Before providing email marketing design tips, it's important to stress that you need to know your target audience so you can anticipate what email applications they will be using to view your emails.
If you're target audience is mostly Business to Business (B2B), a majority will probably be using some version of Outlook. If you're target audience is mostly Business to Consumer (B2C), Yahoo, Hotmail, AOL, and Gmail are the most popular services. Our tips below will focus on the "B2B" segment.
With Outlook, the key factors to consider are that a sizeable percentage of readers will have image blocking "on" and a sizeable percentage will first view your email through a preview pane. This means a significant portion of your email marketing campaign may not be visible without scrolling.
With those environmental factors in mind, here are 6 quick B2B email marketing design tips in order to maximize readability.
1. Always provide a link to a web-based alternative to your email marketing campaign at the top of the email. This way if there are display issues, a reader can click that link and view your email in their browser.
2. Render important messages like headlines and calls-to-action in text. This way if image blocking is "on," the key point of your email message can still be viewed in the preview pane.
3. Design email templates to be no wider than 650 pixels; for 2-column templates we usually aim for 600-625 pixels wide. This helps reduce the risk of having the recipient scroll horizontally.
4. Populate "ALT" tags for email images for readers who have image blocking “on”. Seeing a short description of the image may encourage them to download images.
5. CSS-based layouts are not supported by most major email applications so don't use them. Your design will render more consistently when HTML tables are used for email template layout. But you can use inline CSS to format content.
6. Embedding Flash or video in an email can cause email deliverability issues. It is also likely these elements will be stripped or disabled. A better plan would be to use a screenshot that links to the “live” version somewhere on your website.
By using a combination of these 6 email design tips, you can drastically increase both the readability and deliverability of your email marketing campaign.