Email Design Tips: A Guide for Non-Designers


Good email design makes your emails more likely to get clicks and sales. But what if you’re not a designer? No worries – these simple email designs and layout tips can help anyone email better.

How important is the design of your email? Is a compelling message enough, or do you need to have beautiful visuals?

If you’re like many time-based business owners, you may not have much to do with your email design.

However, adding some design elements can significantly improve your email performance. Why? Because studies have shown that 90 percent of the information transmitted to our brain is visible.

So how can you use some of this knowledge to your advantage? Even if you’re not a designer, here are some of the best email design practices to make your emails look better right now.

Email Design Layout Visual Sequence

Proper visual style can distinguish between a customer who takes a step and someone who deletes your email. The attention span is getting shorter, so understanding how people read your email will help you create more effective messages.

Knowing where their eyes are most likely to go will help you create a layout that makes your email more readable and helps readers navigate your call to action. So let’s take a look at some email design tips that will help you do just that.

1 – Z-pattern

The Z-pattern marks the path of your eyes when reading, from left to right, from top to bottom.

People will read the first line, then down and to the left and back to the right again. When reading in this pattern, it forms a Z-shape.

Z-pattern email design layout

This email design layout is best used if you have a lot of information. This framework will help your customer to access all the information in a simple and logical way.

You will often find that this type of email follows a pattern where you start with the title and text, with an image on the top left with an image on the right, then another image in the bottom left corner, with text across it. It works because:

  1. Readers’ eyes are naturally drawn to the picture. So by placing images diagonally from each other, you’re helping your customers follow a simple lesson.
  2. This creates a cleaner layout without leaving all your text on one side of the email.
An example of a Z-pattern email design layout

2 – Inverted pyramid

Inverted pyramid is a format used for news, but it also works well for email. It is designed to draw attention and focus on the most important parts of your message. This is great when you have a thing to tell your readers and a specific call to action that you want them to take.

Inverted pyramid email design layout

This layout can be used to get customers to read an article on your website, sign up for an event, or purchase a single product or service.

Example of inverted pyramid email layout design

3 – F-pattern

The F-pattern was first identified by the Nielsen Norman Group after studying how the human eye reads a website.

Similar to the Z-pattern, a reader will receive content from left to right, then to the left. But instead of reading across the second line, they will read less. Etc.

F-pattern email design layout

How does this information affect your email design?

First, your most important, attention-grabbing information should be at the top of your email. Then suppose your customer is going to skim the rest of your email. So use less text as you create your email. And balance your email with the pictures on the right.

This email design layout is best used if you have a lot of information that you want to communicate. In this case you need to structure your email with the most important information at the top, then use bullets and small content at the bottom of the email and close with a call to action.

F-pattern email design layout example

Email design elements

Great content is an essential part of a successful email, and design is a part of that content.

1 – Choose the right color

Choose colors that reflect your logo and / or brand … but make sure your message has enough contrast and clarity to make it clear for easy reading.

It is difficult to read texts that do not have enough contrast against the background.

You can use some of the color psychology we discussed above to select complementary colors. Check out this chart about the emotional effects of different colors.

Colorful email guide card

Free color palette tools like Coolors will help you create a professional-grade palette in minutes, so your emails will be more aligned with your brand.

2 – Leave some breathing room

Crowded emails can be difficult to read – especially on mobile devices, where 49.7 percent of all openings occur.

This is because most people scan emails instead of reading them aloud. An email looks easy to scan if there is some white space between the elements. This basically makes the email look less visually irresistible.

There’s an added benefit to leaving extra white space: it challenges you to keep your message short and include only relevant details.

Here’s a great example from TrueCar.

Trucker empties email elements

3 – Use text as a design element

It also helps to format your emails for scanners The most common formatting elements are subheads, short paragraphs, bullet points, and bolded phrases. Using these types of visual cues will make it easier to find the most important points in your email.

Check out this example from Jon Persson of CultMethod, who boldly embodies important elements in the core of his email, using bullets and breaking the copy by placing the title accurately. Plus each paragraph is short and easy to read.

Email example from CultMethod using text as a design element

4 – Balance the text with the image

Split text pieces with visual images. Readers prefer short blurb of information, which can be easily achieved by including pictures and lines if necessary.

Images help tell the story of what you want to communicate with your customers, but don’t overdo it. Follow the 60/40 rule which says that pictures should not take more than 40% of your email.

Spring training email balance in Fort Myers with text picture

5 – Plan for missing pictures

Almost all email programs give customers the option to hide pictures. Some people automatically disable the image, forcing the user to click on a link or press a button to “turn on” the image.

For example, here’s how an email with a big hero image appears in Outlook:

Example of missing image in an email

Since image blocking occurs in many popular email programs, you should make sure your email is still readable — and your call-to-action is still clickable — if the images are closed.

Instead of using image-based buttons that will hide your CTA when closing images, try using a “bulletproof” button. This technique combines a background color with a regular text link, providing the illusion of a button that can be seen when images are on or off.

Most email marketing services (including AWeber) allow you to easily create bulletproof buttons within email layouts.

If the images you’re using are an important part of your email, make sure you’ve added alt text to the image. This is the text that describes what the image is. If you’ve ever created a webpage or worked with WordPress, you’ve probably already added alt text to images. It’s the same thing – for email only.

Adding image alt text, even if your subscribers block the image, will enable them to read what you wanted them to show.

The AWeber platform shows where to add image alt text

You don’t have to start from scratch to create beautiful emails. Here are three email design tools that make it very easy to get started.

1 – Canvas

Canvas is a widely used free graphic design tool that lets you create and edit any type of image. AWeber has a fully integrated canvas drag-and-drop button, where you can create your picture on canvas and drag it directly to your AWeber email.

Using canvas design elements in AWeber

2 – Email template

Sometimes simply starting out is the hardest part of sending an email. This is where an email template comes in handy. When you find the right template, most of the work is done for you. Customize it to suit your brand by adding your logo and updating colors, then you’re ready to go.

AWeber now has over 600 email marketing and newsletter templates ready to customize for your messages. These can save you time every week and avoid all the work of designing your own emails

Only a few templates are available here. Each template has at least three color palettes to choose from.

Sample AWeber Email Template

3 – Try an email generator

Online tools like Stripo, BeeFree, and Dyspatch also have template and drag and drop email editors. What you get in your email marketing provider’s account is similar, but some email designers prefer these tools.

You can design an email on any of these tools and then import it into AWeber, or copy and paste the code from the email creator into AWeber. Here’s how to put one together for use with your strip.

Start using the best practices in this email design

If you’re not a professional designer, designing an email can be a daunting task. But if you follow these email design tips or use a pre-made email template provided by your email marketing platform, sending beautiful emails can be easy.

Of course, if you want a custom-designed email or newsletter, we can help. AWeber offers custom email templates and landing page designs. The full custom design costs 229, or a modification of an existing template $ 29. Click here to learn more about our custom design services.



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