8 Email Design Factors That Influence Action

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What influences your subscribers’ willingness to open, click, and interact with your email? From subject lines and “from addresses” to images and landing pages, they all play a major role in determining whether your subscribers will engage with your email or not. You have about 3-4 seconds to grab your readers’ attention and interest them enough to open and read your email. In order to do this, you must design for your subscribers.

In the infographic below, we’ve outlined eight crucial steps that a subscriber goes through while interacting with your email, along with tips on how to make those interactions successful.

Additional Resources

The infographic below covers many of the basics, but is far from a comprehensive guide. Here are some of my favorite articles and sites:

  • Campaign Monitor has some great tips for how to deal with image blocking. The Pizza Express example is one of my all-time favorites.
  • Our infographic on designing awesome calls to action.
  • First impressions make an impact: an article that goes into detail regarding tips for choosing a great “from” name, reply-to address, subject line, and preheader.

Click on the graphic for an enlarged view. The entire text of the graphic is also available below.

Design for the Subscriber Infographic

Design for the Subscriber

Designers and marketers often make the mistake of concentrating on developing creative copy and layout for their emails, not accounting for the entire experience of opening an email. Below we have outlined the eight crucial steps that a subscriber goes through while interacting with your email.

Readers spend 3-4 seconds deciding if they are going to view your email.

The Sender: Sender recognition is far more important than you may think. In many cases it’s the first thing your subscriber sees. Is your email address and “from name” recognizable and trustworthy to external audiences? Avoid ‘no-reply’ or other non-friendly addresses.

The Subject Line: Only 50 characters stand between email success and the trash bin. Is it relevant and interesting? If not, it’s likely your email won’t make it. Try not to repeat your brand name or use internal language that may be confusing to your audience. 

Snippet Text: Some email programs, such as Gmail, Outlook and iPhone/iPad use snippet or preview text next to the subject line. This text usually is limited to 100 characters or less, and will be pulled from the first few lines of text in the email. Use this valuable real estate to build on the subject line, add value, or include a call to action.

Image Blocking: One of the largest problems that email campaigns face is blocked images. For many clients, blocked images are automatic, leaving a less than ideal first impression. Combat image blocking by avoiding all-image emails and using alt text, captions, or creative slicing and coding to create the illusion of an image.

  • 67% of major desktop clients block images by default
  • 100% of major webmail clients block images by default
  • 80% of mobile operating systems block images by default

A creative approach to solving the image blocking problem is to use background colors or creatively slice images to replicate 8-bit graphics.

The Preview Pane: Some email programs will only show a portion of the email in the “preview” or “reading” pane. Make the most of this 300px by 400px by placing interesting content here to encourage the subscriber to open the email.

The Inbox: In the inbox, your message has a lot to contend with. Does it look spammy next to other messages? Does it contain relevant and interesting information for the subscriber?  Are ads blocking the left-hand side? Is the font too tiny?

The Click-Through: The best way to get more clicks is to have a clear call-to-action in your email. Try asking yourself: What is going to make recipients want to click? Providing clear value to your subscriber will help produce more clicks.

The Landing Page: The subscriber’s experience doesn’t end in the inbox. Landing pages should follow through on promises made in the email. If a product is feature in your email, then it should be easy to find on the landing page. Inconsistently, clutter and missed expectations will frustrate users and ultimately hurt your bottom line. If possible, make your landing pages mobile-friendly.

Sources: CampaignMonitor.com, Litmus.com

  • Massimo Cassandro

    very interesting, but I think infographic (an image) is not a good way to do this

    • Bo Hansen

      I think Justine did a great job explaining this. Infograpic is on the landing page – so not sure what you mean by thats not a good way to this – Regards Bo

      • http://www.litmus.com Justine, Litmus

        Thanks, Bo! We make an effort to provide information in a variety of formats, so hopefully we cover most everyone!

    • http://www.litmus.com Justine, Litmus

      Thanks for the feedback, Massimo. The infographic image helps emphasize the points by providing illustrations. If you don’t prefer the graphic format, all the text and content is also provided below the graphic.

  • Asa Shatkin

    Nice job, Justine. All of these points are good, healthy reminders for me.

    As far as image blocking is concerned – I’m looking forward to EmailonAcid’s “mozify” image blocking workaround. (I have no affiliation with them – just think it could be a cool game changer): http://www.emailonacid.com/email-preview/mozify

    • http://www.litmus.com Justine, Litmus

      Thanks, Asa! Mozify does looks interesting. I’ve heard great results from some folks and mixed from others. I’m curious (and genuinely so, as a fellow email designer!) about how it might impact design process, code, file size, etc. You’ll have to let me know if you give it a try!

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1160823968 Asa Shatkin

        Hi Justine – I’ve given Mozify a couple of tests … and had some confusion from recipients about why their email images were “fuzzy” …. Seems folks are used to images either on or off in the email client – and the mozified images didn’t bode well. Hmmm …. 

        • http://www.litmus.com Justine, Litmus

          I could definitely see that some users might be confused by shaking up the status quo — that’s interesting feedback! Maybe user expectations will start to shift if more people use the tool? Thanks for following up! 

  • Peta Smith

    Great tips Justine.

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