9 hands-on design tips for effective email campaign – Part II


Email marketing can be a wonderful tool, but doing it right is becoming increasingly complex.

Earlier this week, we shared some best practices to help you set up effective email campaigns. But there's more. Now is time to discover the last tips for great email design.



The footer can be easily overlooked, but is a very important part of your email. The footer is the ideal place to include the following details:

  • Your organization's complete contact details. You want to make sure that people can find and contact you if needed.
  • An unsubscribe link or button. Never hide this link, as a user clicking on it does not always have to result in an effective opt-out. It might be that the user just wants to change his email address or choose to receive fewer emails. You should offer him alternatives on your unsubscribe page.
  • If possible, include links to the main sections of your website or key services and product categories.
  • Encourage the viral effect by making it easy for your audience to share your email. You should always include social sharing links like Twitter or Facebook and offer the possibility to forward your email to friends ("Tell-a-friend" principle).
  • To decrease the chances on spam complaints, explain to your recipients why they are receiving this email.

What you need to avoid

Many marketers like to include videos, Flash, Ajax and other advanced features to spice up their emails. However, we strongly discourage taking up these features as most email clients do not know how to display them properly. Additionally, avoid using GIF files for the same reason. If you do want to implement these kinds of features, rather use a still image which links to a landing page containing the feature.

What you can consider

Relying on images to draw attention to your emails is not always a good practice. Many email clients require you to do an additional action to display images (e.g. Outlook: "Click here to download images"). Therefore, design your email keeping in mind that your message should be clear without relying on the images to load.

Some email clients do not support HTML messages or a user might choose not to enable the setting. In these cases, a plain text version will be shown instead. Consequently, you should include a plain text version that is easy to read and structured for quick scanning when creating HTML emails.

Mobile emails

As stated before, more and more recipients use their mobile phone to read their emails. Therefore, you should put quite some effort in making your emails easily readable on these devices. As an overall approach towards email design, you could employ responsive design. In this way, you cover all devices at once. But be aware that this is not a straightforward matter. To help you on your way, you can find some tips below:

  • For optimal legibility, your email width should be limited to 600 pixels (for Android). Litmus suggests 320 to 550 pixels.
  • Create call-to-action buttons that can be easily clicked or tapped. Your calls-to-action need to be eye-catching, centered and clickable, with a minimum size of 44 x 44 pixels.
  • While desktop newsletters are typically designed in two or three columns, a mobile-optimized email should be designed in a single column template.

Test your email

Many email clients have their own way of interpreting and displaying email code. While a lot of effort is put into reviewing current email client standards, nothing beats actually testing a newsletter in as many clients as possible. It is always a good idea to send some test emails to your own address(es), before launching the whole campaign. Make sure every link is working and that any personalization appears as expected.

Fortunately, there are several services/tools on the market that can make your life a lot easier. The following range of tools can help with design and spam testing:

  • Litmus: a company specialized in email testing, spam filter testing and email analytics. For more information, visit http://www.litmus.com and http://litmus.com/blog.
  • Email on Acid: a self-serve email testing platform which assists you with email rendering, deliverability, click-through data and conversions. For more information, visit http://www.emailonacid.com.


Want more best practices for efficient email marketing campaigns? Download our Guidelines "Designing and sending emails".