5 Design Mistakes Email Marketers Still Make

As an email marketer, I regularly seek out advice for creating better campaign emails. I know there is still a lot I could improve if I had the resources (time, for one!), but I try to do the best job I can. And some of the most basic and effective of all that advice is pretty easy to implement.

Which is why it surprises me when I get an email that flouts a “rule” that I’ve read about for some years. So here are some mistakes marketers are still making with email. Make sure you’re not one of them!

Sending Emails with Images and No Text

You know what’s easy for me? To write off a few lines of copy and send it off to the designer (and probably a print designer versus an HTML email designer) with my instructions for the design. The designer can then create the design, include the copy, send me the image, and all I need to do is insert that image into my email and I’m done.

Easy. And what you get would be something like this.

Email with no text

I’d count on you to click on “display images”, of course. Why wouldn’t you do that? What do you have to do all day but sit by your computer waiting for my email? And if you have a slow internet connection, wait some time longer for that gigantic image to load.

Not Using Alt Text for Images

But what do you do if you’re an apparel retailer or in some other way need pictures of your products in your email?

Stop being so lazy. Instead of using one giant image for your email, break it up into many images, so that if one image fails to load, it doesn’t mean your recipient can view nothing but a giant gray box.

Email from fashion retailer

Is this better? Only marginally. “Latest sales” might make me want to download the images and see what is on sale. But this email violates another of the cardinal rules: the one that says “always use alt text for every image.”

Using Irrelevant Alt Text for Images

Now this email, you notice, has alt text in each image box.

Email from online event booking site

But each image has the same alt text! Which makes it pretty pointless. Come on, how difficult is it to write a few words of relevant text describing each image you are using?

Not Optimally Using the Rich “Real Estate” at the Top of the Email

Now this business does it much better than the previous ones.

Email from florist

However, they could use the header area, which is what you see in your preview pane or when you first open the email, much more effectively. Use an image there if you will, but also have text up that entices your recipient and encourages them to click on the email.

Relying Too Heavily on Images

I get it, I do: you need prospects to view your products, almost smell your flowers, before you can make a sale. But look at our business: we produce advertising and marketing design. It’s as visual as it gets. It would be much much easier for me to fill our newsletters with samples of our best work and leave it to wow recipients.

But good marketers tell a story. Ferns and Petals does a good job up there by telling you why you should order flowers (don’t you want to show your mother you care?) and giving out tantalizing hints of the products to make you want to display the images on that email.

If you don’t need to show so many product images, however, it’s a good idea to have your email rely more on text: so that even if someone’s reading them with the images turned off, they don’t miss any of the story.

Here’s how our newsletter for this month looks with the images turned off.

Ad Express header with images blocked

As you can see, you don’t miss much with the images blocked, and I cram in text into the first few inches of space, to entice recipients to read further.

Here’s how it looks with images on.

Ad Express header with images enabled

Lower down, however, I have sample designs and other images up.

Ad Express with images blocked

I hope the accompanying text will make readers want to look at these images, and unblock them.

Ad Express with sample designs

I’m not saying it’s easy. I’ve had to teach myself basic html to be able to create this newsletter satisfactorily every month. My big advantage, of course, is having access to an in-house design team. A pretty large and experienced design team, who design emails for our clients.

So if you don’t think you can do it yourself, ask for help. Affinity Express is one of the many businesses out there that designs emails: find a partner who’s right for you. But you have to make sure they create designs that work for your business, that they let your copy shine.

(And if you’d like your monthly dose of Ad Express, sign up here. I’d love to hear from you what we’re doing wrong and how we can improve our emails.)

About Unmana Datta
Senior Marketing Manager at Affinity Express, Unmana is an obsessive consumer of blogs and social media, and fascinated by their use in marketing.

6 Responses to 5 Design Mistakes Email Marketers Still Make

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