Dos and Don’ts for E-mail Creative

  • Do consider e-mail as a unique medium.
    What works for print or the Web won’t necessarily work for e-mail. Elements ranging from eye-tracking patterns to HTML coding are different for e-mail than they are for catalog or Website design.

  • Don’t design your e-mail as one big image or rely on background images.
    As many as half of all e-mail recipients will not have images enabled when they first open their e-mail. That’s why, says Susan Tull, vice president of marketing of Digital River’s BlueHornet division, “we highly recommend using HTML text to deliver the main content of the e-mail alongside images with alt text.” Which brings us to…

  • Do use alt tags with all images. And try to go beyond the literal (“Acme Brand Roadrunner Trap”) to the promotional (“Get rid of that pesky Roadrunner once and for all with the Acme Brand Roadrunner Trap”).

  • Do try “slicing” large images into smaller images.
    Not only should this allow your message to load faster, but it also gives you the opportunity to create multiple promotional alt tags.

  • Do try to put the most important element of your message in the upper-left corner.
    That’s where recipients first look.

  • Do create a plain text version of your e-mails — always.

  • Do make the most of your preheader text. Write targeted copy for each e-mail rather than relying on a trite boilerplate. If images are suppressed, this copy is the first thing recipients see upon opening the e-mail.

  • Don’t forget about the landing page. “You might have done everything perfectly — came up with a great strategy, executed it perfectly — and then you forget about what happens after the subscriber clicks on the e-mail,” says Justine Jordan, senior design consultant at ExactTarget. “That landing page is part of the experience.”

  • Never assume; test and keep testing.