Email marketing is one of the most effective and cost-effective ways to reach any audience, no matter your industry. But, it’s not enough to simply send out an email every once in a while. To truly leverage the power of email marketing—and to reach that vaunted ROI of 4,200% and up—you need the right email newsletter design.
Make sure you’re seeing the best click-through rates and conversions by avoiding the eight all-too-common email newsletter design mistakes below. (Stick around after the list for some pro-designed email templates and step-by-step instructions on making your own in Shutterstock Create!)
1. Ignoring the Mobile User
More than half of all emails are opened on mobile devices, according to data from Campaign Monitor. Email marketing gets your message right into the pocket and palm of your audience, so your email newsletter design should look great on virtually every mobile device.
The easiest approach is to use a responsive template that will fit any screen, adapting to the size of the mobile device on-the-fly by reorganizing and resizing content. If you’re not using responsive design, keep those smaller screens in mind.
Make your message clear and concise, make clickable links and buttons large enough to be accessed on a small screen, and don’t overwhelm with cluttered content. The email below is the perfect example of these core principles in action.
2. Neglecting Your Branding
Your customers get a ton of content in their inbox, so it should be immediately obvious to them who an email is from. Use smart subject lines, a clear “from” field, and get your branding front-and-center at the top of your email.
Work your branding into the email newsletter design, as well. This includes:
- Consistent logo placement and color scheme
- Original photos that feature your business, products, and people
- Stock photos that best represent your brand
- Consistent language that supports your brand identity and positioning
For a real-world example of fantastic email branding, check out the gorgeous newsletter design below. From the color palette and the fonts to the photos and the tiny design motifs, this newsletter design is 100% brand first.
Pair a solid background with a texture fill and you’re set!
3. Using Too Many Fonts (or the Wrong Ones)
You should minimize the number of fonts you use in your email newsletter design. Too many font varieties can make your email look cluttered and will distract from the message you’re trying to send. It can also interrupt the flow of the email, preventing the reader from reaching the call-to-action.
Choose fonts that are easy to read and universally accepted online. Serif fonts are great for print, but sans serif fonts are easiest to read on the web. They’re perfect for websites or any place where smaller text will be read.
The example below pairs an easy-to-read sans serif body font with an eye-catching script font. Script fonts can be tricky, but the choice works well here because it’s used very sparingly and in a festive spirit that matches the email’s message.
By the way, if you love this template and its pro-paired fonts, you can customize it and make it your own! More on how to do this at the end of the article.
Note that in Create, you can choose between long, medium, and short email templates. Whatever your newsletter needs, we’ve got you covered!
4. Too Much Text
You might have a lot to say in your email newsletter, but don’t overwhelm your audience with too much content. They have a limited attention span. One study from Constant Contact revealed that the best results (and highest click-through rates) came from emails with 20 lines of text.
If you have a lot of content to include, use teaser lines that link out to blog posts and external pages to get the rest of the story.
Take the simple email newsletter design below as a case in point. It’s clear and well organized with strong headlines, minimal text, and a nice illustration at the top.
5. Cluttered Content with Poor Formatting
Good email newsletter design is dependent on proper formatting. People tend to scan content quickly to see if it’s relevant to their needs. They often absorb bullets and subheadings first before diving into content.
Serve up your most important piece of content at the top of the email, then drop in two or three secondary messages with bold headings that can easily catch the eye while skimming.
Wondering what good email formatting really looks like? The email newsletter design below is the perfect example of formatting done right for several reasons:
- It has a clear and compelling headline in a large, easy-to-read font.
- It contains a nice subheader to further explain the purpose of the email.
- It has super-scannable content chunks, each with its own headline and photo.
- The alternating photo-text layouts, plus the numbering from 1 to 4, make it even easier for a busy brain to follow.
Insert images of your products or services, paired with short-and-sweet text for the win!
6. Poor Use of Images (or None at All)
Every email newsletter you send should include eye-catching images that grab the attention of your reader. It’s best to drop a single image for each content segment, no more. A recent study of some two million email customers found that emails with three or fewer images result in the highest click-through rate.
The email newsletter design below puts imagery front and center—and not just any image! It’s a well-curated flat-lay photo that not only showcases the products for sale but also fits an aesthetic trend that is very likely embraced by the target audience.
The structure of this email template is chronological. Start with images, end with text, call it a day!
7. Missing the Call-to-Action (CTA)
Every email you send should be sent with a purpose. What do you want the recipient to do after they read it? Visit your website? Shop your store? Follow you on social? All of the above?
Strong email marketing design includes a call-to-action that clearly directs the reader to the next step. It should be clear and stand out from the content around it. This is best achieved with buttons or bold links directing the reader to click.
And, remember, it’s okay to repeat your call-to-action! Email readers are busy and distracted, and repetition can help reinforce the desired goal. For instance, the email newsletters below make it impossible to miss the call-to-action by repeating the button and keeping text to a minimum.
Is 70% off incentive enough? We’d say so!
8. Designing Email Blasts for “Everyone”
One thing small business owners don’t often consider is the type of content being shared. Not everything you share is relevant to all of your customers.
Part of good email marketing design is different messaging for specific list segments. For example, content geared toward a weekend promotion is best served to customers who frequently visit you or engage with you on the weekends.
Likewise, you could also create a promotion specific to customers that only shop during the week to get more traffic into your store during the week—then shoot that content to those specific list segments.
By creating multiple variations of your email newsletter design, you can easily send different campaigns to different audiences—testing for whom it works best. And, by creating them at once, you’ll make sure each design fits your overall brand story and aesthetic.
Themes keep consistent aesthetics all-the-while diversifying your look.
How to Design an Effective Email in Just a Few Minutes
Now that you know exactly what to avoid in your email newsletter design, it’s time to make it! Whether you’re sharing a monthly update or announcing a flash sale, it’s super easy to create the perfect email for any kind of marketing message.
Just follow these steps:
1. Start with a Template
When it comes to email marketing, there’s no reason to reinvent the wheel. Starting with a template will make your design process much faster without hindering any of your creative ideas—no matter how big they might be!
For a great selection of designer-made email templates, head over to Create, the online editing tool that makes pro-level graphic design easy enough for anyone to master.
Then head over to Create’s email templates and click on your favorite design to get started.
2. Customize Your Email Design
Every single aspect of your email template can be customized to suit your brand and message. Inside Create, use the menu and tools at the left to tweak and tailor your email in every way:
- Upload your company logo.
- Play around with different fonts and colors.
- Insert one of millions of stock assets, including both photos and illustrations.
- Layer text and images for a contemporary, professional-looking design.
- Apply awesome effects automatically—from replacing colors in photos to instantly erasing photo background.
When your email newsletter design is ready for send, click Download from the top toolbar. Then choose your preferred file type:
- JPG or PNG will work best if you plan to import your design into an email marketing platform and send it as an inline email.
- PDF is only recommended if you’re going to send this message as an attachment (which itself isn’t recommended because attachments can trigger spam filters.)
Pro Tip: Whenever you import your PNG or JPG into your email marketing platform of choice, be sure to also create a plaintext version that describes the content in full. This will keep your email content accessible to all, including those who use screen readers.
Ready to Boost Your Email ROI?
If you’re making any of the email design mistakes we discussed above, don’t sweat it. Not every email is perfect. And, when you create your email design in Create, it’s easy to jump in and make a few small changes to test the response on your next email campaign.
With each round of design tweaks and each improvement based on email best practices, you’ll have more customers reading and interacting with your email newsletter and a far greater return on your investment.
For even more inspiration, check out these 10 not-to-be-missed email design ideas.