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Email Design Strategies – According to Whom?

Strategies to improve email engagement are constantly evolving. With the ever-changing digital landscape, I find it critical to research new design trends, find a consistent pattern and test it out. Once I have solid results, I share them with my clients so they can incorporate them into their email marketing program. However in my experience, I find that when it comes to email design, there is not always one correct answer.

Email design has a tremendous affect on email deliverability, which is based on understanding and complying with the laws that make up the business of sending email. Deliverability is measured by taking a hard look at the numbers of emails sent compared to the numbers of emails that actually land in an inbox. In order to ensure the best deliverability, I tell my clients that they need to put their communications through an internal content evaluation so the email can be accepted by the IP filter.

Regarding design, IP filters take a look at the ratio of texts to images and font color. The structure of the HTML is an important part of a filter’s analysis. If it sees more HTML comments to actual text, this can trigger the filter to mark your email as spam. But how can companies such as Dunkin’ Donuts® or Menard’s® send image-only emails directly to their customer’s inbox? Many filters take what is called a “fingerprint” of the email, which is then compared to a database that lists out known spammers. Filters also look closely at the sender’s domain name. If the domain name has an exceptional reputation, that is factored into deliverability. So being a big brand name like Dunkin’ Donuts or Menard’s, these businesses can send image-only emails that aren’t flagged as spam. So, what should you do if you aren’t a large, well-known brand? Stick to the tried-and-true rule — Use an equal ratio of images to text and avoid hard-to-read color palettes.

Responsive design is turning into more than trend; it’s becoming the norm especially regarding web design. But, is it always necessary for email messages? Responsive designs can lead to a user-friendly experience while on a mobile device, but that doesn’t apply to ALLmobile devices especially those that are not iOS or Android or ALL email providers like those who use Outlook or Gmail. The coding for email is much more complicated and can lead to problems especially if the CSS style isn’t formatted correctly. While it might not be a huge problem with simple CSS, the more complicated the code becomes with tables, nested tables, spacing and so on, the harder it may become for an email provider to format the message correctly.

Responsive design is a great option if you have a simpler message or the right employees who have experience creating responsive code for email. You also want to take into consideration the state of your website. Is it responsive as well? If it’s not, you might have some displeased clients who go from a responsive email experience to an unresponsive website experience. Although this detail might not be detrimental, it’s extremely important to keep your messaging as seamless as possible. You want tone and branding to come across the same in all locations. So while responsive design might seem like a “must-have” in regards to email design, it’s not always the right option at the moment. You can still create positive experiences with your email recipients by focusing on a design that works well with mobile users.

Email design strategies are constantly changing as new technologies emerge. The key is to determine what is best for you and your clients, and the best way to do this is to test, test, test. Then once you figure that out, something new will come along, and you will need to test again!

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Harland Clarke Corp. is a leading provider of best-in-class integrated payment solutions and marketing services, serving multiple industries including financial services, retail, healthcare, insurance, and telecommunications.

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