for different recipients, or adjust the copy in your email based on a recipient's pain points.
7. Brand Consistency: Fostering Recognition and Recall
Last but not least, brand consistency ensures that your email design is aligned with the brand identity your customers experience across each of your platforms, from ads to your website. It involves maintaining consistent visual elements, typography, color schemes, and tone of voice to make your brand recognizable.
By creating a unified brand experience, both aesthetically and in terms of messaging and values, brand consistency strengthens engagement, loyalty, and the impact of email campaigns.
Remember, you may be looking at your brand every day but most of your customers are only seeing your brand briefly as they scroll through their social media or visit your website. You want them to be able to instantly associate each of your emails with your brand to help them recall the products you sell, differentiate you against competitors & how you can make their lives better.
Conclusion: Elevate Your Email Marketing with Effective Design Practices
Implement these email design best practices in your next email campaigns to drive more conversions, build loyalty & increase engagement.