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7 Elements of Great Email Marketing Design

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Do you want to send emails that look amazing and have high conversion rates? Read this guide to take the guesswork out of creating excellent email designs and turn all your emails into winners.

Below, you’ll find the seven best design practices and the various elements your email campaign needs to have to truly shine. Let’s get right to it!


Engaging Subject Line

While you might not consider an email subject line a design element in the traditional sense, it is perhaps the most important factor when it comes to getting eyeballs on the content of your email. The best, most engaging design in the world isn’t going to get you anywhere if people send your email straight into Trash.

If we could give you just one piece of advice regarding email subject lines, it would be to avoid overusing unnecessary exclamation marks and CAPS. These, along with certain words, can trigger spam filters, so show some respect to your subscribers by not using cheap tricks.


Compelling Preheader

The preheader is another element that doesn’t necessarily come to mind when you think of design, but just like the subject line, it is hugely important. Your preheader will be visible in the inbox preview and it will add the much-needed context to the subject line, hopefully improving the email’s open rate.

The best advice we can give you here is to keep the preheader short and to the point. You don’t want it to go above 70 characters with spaces, and the best range to aim for in terms of character count is 40–70. Use the preheader to help your subscribers understand why they might find the email helpful.



A personalized email is 25% more likely to be opened. However, personalization doesn’t amount to simply using your subscriber’s name in the subject line. Use other relevant data, such as their last purchase or their location, to create a relevant message.

If you want to launch a local email marketing campaign, you can find a design partner from a particular area to help you connect with your audience.

For example, if you’re targeting Chicago, consider hiring a Chicago web design agency, or choose among trusted New York design companies to target your New York audience. They will know how to personalize your email design to speak better to your target audience.


Contextual Marketing

Humanization or contextual marketing is a term that has been getting more and more popular in email marketing in recent years. This concept is highly related to the previous point we mentioned and has to do with addressing your audience members as individuals rather than sending an email trying to fit the lowest common denominator.

If you can make your emails address each of your subscribers specifically, you’re bound to achieve higher engagement. You will also be able to build stronger relationships with your subscribers and even get people excited to open your emails if you can “humanize” them more, so give it a shot.


Well-Thought-Out Images

If you’re planning on using images in your emails, you should keep a few things in mind:

  1. File Size — This is perhaps not the most creative tip you’ll find in this guide, but we put it here first because it is easy to forget about file size when creating an email. This factor is especially important when you consider that about half of all emails are opened on mobile. If the signal is not particularly great, it may take very long to open and view an email, which you certainly want to avoid.
  2. Screen Real Estate — Emails are usually no wider than about 600 to 650px. That said, if you want your images to appear super-crisp, you should get a picture with twice the width and shrink it.
  3. Image Purpose — Don’t just put images in your emails just for the sake of it. As we explained earlier, pictures add to your email’s loading time, and you want to make them count. Also, be careful about not making your email all about the images because some users may choose to turn them off. You want to make sure that the email is clear and understandable without the images.
  4. Descriptive Alt Text — If your subscribers choose not to display images in their emails due to data restrictions, or the pictures don’t load for one reason or another, you want Alt Text to describe the idea and get the point across. This sounds like common sense, but you’d be surprised by how many marketers overlook it. Don’t be one of them.
  5. Original Images — Today’s audiences are highly perceptive. They are also tired of stock images, and using these can take away from your message. Keep your pictures genuine and on-brand. Try using paid websites. If you don’t have the time to create original images for your email campaign, consider hiring a photographer with the help of cloud recruitment software platforms that connect you with professionals.


Negative Space

Don’t be afraid of a bit of white space in your emails. You want your users to focus on the written content, the images, and especially the call-to-action buttons, and adding enough negative space around these elements will help them pop.

White space will also improve user experience by increasing the email’s legibility and helping your audience grasp the content more quickly. This isn’t rocket science. Use common sense to make sure your CTAs and copy are separated enough that each stands out but close enough that it is intuitively clear they belong together.


Bulletproof CTAs

The best CTA buttons focus on three main elements, all working together to create an effective conversion point. These are the following:

  • Design — Contrasting colors and plenty of white space to make it stand out.
  • Copy — Specific call to action, focusing on the benefits to the reader.
  • Placement — Depending on your offer’s complexity, you may need more or less copy before presenting the CTA.

Having a few different button types in your email, each reserved for different priorities, is a good idea. For example, you may present light gray buttons with somewhat darker text for elements that are not of utmost importance. Then, you can have a big red button with white text representing your primary CTA.

That said, don’t oversaturate your emails with CTA buttons. Instead, focus on what exactly you want your readers to do, and remove the noise.

As we mentioned earlier, many of your subscribers may choose to block image loading, so you should avoid designing your buttons as images. Instead, use bulletproof buttons that load even if images are blocked.

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