Email Marketing

Easy Guide to Email Design Best Practices [+Template Gallery]

Oleksii Kovalenko · Updated

SPAM

These four letters are the nightmare of every email marketer.

How to avoid getting into this darkest pit of online oblivion?

Master the art of effective email design.

In this article, we’ll show you:

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One of our users, Kate, had this to say:

I’m not a technical person but I could use my contacts and send a bulk email campaign in no time.

First things first— 

Look at this stunning email design from Apple. 

(You’ll know how to do the same by the time you’re done with this post).

Email design example from Apple

This message from Apple could be the benchmark for modern email design:

  • White space to keep the focus on the product
  • Perfectly aligned, positioned, and easy-to-read content 
  • Copy focused on the benefits for the user.

And—

Email designs like these sell. 

The best part?

You don’t have to have Apple’s budget to design high-converting, stunning emails. Stick to these email design best practices, and make people want to read your messages. 

Email Design Best Practices

Below, we’ve put together an extended list of some of the best practices to make your emails nothing short of captivating. 

1. Email Preview in the Inbox

Email preview is the first moment when you can draw the recipients’ attention. 

Combined with compelling copy, proper preview design can convince them to open the message. 

The preview consists of three parts:

  • Email Sender Name
  • Email Subject Line
  • Email Preview Text 
An infographic about the difference between sender name, subject line, and preview text

Email Sender Name

This shows who sent the message. Use the name of your company, your own name or the name of whoever is responsible for email marketing. In some cases, it could be a campaign type, e.g., “Tidio Newsletter.” 

Limit the sender name to 20 characters. This way, you can be sure it will always appear in full length on the recipient’s screen.  

Email Subject Line

Keep your email subject lines under 50 characters. This length ensures a full display on all types of screens.

Email Preview Text

Add a message that “reinforces” the subject line by providing more context. How long should an email preview text be? Between 40 and 70 characters. 

Need ideas for attention-grabbing subject lines to recover sales? Here’s the abandoned cart subject lines guide for ideas.

2. Email Template Design 

The emails you send must be both visually attractive and easy to navigate. 

It all starts with choosing the best template layout:

  • Single-column
  • Multiple-column
  • Hybrid.

Single-Column Email 

Contains one or multiple content sections, each filling the width of the email. 

Such a layout is perfect for focusing the recipient’s attention on an offer or a single piece of content. 

Email design example from Holland & Barrett
Benefits of a Single-Column Email Design
  • Suitable for viewing on mobile. 
  • Perfect for sharing offers. 
  • Works well for sharing announcements and updates. 

Multiple-Column Email

This email design practice puts the content into two or more columns. 

In this example, there are four columns to showcase more products from a new collection of clothes. 

Email design example from Gucci
Benefits of a Multiple-Column Email Design
  • Perfect for displaying product galleries. 
  • Makes it easier to organize content. 
  • Allows adding multiple links to your website. 

Hybrid Email 

The hybrid email design combines the two previous email types. It contains a single column on the top and multiple columns below.

Consider this email from H&M. There’s a big header image on the top that emphasizes the main message—discount + free shipping. 

What follows are different columns in a row. They’re website sections to make it easier for the customer to get where they want.

Email design example from H&M
Benefits of a Hybrid Email Design
  • Suitable for sharing diverse content. 
  • Provides many opportunities to add CTAs. 
  • Allows focusing attention on a single content piece. 

3. Email Visuals & Animation

Images and animations are part and parcel of modern-day email communication. They help to define the structure, highlight offers, and make everything more appealing. 

How to Use Visuals in Emails

Take a look at the mailing designs below. 

Which one is more pleasing to the eye—the one on the left or on right?

Text-only email vs visual email designed with an editor

Chances are you picked the email design on the right. Most people would, too, simply because it’s visually appealing. 

Your mailing designs need to include visuals to get more chances to engage recipients and sell. 

Here’s a bunch of email design tips to keep in mind when creating high-converting messages with visuals. 

