As a business, you want your communication to be clear and flawless. In marketing, this can prove to be as hard as it is to capture and maintain a person’s interest, but when you do, you need to make sure your message is delivered exactly as intended. You need to eliminate all factors that can dilute your message.

This is why, when you design emails, it’s important to make sure that they:

  • Look good on every device
  • Render properly across different email clients
  • Direct the reader’s focus where you intended

That’s why we’ve written this article to give you a holistic approach, and to provide you steps you can take to ensure your emails are always technically sound, across all devices and clients.

We’ll cover different aspects that go into designing an email, along with their limitations and how you can optimize them for conversions and readability.

1. Use universally safe fonts

With emails, you have to be super careful with fonts. The first reason has to do with your branding: Use fonts that complement your brand’s tone.

Second, and most importantly, the font you’ve chosen might not look the same across different email clients. Apple Mail, Outlook, Gmail, Yahoo Mail, all have different sets of fonts and they may load differently across them.

The good news is there are some fonts that load invariably the same across most email clients and devices. These include:

  • Arial
  • Verdana
  • Tahoma
  • Trebuchet
  • Lucida
  • Georgia
  • Times
  • and Helvetica

 

Using these fonts ensures perfect rendering across platforms, and great readability, making sure your message is heard loud and clear.

2. Email Layout

Desktop

In the olden days of the internet, emails had to be a maximum of 600px wide due to screen size limitations.

But even today, with ultra-wide screens, most businesses stick with 650px width. They do so because email clients like Outlook and Yahoo mail use a 3 column view by default which reduces the screen size available for emails.

And forcing subscribers to scroll side to side will lower the response rate for your emails, so its best to stick with 650 pixels max.

Mobile

When designing for mobile devices. There are two ways to go about it. You can create simple emails that resize on mobile devices or you can use a responsive email design that adapts to different screen sizes.

Responsive design is a better option because, on small screens, resized emails shrink down to almost illegible nonlevels.

When designing responsive emails, here are a few things to consider to make them mobile-friendly:

  • Keep a narrow layout between 500-600 px for emails to load well both on phones and desktops
  • Keep your fonts large for mobile-friendly text scanning
  • Keep your CTAs easy to reach, easy to see, and tap friendly on mobile devices

3. Email Margins

credits

Margins are a way of creating space outside of the email’s main body (consisting of padding and actual email content). They help create space between the email body and the email’s border, which makes for a cleaner viewing experience.

When setting margins, strike a balance between the inner parts of the email and its borders. And make sure margins load evenly across different email clients and devices.

4. Optimize for Scanning

According to studies, most web users follow an F pattern when sifting through content. They read left to right and pay the most attention to the first line, then scan vertically down, then left to right and then again vertically downwards.f scanning pattern illustrated

F for fast. That’s how users read your precious content. In a few seconds, their eyes move at amazing speeds across your website’s [or email’s] words in a pattern that’s very different from what you learned in school.
Nielson Group

Basically, people don’t have time to go through each and every piece of content you add in your email. They will scan quickly for things that are important. So design your email accordingly.

To optimize your emails for this behavior:

  • Add the most important information in the first line as people pay the most attention here
  • Add bullet points and short sentences for vertical scanning
  • Start new paragraphs, sub-heads with important keywords as readers will skim through the rest

5. Headers and footers

Headers

Headers are the first thing people notice when they open your email. The header usually contains your logo, navigation links, images, and or a ‘view in browser’ option. The header identifies your brand and sets the tone for the rest of the email. They give you a chance to make a good impression.

When designing your header, keep it:

  • The same width as the rest of your email
  • Precise and mostly visual
  • Eye-catching to attract your reader’s attention

Footers

The footer of the email, as the name suggests, is at the very end of your email. This section is used to end the email with a good-bye, and used for giving pertinent information.

Your footer can include information like:

  • Website link
  • Physical address
  • Contact info
  • Social links
  • Legal information
  • Support links
  • App link
  • Unsubscribe link

And other information a reader might want to access, related to your company, not mentioned in the main body of the email.

It’s important to pay attention to the legal side of emails. Your footer should always include an unsubscribe link and tell readers why they’re receiving your email, and that they can always opt-out.

This section can also include important terms and conditions, and other important information your legal team, or applicable laws deem necessary.

6. Always test your emails

Hopefully, now you have a sound grasp of some of the technical design considerations of an email. By following the steps in this article, you’ll ensure your emails load like the beautiful pieces of content you meant them to be, evenly across all devices and clients. You’ll also make sure your emails are optimized for maximum interaction while covering all important bases.

But you do have to perform testing on your part to make sure your emails load properly and look as you intended. You can use software like Litmus which helps improve the deliverability and effectiveness of your email across 90+ apps. 

Do you design your emails in house? What software do you use and how do you test for issues?

Rukham Khan
Author

Rukham is a writer and a budding content marketer. He believes trust should be the basis for all marketing communications.