Posted by Bethany Handy ● July 20, 2016

Email Design Best Practices

Today, people open emails on a wide variety of devices, using many different email clients and applications.

For email marketers, this raises many email design challenges.

At the end of the day, emails are only as good as their design – a poor design will defeat even great email content, keeping open rates and click-through rates low, and conversions even lower.


To help you make sure all your emails display properly, consider the following email design practices spanning everything from subject line and headers to layout, images, and mobile optimization.

  • Use a 580-pixels-wide responsive design for your emails, to ensure that they will scale down well on all mobile devices, including iPhone, iPad, and Android smartphones and tablets.  
  • Use the Multipart MIME format or another standard email format. The benefit of Multipart MIME is that it sends your emails in both HTML and plain text, ensuring they can be opened on any device.
  • Use a minimum font size of 14 for body text and 22 for headlines to ensure your emails are legible on mobile devices.
  • Include an Unsubscribe button in the footer of your email, together with the physical address of your organization and contact details, according to CAN-SPAM regulations. Emails without an Unsubscribe button don’t only violate governmental regulations, but also make recipients feel uneasy.
  • Including social icons in your email that direct users to your social media profiles. This drives engagement and can help you retain followers even if they unsubscribe from your emails.
  • Use a friendly “From” line that includes the name of a real person who works for your organization. This can increase open rates.
  • Use short subject lines that reflect the content of your email and look well on the small screens of mobile devices.
  • Use headlines that make compelling promises. The top area of the email is especially important and can be the best place for an engaging headline.
  • Use images to support the text content, without however overcrowding your email with them.
  • Do not directly embed videos in your emails as this may lower your email deliverability rate. Instead, upload videos on your website and use an engaging thumbnail with a play button to link to them.
  • Maintain a balance between editorial and promotional content, following the 60% to 40% rule.
  • Include in each email a link to an HTML version of it to overcome any limitations certain email clients may have, and ensuring all recipients can view it.
  • Use ALT text tags for any images you include in your emails. When email clients block images in the body of the email, these tags take their place.
  • Keep your emails light, aiming for under 70K in size to allow for easy loading even on mobile devices. Improve email size by reducing the number of images you use and optimizing them, as well as avoiding GIFs and Flash elements.
  • Create tappable call to action buttons that are at least 44x44 pixels.

Last but not least, consider using a professional email marketing platform, which comes with customizable templates and other features that incorporate most of the best practices above.

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Topics: Email Marketing