Note: This is the second part of a three-part series on some of the most common and most dangerous mistakes of Email Marketing Campaigns. In our last article Part 1: Five Common and Dangerous Email Conceptual/Campaign Mistakes, we took a look at the big picture with some of the most common conceptual and overall campaign mistakes email marketers make in conceiving their campaigns. In this article, we look a little closer at some common email design mistakes.
By design, we’re not talking about how “pretty” or avant-garde your email is. That’s between you and your graphic designers though, surprisingly enough, if you test, test, test as we mentioned in the previous article, you may find that sometime, the prettiest and sexiest emails don’t always convert as well as plain-Jane emails. But there are structural design issues that always seem to hold true and failure to follow these rules can be damaging or fatal to the effectiveness of your emails.
Poor Subject and Pre-Header The handful of words you choose for your subject line and pre-header text may be the most important words in your email. People decide whether or not to open the email by the subject line and in some readers, the pre-header text. If they don’t open the email, it doesn’t matter how snazzy your design and message is.By testing, again and again, you need to determine what words and which presentations get the most opens. Do you personalize it or not, do you say “free gift” or “super opportunity”—depends on your product and your audience. The only way to know is to test but it is of the utmost importance you get this right.
And, you have to balance your enticement to open against the words and phrases most likely to get you blocked by spam filters or blocked by subscribers who think you are coming on too strong.
Overcomplicating Your Call To Action So let’s assume you read our previous blog post and now you have a Call To Action. It does you no good if your user can’t find it. The design of your email should be such that the user can clearly see how to take the action you want. If it is a button or link, make sure it is prominent and that it looks like a button or a link. That may sound obvious but many cool and avant-garde designs hide the standard underline and ugly blue link color for esthetic reasons or make buttons that don’t look like buttons to a standard subscriber. Steve Krug entitled his classic book on Web Usability Don’t Make Me Think (Berkeley, 2006) and his advice is as good for emails as web pages. People don’t have a lot of time or bandwidth to spend searching your artful but confusing email to figure out how to do your action. If they don’t know where your CTA is, they can easily delete your email.Another common mistake is to have too many CTAs. Think of the email as your opening lines in the conversation with your user, not the entire discussion. You need them to take the next step, to click on the link to your landing page where you can then entice them to buy or act. Don’t expect them to click on the “buy now” button from an email (in most cases). Don’t expect them to hang around your email if there are lots of little CTAs and it is unclear which CTA is the important one. Your email, like your web pages should be more like a funnel than a whack-a-mole game.
Too Much Text How many emails do you get a day: 50, 100, 200? Are you going to read an email that looks like a WSJ article? Maybe if you are already really, really, interested in the subject. Emails are the first step in your conversation with your customer. In most cases, the only real purpose of an email is to get the user to click a link for more information. They should be short, sweet, enticing and to the point. Give the user enough information to get them say “yes” by following your CTA. If they need more information, give it to them on your landing page.
Putting Too Much Text in Graphics Designing emails that look the same in all email readers is a frustrating experience at best and a nightmare when you expect emails to act like web pages. Designers who get frustrated and decide to send everything as one big image or one big sliced up image run into another set of problems.
- All-graphic emails are more likely to be marked as spam by the spam filters.
- If your user views emails with all graphics off, you’ve sent him or her a blank email. Many users do this to avoid tracking or to keep their download sizes small.
- This violates generally accepted accessibility standards, meaning that if your subscribers use a screen reader for need or convenience, you may have well just sent a blank email.
Not Considering Email Size Web designers have settled upon 1024 pixels as the general minimum screen size for web pages so many go ahead and design emails the same way. For many reasons, this is a very bad idea. First, most people do not view web pages in full screen, most people, even on their desktops, view email within a much narrower column.Things get even tighter when you consider that almost half of all emails are now opened on a mobile device (according to Litmus.com). If you’ve designed your email at 900 pixels wide, they will either see the whole page with teeny-tiny fonts and pictures or they will see it 100% and have to scroll and scroll and scroll and scroll to try to read your message. They won’t do that, delete is much easier.
We recommend an email be no wider than 600 pixels and no longer than it needs to be.
If you really want the best experience for your subscriber, use responsive design. In responsive design, the graphics, layout and font sizes of your email will adapt to whatever size screen your subscribers is viewing it within. Your subscribers get the maximum experience and will be more likely to read and process your message properly.
Next: In the next article in this series, we will go into the real nuts and bolts of email development and show you production best practices and how to avoid some of the most common HTML and production mistakes.