Friday, September 11, 2015

3 Email Design Mistakes I Wish I Had Avoided

I’ve learned a lot over the years about email design. However, if I had the chance to do it over again, I’d probably approach it very differently. I made some avoidable mistakes.

For instance, I believed that all email vendors were basically the same. However, I found out that each one uses different coding philosophies, methods, and online software that impose different restrictions. (Let’s just say it’s a bad idea to code your own email without knowing the mail vendor’s requirements and restrictions.) And, keeping up with trends is often a waste of time when the vendor controls how my emails are sent, and I can’t control how different email clients render my emails. (Not pretty.)

Here are three things I would definitely do differently:

1. Keep it simple

Keep the email design very simple.The message must be clear and direct. And the design must complement that clarity. If my design is too complicated, I would use more graphics than necessary to get it to work. And I had more testing and issues to fix.

It’s just better to use a very simple table structure to build layouts with some clever design of graphics and text. Try to avoid nested tables (beyond one level). Make sure all CSS is inline, rather than in a <style> element. (Although many email designers put much of their CSS in <style> elements anyway, I don’t recommend this because of vendor coding conflicts, and element tags get stripped in some event-based email software.) Avoid javascripts or any coding beyond HTML and CSS. It’s also a good idea to leave out new HTML5 and CSS3 coding rules too. (This is old-school!)

2. Look at other email designs

It’s a good idea to review current email designs to keep abreast of the latest standards and best practices. It’s also good for inspiration. I have a Pinterest page, where I collect interesting emails for inspiration and to keep up with innovative techniques, standards, and best practices.

3. Test before sending. And test again.

Even though it looks good on your screen, that means nothing in the world of email design. Email has much less standards for viewing than web design. So, do lots of testing. Sometimes your email vendor has set everything up, so that it should work in most platforms. But sometimes you need to check in different email clients, operating systems, and now mobile devices It’s also a good idea to run some A/B tests to gauge what designs are effective. But, it’s a better idea for the designer to test whether their email design even works when it’s sent. Bottom line, don’t trust your screen only.

Photo courtesy StartupStockPhotos of

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