  • Optimize the image-to-text ratio. Image-only email designs are highly likely to trigger spam filters. Make images less than 50 percent of all content
  • Keep images at least 600 pixels wide. This width meets the requirements of most email providers and keeps image viewing quality high
  • Use the best formats. PNG, GIF, and JPEG. PNGs are the best quality-wise; JPEG have lower sizes; GIFs allow animated images
  • Add personalized images. For marketing emails, use images of products that customers are likely to be interested in.

And here’s the best news.

Creating great email designs with images is easy. 

An email marketing tool with an editor such as Tidio Email Marketing is a good example. It has email templates you can customize and save tons of time. 

Here’s how you add an image in Tidio’s email designer. 

Simple and easy. 

That’s how businesses like yours can turn the email campaign design process into a walk in the park. 

But this isn’t everything.

You need to remember to optimize your images for size and weight. With Tidio’s free image resizing tool, it’s as easy as ABC.

Finally, here’s a couple of ideas on why and when to use animations in your mailing designs:

  • Draw attention to a call to action
  • Show how a product works by displaying it in use, etc.
  • Display multiple products from one collection
  • Highlight an announcement
  • Preview video content

4. Email Copy

In the context of designing emails, you can’t simply skip the heart and soul of every message—copy. 

Yes, there are numerous books on the subject, but here’s a couple of handy email design guidelines to keep in mind when writing copy: 

Use One Topic per One Email 

Keep every email focused on one topic. 

If you want to give a discount code, don’t squeeze in things like a new collection or a special newsletter edition. Too many topics will overwhelm the recipient. 

Be Short and Concise

To avoid having your emails ignored, try making every sentence as simple and short as possible. 

  • Say what you want right away. This will help to convey your message before a recipient gets bored and leaves the email
  • Use the five-sentence rule where possible. How about only five sentences for an email text? This is a perfect amount to avoid boring the reader
  • Revise for clarity. Write a message, then leave it for a while. Come back to it in a few hours. Ask yourself: “How clear is it? Do I understand what the email is trying to convey right away?”

Use Headings & Subheadings

They are great to differentiate multiple marketing messages and keep the text easy to read. 

Check out this message from Chegg. 

It describes product benefits with heading and multiple subheadings.

Heading vs subheading

Think of these as “attention hooks.”

The main heading is for grabbing the attention right away, and the subheadings are for drawing the viewers in deeper. 

5. Email CTA Buttons

What are the best email designs?

The ones that sell.

And no message will ever sell without a call to action (CTA). Your CTAs must be:

  • Visible. This means it’s sitting on a contrasting background and has a color that makes it stand out from the rest of the content
  • Compelling. Instead of generic, spammy words and phrases, it needs to have action words
  • Benefit-oriented. Give email recipients a good reason to click the CTA by mentioning a benefit in CTA copy. 

Here’s an example of a CTA button design that’s easy to spot and read, and conveys a clear benefit.

Email CTA example

Remember— 

Email designs might have several CTAs to boost your chances of converting your readers.

6. Email Typography

Even the most compelling email campaign design will get ignored if the message is illegible. To avoid this, go for standard and readable fonts supported by all email providers. 

These include:

  • Arial (used by Gmail)
  • Arial Black
  • Georgia
  • Tahoma
  • Times New Roman (used by Microsoft)
  • Verdana
  • Helvetica (used by Apple)

And don’t go overboard with the font size. The “Goldilocks” proportions are 36 points for headings and 18 points for the body text. 

Obviously, you can adjust these sizes in your email marketing tool and see how they work for your specific email design.

7. Email Footer Design

The best email template designs have three footer elements:

  • Legal information. The full address of the company
  • Unsubscribe option. It’s required by email marketing regulations
  • Social media links to your business. To encourage recipients to connect with your business

Take a look at this footer from WIRED.

Looks clean, organized, and is easy to read. Perfect. 

Email footer

Want to know how to create an email footer for a business email? We’ve got you covered with this professional email signature guide.

Best Email Design Gallery: Inspirations and Examples

Now, let’s see how brands use email design best practices to sell. 

1. Business Insider

This simple, single-column email layout design is perfect for creating a newsletter

The dark section on the top summarizes the purpose well and has a CTA if the recipient wants to download the report right away. The text below is concise and also provides another CTA—one more chance to capture a lead. 

Email design example from Business Insider

2. UXPin

This newsletter email design example is complex yet super clean. 

