Best Practices for Email Design


If you work on marketing emails, you’ve probably heard the common list of dos and donts related to your email writing content – short compelling subject lines, a great opener for email previews, and more. But what about best practices for design (or coding)?

Turn off the WYSIWYG editor.

Yes, seriously – turn it off! Despite the best intentions, these editors are notorious for creating broken code or situations that are inconsistent across email client tests. If you don’t know how to code, hire someone who does or learn it on an online resource like Codeacademy,, or W3Schools.

Make it beautiful with and without rendered images.

According to email marketing companies and researchers like Campaign Monitor, less than half of email clients display images by default, and many more of these don’t even display ALT text. To maximize how your email looks, be sure not to overload an email with excessive images and make sure there is great content above and below your images. Also, remember your text may look different if you try to use techniques like aligning images to the left or right; it’s best to stick to tables in that case.

Try something new.

When in doubt, try it out! The beauty of email marketing is in the ability to test different formats (A/B/C… you decide). Keep it to one variable at a time to pinpoint what works best for your audience.

Feel daring today? Try an animated GIF, a link to a video, or a new layout. People need something to grab their attention, so be sure to give them something fresh to view.

Design with mobile in mind.

With customers increasing their email opens on mobile devices, it is critical to design and test your email on a mobile device. On average, iOS devices alone make up 35% of email opens.

To help with this, design at 600 pixels or go responsive for mobile viewers if your time and budget allows. Make sure your text is readable and images are finger-friendly for click-throughs.

Be consistent with your branding.

Be sure you’re utilizing consistent color schemes, fonts and logos in your email designs so your customers have instant brand recognition. Consistency doesn’t mean boring! Your layout, content and messaging will direct beautiful variety.

Use hierarchy and contrast.

While these are standard design principles, I receive lots of emails that blatantly ignore these concepts. Be sure to put your most important information first and provide a variety of sizes of text and different widths of your imagery to create visual interest. Your email does not have to have a big chunk of body text or be laid out like it’s 1999.