Creating The Best Email Design in 2020: All You Need To Know

Creating an email design on a digital notepad kept on a wooden desk with a computer and keyboard

We’ve all heard the phrase – don’t judge a book by its cover. Let’s face it – we all do it.

Buying a book is an investment. And I’m not just talking about the financial aspect. You also have to invest your time, energy, and your emotions.

If you’re going to spend so much, you want it to be awesome – something that is worth your investment.

And the best way to quickly know if a book is worth it – is to scan through its cover, check out the reviews, and the author bio.

Similarly, when you get so many emails a day, it’s impossible to give attention to all of them. So you scan through it to decide if it deserves your attention.

This is where email design comes into the picture.

A well-designed email helps both the recipient and the sender. It enables the recipient to decide if they want to read the content. And if they do, to absorb it better.

And also helps the sender to communicate their message with clarity, maintain a consistent experience for their audience, and drive their recipients to the desired outcomes.

Today I’ll talk about how to create email designs that look good and attract customers.

Let’s go wild.

What Is Email Design?

Email Design is the process of planning and creating an email that makes it easier for the audience to extract value from it.

It enables brands to connect with the recipients better and drive them to take the intended action.

Want to go on a nostalgic trip to the last decade? The folks at Litmus analyzed their past inboxes and discovered the trends that ruled back then.

Have a look:

The Past, Present, And Future Of Email Designs – Litmus

You may be wondering why so many people are talking about email design. Analyzing data past data and predicting its future.

And why should you care about your email design?

So let’s cover that.

Why Is Email Design Important?

Imagine you’re in the office. It’s 11:30 AM, and you got back from a quick coffee break.

You are eager to get back to business.

In comes, this email comes from a stranger:

Bad Email Design Example Screenshot

It’s 2020 – why are people still sending cold emails?

Even if they do, does it have to be colder than the ice pop stored in my freezer?

The only time I used ‘Dear Sir / Madam’ is when I’m writing a letter to the Government or bank.

Also, why does the email have to look so bulky? And quite frankly, off-putting?

If you put in zero thought into how your email will look to the receiver, they’ll reciprocate.

My question to you is, would you read this long chunk of text?

You’ll probably just mark the email as spam and trash it.

To be honest, you might have overlooked that it was unsolicited. But if it doesn’t even look appealing, would you have wasted your time?

This is why a good email design becomes so important.

Amplifies The Content

A good email design complements your message.

It visually guides the recipient and makes it easier for them to understand the content.

Amplifies The Content Email Design
Maintains Consistency Email Design

Maintains Consistency

Some colors make you feel a certain way. Some font combinations work better together to put the point across.

So you choose them as a part of your brand identity.

You should apply these subtle elements to your emails as well to provide a consistent experience.

Helps Reach End-goals

Do you want more website traffic?

Or want your audience to sign up for your webinar?

Close a sale?

A good email design streamlines the user experience and guides them to your end-goals.

Race line with numbered lanes in black and white

What Are Email Design Best Practices?

Great! So you’ve now come to appreciate the importance of email design.

So what makes a good email design?

Is there a checklist you can follow? Turns out there is.

More people will look at your headline than your actual content. 

So it’s important to have a headline that attracts the recipients to click.

Your email design would facilitate clear messaging. It should naturally enhance content clarity. And make it easier for you to communicate with your audience.

We often hear simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. With limited real estate on the screen, this is especially true for emails.

Too many things can confuse the audience.

Be it the colors, font, or tone. Your email design should be perfectly aligned with your brand identity.

Using graphical cues will enhance the user experience. It helps break down the monotony of texts. And enables readers to understand what’s being said easily.

The prime focus should be to understand how recipients might be interacting with the email. Then to design the email in such a way that it provides the best experience to them.

The world is moving towards mobile. In fact, in some countries, many people have directly started using the internet through their mobiles.

So, it’s very important to have a mobile-friendly design.

Whether they attended a webinar, signed up for your newsletter, or downloaded a resource. Mention why they’re receiving this mail.

This comes as a no-brainer. But I’ve seen many ignoring this. Not only does it irk the recipients, but without an unsubscribe button, they may directly block you.

How To Create A Marketing Email Design? [Step-By-Step]

01. Set Goals

Green arrow on hitting bull's eye on yellow and black dart board

As with any marketing activity, always have the end goal in mind.

Ask yourself – why am I sending this email?

And more importantly – what do I want my receivers to do?

Your email goal should typically be tied to a broader SMART goal.

SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

SMART spelled with lettered attached to animals with a potted plant on top

For example, a SMART goal could be to improve monthly blog subscribers by 20% in 3 months.

So your email goals will need to be focused around converting your blog visitors into subscribers. This will set you in the right direction.

02. Design The Template

SMART spelled with lettered attached to animals with a potted plant on top

Once you have defined your objectives, you can move on to the next step – the actual framing of the email.

Here you should focus on creating a structure that makes it easy for your audience to absorb all the information you’re providing.

To connect with you and be naturally inclined to take the action that you want them to.

Like you’re telling a story and drawing them to a conclusion.

There are few elements to keep in mind while creating an email design template:

Your audience should quickly know who is the sender of the email.

Always start by greeting the recipient and address by the first name whenever you can.

Include placeholders for headlines, images, links, content, and CTA. See how everything fits together.

Make white space your friend. Remember, adding space around texts and images helps it breathe and enables better information processing.

Listen to more on this from Col Gary at Pixel Ink:

Your email should be consistent with your brand colors. Use your website as a reference.

Is your heading a certain color?

Do your links always come in dark blue?

Ideally, your brand guideline should contain all this information. So refer to that.

If you need some inspiration to create your own brand guideline, check out what Medium does here: Medium Branding Guidelines

More and more people are reading emails on phones.

03. Write The Copy

Man in light blue shirt with laptop writing on a note pad with yellow and black pen

Start with a basic outline. Keep in mind the basic concepts of online writing:

We’re so hard-pressed for time that nobody reads every single word that you write. Design in such a way that what’s important stands out.

Is your business a serious investment firm, or a quirky marketing agency? the tone you use will be different.

Note the way you write to connect with your audience better. And to avoid offending anyone.

When it comes to writing email copies, subtle personalization is the key. And I’m not just talking about using their first name.

Let’s say the email receiver recently attended one of your webinars. You wouldn’t want to send them the same mail that you sent someone who’s your customer but isn’t a subscriber.

Use the power of contact management and segmentation to create contact groups and send them unique messages.

I can not emphasize this point enough. I’ve often received emails with an opening – ‘The first name goes here’ or a subject line – Grow tour business instead of grow your business.

This completely changes the subject. No, I don’t want to venture out of marketing into the tourism sector.

Sure, to err is human. But I find it extremely lazy to not have a basic hygiene check in place.

Especially with so many fantastic spelling and grammar checkers available these days like Grammarly.

04. Integrate Everything

Green phone white voice assistant red bluetooth speakers arranged on a wooden surface

With your template and content ready, it’s now time to mix everything.

Your design should work as a single team consisting of different players.

It should have only one goal- to get your audience to take the action you want them to by providing solid value.

Check if everything looks good. Polish the rough edges. Maybe an image doesn’t quite look the way you imagined it to be. Change it.

Finally, ensure the CTA fulfills its goal of attracting the audience. It should stand out.

A large button with ample space works well. Have power words in it that invite some action.

Team BombBomb says that by adding a CTA button to your email you can increase your CTR by 371%! Watch them here:

What Is Responsive Email Design?

Responsive email design is a design practice that dynamically alters the presentation of an email based on screen size and orientation on a device.

In other words, when you use a responsive design, it automatically changes how an email looks depending on where it is being seen.

An email is typically designed on a desktop. But think about the width of a mobile phone and that of a desktop.

There’s an enormous difference!

So to maintain a consistent experience across devices, you should always adopt a responsive design.

Here’s an example from an email that probably looked nice on a computer monitor, but was a disaster for mobile phones.

Bad email design from Macys with non mobile responsive buttons

Can you imagine the pain of trying to click on those buttons on a mobile?

Ask someone like me who has pudgy fingers (me!).

Now, here is an example of a responsive email design.

Here’s the desktop version:

Desktop version of Email from Billbox with responsive email design that represents a good email design

Here’s the mobile version:

Mobile version of Email from Billbox with responsive email design that represents a good email design

As you can notice, the both the desktop and mobile versions look nice.

Also see how a responsive design alters the elements as per the screen size.

Over To You

With the knowledge of the basics of good email design, you can now start creating your own.

Remember it’s difficult to start creating an email design that your customers will like. So the best option here is to do A/B testing.

Create a few options and test it out with different audience sets. See what works well. With the power of analytics, knowing what your customer likes have become easier.

So how are you designing your emails? Do you have some ideas that I’ve missed out on?

Let me know.

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