It squeezes in multiple content types—a video, a few blog posts, and a product announcement while staying fairly readable. 

Email design example from UXPin

3. Neptune

This example exhibits one of newsletter design best practices—masterly use of white space. 

Paired with the elegant Georgia font, it gives the message a nice, “classy” feel to it.  

Email design example from Neptune

4. Timberland

This email design puts a heavy emphasis on the headings and subheadings. 

It’s a great technique to make offer details stand out. That also makes this email design a nice example of the “one topic per one message” rule. 

Email design example from Timberland

5. Under Armour

This email design has a multiple-column design to showcase a range of products. 

It captures the attention with the image on the top. Below, there’s a nicely structured design with a concise copy, a stand-out heading, and lots of white space. 

Email design example from Under Armour

6. Starbucks

Unique visuals are a good way to improve marketing email design.

Starbucks, for example, emphasizes quality visuals and colorful backgrounds. This email design decision helps to stay within their branding guidelines. 

Email design example from Starbucks

7. Man Crates

If your brand color palette is bright, check out this bright-colored email design. 

The bright background makes the marketing message stand out and directs the recipient’s eyes straight to the content. 

Email design example from Man Crates

8. Spalding

Simplicity at its best. 

To promote a special product, this email design has only one image, one headline, one description, and one CTA button. This ingeniously simple yet strong concept keeps the reader focused on the main message. 

Email design example from Spalding

9. Minimalist Baker

The central focus of this email template design is the stunning imagery.

They’re doing a great job tempting the readers to check out the recipe. To encourage the reader to click even more, there’s a concise copy below the visual. 

Overall, the email is imagery-based, which gives the design a modern and cool look. 

Email design example from Minimalist Baker

10. Holland & Barrett

This email design uses animation to focus the attention on the message.

A fun and creative animation beautifully conveys the offer. Combined with a memorable design, this email does a great job motivating the recipient to act. 

11. Outlier

The contrasting background gives this email design a super elegant and sleek look.

Using a black background, white text and colorful imagery is a great idea to make an email stand out. Although the structure varies, the message stays on point and interesting. 

Email design example from Outlier

12. HelloFresh

This email design example perfectly balances text and image content.

The recipient first sees a stunning image with a heading describing the main value for them. Below the image, they can get more details about the offer. The most important proposition—“55 percent off 2 boxes”—is in bold to make it easy to notice. 

Also, note a benefit-driven CTA with “Get Your Discount” as copy. 

Email design example from Hello Fresh

13. Grammarly

Although simple and minimalistic, this email design still manages to be inviting and interesting. 

The graphic at the top is a unique touch and the brightly colored CTA button adds playfulness and dimension. Overall, the alignment of all elements gives this example a harmonious composition that invites the recipient to take a second to appreciate the design. 

Email design example from Grammarly

14. Intelligentsia Coffee

Want to get artsy in your email designs? This one is a good example.

A simple but inviting graphic at the top introduces the main message beautifully. The content sections are listed horizontally. This structure is a good design technique to display multiple messages at once, each with equal importance. 

Email design example from Intelligentsia Coffee

15. WIRED Magazine

Simple and focused on the message—this is the theme here.

This email design uses a black background and a clear central focus on the offer. The text is perfectly aligned and placed in a way to differentiate messages. 

Note how WIRED uses different font sizes and colors. This is a technique to help recipients understand what’s more or less important. 

Email design example from Wired

Key Takeaways

Beautifully designed, value-packed emails. This is the single most important thing to get more returns from your email marketing investments.

To create the best email designs, make sure to:

  • Take care of email preview in the inbox
  • Choose the best email layout 
  • Create stunning imagery and balance it with text
  • Choose email safe fonts
  • Break up concise text with headings and subheadings
  • Make visible and benefit-oriented CTA buttons
  • Keep the footer limited to legal information, unsubscribe, and social media links. 

Now roll up your sleeves and get some practice in Tidio’s free email editor!

Try Tidio For Free

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Oleksii Kovalenko

Oleksii is a UX writer and copywriter interested in eCommerce. He writes content about customer support, email marketing, blogging, user interface designs, and brand building.