Top Ten Email Design Tips for 2015

Kevin Allen

The world of email design has its core set of rules that can guide us successfully throughout our email campaigns, some new and some old. At this moment in time, here are 10 relevant tips that will help you in designing your email campaigns in the upcoming year.

10. Use HTML attributes instead of the style attribute.

This is one rule that gets overlooked by so many, yet it is the first rule to refer to. Don’t try to use web HTML – use the older style syntax for greater success.

9. Simpler is better.

Your email is not a website and you should not be aiming to jam all your content into something that people tend to spend no more than a few minutes going through. Keep your content in your message down focusing on the key points, then link out to the details.

8. Using a responsive design template? Cool. Be sure to test it out.

It often takes nothing more than a missing HTML class to throw off the mobile rendering of a responsive design template, and a missing HTML class produces an email that would have been better had it not been responsive at all. Send test emails to a mobile device before sending off. Mobile opens are on the rise – and you want to be looking good!

7. Learn HTML.

Being in email marketing and thinking you don’t need to know HTML is a recipe for frustration. I’ve been there and can say things are brighter since I learned the skill – it’s harder to get through not knowing HTML than it is to learn it in a couple days and do things correctly. You’ll be kicking yourself for not learning it sooner. Talk to your advisor for video resources we make available to our clients for free.

6. Copy your Informz templates before repurposing them.

If we designed and coded an HTML template for your organization, odds are that we typed out each line of code with intention to follow best practices so you will have the best luck with rendering in the inbox. We love to see our clients repurpose their templates, but be sure to copy them over just in case some of those coding best practices get swept away in your update process.

5.  Don’t use <ul> or <ol> for bullets/numbers – use a bullet character enclosed inside an HTML table for each bullet item.

When you take the quick way and simply use HTML bulleted or numbered lists, you will find wildly inconsistent margins/padding on each of the list items between different browsers and email clients.  Professional email designers will set up tables with bullet characters, as depicted below:

Top 10 Design Tips for 20154. Create clickable “button” links using an HTML table instead of using graphics.

This not only achieves a flat, clean, and trendy look, but it also means your subscribers will be downloading lighter-weight emails. It will also allow you to create buttons with custom text without needing to produce a different graphic. Here is perfectly good HTML demonstrating this technique:

Top 10 Design Tips for 2015


3. New rendering issue? Google it.

If 2015 is anything like the past 5 years, we will come to see new rendering problems that may not yet be addressed on our Informz blog. Luckily, the internet is a timely resource when things suddenly go awry in terms of email rendering. Search for solutions to your particular issue – odds are someone somewhere has either found the solution, or can blankly state that we need to avoid a practice to prevent the situation from happening.

2. Get design inspiration daily.

This is crucial to set the intent of how you want your emails to look. Considering the limitations of email design, you have to learn to do great things with what is available to us in terms of keeping to best practices. Taking in the great design work of others can inspire you to do better work. One website that I check out regularly is Smashing Magazine. They have a wealth of design blog entries that can aid in email template designing.

And the number 1 email design tip for going into 2015 is…

1. Be flexible with accepting how your email design renders.

It’s a fickle field, this email design business. Even after using all the best practices and techniques we discuss day in and day out, we need to have a certain expectation: our design may very well have a few extra pixels here and there that we were not planning on. Always review these differences just to see if you perhaps missed a best practice, but if that’s not the case, it is good to accept the things you cannot change. Given the number of email clients and the type of HTML we must work with, anticipating and accepting slight variations in design elements will allow you to focus on what’s more important – sending your content to your subscribers.

About the Author
Kevin Allen

Kevin is a web application developer at Informz, whose technical roots began in the email design and coding field. Outside of Informz, Kevin is a song-writing musician, audio arts producer, perpetual coder, gamer, and devourerer of pizza.