Email newsletters are powerful marketing tools that can remind subscribers about you, inform them about your products, tell them what you have been up to lately and help build relationships.
But the inbox is a busy place.
Dozens of other emails could already be on the pile by the time your message gets there. So when your email does arrive, the key to marketing success is to make sure that it doesn’t look like you'll be wasting your consumer's time.
To begin with, it's important to understand that email is a "scanning" environment. Subscribers won’t necessarily read your marketing emails, at least not before they’ve skimmed over it quickly to make a judgement about whether what you have to say is of interest to them.
If your content seems appealing, they may choose to commit more than just those first few seconds - but only if you’re able to convince them during the "scanning" phase.
With this in mind, here are 4 easy design tips to help you improve your email's readability:
1) Design for the Preview Pane
The human eye normally scans an email from top left to right, and then down.
While it's a good idea to have a banner graphic for visual impact, don't make it too big. That is, try and get your key "text" message as close to the top left corner of your email as possible, so it will be visible within the inbox preview pane, without the reader needing to scroll around.
Don’t bury the value of your marketing messages under a mountain of images. Use both short, sharp sentences and supporting visuals to get to the point quickly.
2) Include 'alt’ text
Since all the email clients out there don’t conform to the same set of visual standards, images are often blocked by default, with image ‘alt’ text displayed instead - unless you haven’t remembered to provide any - in which case there will just be a blank space.
Therefore, remember to populate ‘alt’ tags for every image so that subscribers who have blocking on (which might even be the majority of them) will at least see a short description of your pictures that may encourage them to click the “display images below” button.
3) Use colours as a fallback
If you want to use a background image in your design, just remember that some email clients don’t allow them, so it’s a good practice to provide a background differentiated from your text colour that the email client can fall back on, to make your copy visible.
If you do this you'll be enabling your subscribers to read your message no matter what.
4) Don't forget to link
It’s a good idea to provide a link to a web-based alternative to your email at or close to the top of the HTML newsletter in case, despite your best efforts, there are still display issues. This will let each reader view your email in their browser in case they can’t have it display properly in their inbox.