7 Tips to Nail Your Email Design

Email design can make or break your entire campaign. While a good one will get the attention of your subscribers, a bad one will lead to an immediate delete. In this blog, we’ll explain how you can nail your email design and get your subscriber’s undivided attention. 

Understand the role of email marketing in your campaign 

First, it’s good to remember email marketing’s function in the first place. Unlike social media and search engine optimization, you can address a subscriber individually in an email. There’s a personal element that’s missing from other online marketing practices.

And in the end, the goal is to get your subscribers to click on your call-to-action, which will take them to your website, a landing page, a product page, or wherever else you want. We need to keep this background in mind as we approach every design decision.

Inject some personality 

The beautiful thing about email marketing is the level of customization you have. Everything from the text in the subject line to the placement of your brand logo can be customized.

This gives you the rare opportunity to share your personality with subscribers. This MediaPost article explains why. According to the article, email newsletters are less formal than other marketing mediums, and you can therefore show a new side of your brand:

“The great thing about newsletters is that you can consider it the B-side of your brand. As a result, much like the less-censored and creative songs on the B-side of vinyl records, you get some freedoms here to be more expressive and authentic with your subscribers. Be creative and personable, but keep simplicity in mind. Make sure the design is organized in a way that makes it easy to skim—especially on a mobile device.”

The main thing here is that you be authentic. Shoot for a design that you feel truly represents your brand. The last thing you want to do is create an image of your business that you can’t uphold.

Shoot for a compelling opening 

There’s something in email marketing known as the “8-Second Challenge.” It refers to the average subscriber’s attention span in regard to marketing emails.

8 seconds is just enough time to look at the email’s opening and decide if you want to keep reading. Therefore, to pass the 8-Second Challenge, you need an engaging email opening. According to this Forbes article, you need to directly address the user’s needs:

“The opening of your email has to immediately capture the user’s attention and make him or her feel compelled to read further. Your opening needs to grab the user by speaking to his needs. All of us, especially the decision-makers a lot of email marketing campaigns target, are pressed for time and we aren’t going to read past the first sentence of an email if we don’t see clear value in doing so.”

In other words, don’t save your most compelling information for the bottom of the email. Chances are, most users will never even see it.

If you want to advertise an upcoming sale or promote a new service, then you need to include that at the very top of the message. First address the user’s needs and get his attention, and then go into all the details.


There’s a major shift in email marketing where businesses are moving away from mobile-friendly and towards mobile-first. This means that while it’s OK for you to just shoot for a design that works on smartphones and tablets, it’s better to design specifically for those devices.

Your subscribers are probably going to open your emails on iPhones and Samsung Galaxies as well as other Android smartphones. With this in mind, it would be a waste to spend all the time and money on a design made for desktops and laptops. You may not like it, but your marketing campaign has to adapt to consumer preferences, not the other way around.

Use images, specifically faces of happy customers

Visual content works great in marketing emails. They’re the perfect tool you need to get someone’s attention without writing any text.

Of course, not all images will be equal when it comes to engaging subscribers. If that’s your goal, then you should include pictures of happy customers, according to this recent Marketing Land article:

“Images engage email readers. Use clear, appropriately-sized images that support the email copy. Faces of engaged and happy customers (or even the sales person) also work well — eye-tracking studies show that people are drawn to facial features when looking at images.”

If the studies say that people look for faces first, then you should include some in your emails. In addition to engaging your readers, they also support the idea that your businesses cares about customer satisfaction and loyalty. Overall, it’s a good image to associate your brand with.

Not all of the pictures in your emails have to be of human faces, however. All you really need is something that matches your brand and gets your message across. You can go through the marketing emails in your inbox for some real-life examples.

Don’t get too crazy 

Listen, it’s easy to go overboard when it comes to email design. Every month, there’s a new trend that businesses want to hop on. It’s important to stick to your strategy and keep your design minimalist.

Even if an element is cool and engaging, it doesn’t mean it will improve your email design. Adding that element might clutter your message and distract readers.

This Content Standard article suggests that businesses should go back to the basics. It says that whatever design you’re aiming for, your email should always start with a CTA and move on from there:

“It all comes back to what you’re trying to accomplish. What do you want people to do after they read the email? That doesn’t change, whether you’re sending a regular email or going full-on interactive. Start with that call to action and then back into what interactive form best conveys your message.”

Interactive email design is a great example of possibly going overboard. Sure, animations and video games might work for some, but ask yourself if that’s what your target audience really wants from your emails. Ask yourself if that’s why they signed up to your newsletter.

You might answer yes to that question, and that’s fine. The main thing is that you’re only including necessary elements that add to your emails, not subtract from them.

Test the most important design elements 

And finally, the way to know that any of these tips are working is to test the before and after phases. Email testing works best if you isolate a variable and see if it has an impact on open and click-through rates.

Sometimes a strategy sounds great in theory but doesn’t live up to expectations. This is why you need to test it over time. Preferences and behaviors change, and your campaign needs to adapt.

By the way, don’t go down the rabbit hole of testing every little thing about your email design. Start with the most important elements, like CTA placement, color scheme, and logo placement, before you start testing if a dark grey or black text color is more effective.

Getting the perfect email design isn’t easy, but striving towards it will help you engage more readers and convert more leads. To talk more about email marketing tips for service businesses, or anything else, contact us today.