Email design 101: How to create a beautiful email

7 min read
Ashliegh Gehl

Chances are there’s a poor email design sitting in your inbox right now. You know the kind I’m talking about. It has 10 different fonts in an assortment of sizes, with some words brightly coloured, bolded or italicized.

Within seconds you’re looking to unsubscribe, toss it in the trash bin or dismiss it as junk mail.

If email is one of your core business marketing tools, mastering email design is a must.

Back to basics: Email design tips for the win

Woman sitting on bed looking at laptop and smiling

Great email design often goes unnoticed because it loads without a hitch and resizes to fit any device or platform.

When your design is user-friendly, its form and function are often unnoticed. This is because it gives your reader the opportunity to fully absorb your message. When content is enjoyable and accessible, it makes way for better engagement.

With a beautiful email design, you can sprinkle a little bit of joy into your audience’s inbox while hitting the benchmarks you’ve set for your email marketing campaign. When the core elements of email design harmonize, it generates success.

To get started, let’s focus on the key parts of an email.

Filling out the sender or “From” label

When you’re sending batch and blast emails, it’s always best practice to ensure that the “From” label says your company’s name. You also want to make sure that it doesn’t reference a specific employee.

Some examples of event invites include:

  • Product launches
  • Newsletters
  • Digital magazine drops
  • Seasonal sale notifications
  • General company updates

While you may have brand ambassadors, your audience recognizes your company name in the “From” label. This signals added credibility and will resonate with your subscribers faster. In turn, it will encourage them to open your email.

Get a personalized email address that contains your business name with Professional Business Email or Email with Microsoft 365, both from GoDaddy.

Making the Subject line stand out

Think of your email’s subject line like a first impression. You often know, within the first minute of meeting someone, whether you want to get to know them or not. This split-second judgment also applies to emails, which is why Subject lines are incredibly important.

In such a small space, there’s pressure to be catchy, concise, informative and enticing.

You’re letting your audience know why you’re emailing them, without placing all your cards on the table.

On top of that, you’re also fighting for attention among the hundreds of other emails that just flooded your subscriber’s inbox.

Pro Tip: Try adding an emoji for a little bit of fun, where appropriate.

Adding a preheader

The preheader is often referred to as a snippet. It gives the receiver just enough information to move forward with opening your email.

If you’ve never used preheaders before, think of it like this: preheaders and Subject lines are a power couple. They work in tandem and complement each other. This perfect match has the potential to increase your email open rate.

Formatting your email

The heart of your campaign is the email body. It’s where you can unleash all your creativity through beautiful email design.

Did you know that most email templates are formatted in two ways? There are single column and multicolumn formats.

What’s wonderful about templates is that you can invest your time and energy into making sure your email design matches your company’s brand.

Various color swatches fanned out on a table

From colours and fonts to logo and tagline placements, you can curate fabulous emails that are consistently on brand.

Hot Take: Check out this article on colours in advertising. By identifying which colour combos work and don’t work, you’ll be able to navigate colour coordination for your email campaigns.

These email marketing trends will help you improve your email formatting.

Things to include in the body of your email

Every email has a greeting. If you’re using customer relationship management (CRM) software, you can extract data such as first name to personalize your emails. You can also segment your email list to match your target audience.

Depending on your chosen email layout, your copy will need to be modified to fit the email’s subsections. It’s through subsections that your email design becomes elevated.

This is particularly true for newsletter-style emails. In these emails, your audience becomes familiar with your layout and knows exactly where to find updates on topics they’re most interested in.

Email layouts often include the following:

  • Headlines
  • Subheadings
  • Illustrations
  • Photography
  • GIFs
  • Action buttons
  • Hyperlinks

One way to streamline your email, and reduce thick blocks of text, is to use hyperlinks. These links can connect to longer content on your website, where you have built out the full story.

A word of caution: use hyperlinks sparingly. If the hyperlink doesn’t align with your core call to action, rework your copy or plan a secondary email to ensure that you’re driving traffic where it is needed.

Using company-owned photography vs. stock photography

Stock photography is everywhere and those who use it often are quite skilled at selecting the most natural-looking stock on the market. That’s why you’ll see the same photos being used by more than one company.

Person holding camera with smartphone and laptop nearby

Professional photography is always a worthwhile investment because you’ll get a lot of mileage out of those assets. But don’t worry if you haven’t budgeted for photo shoots. Quality images and videos can be taken with your smartphone.

Making your call-to-action noticeable

One of the many ways you’ll measure the success of your email campaign is through click-through rates (CTR) and conversion rates. If your goal is to sell more T-shirts, and someone clicks on the link that brings them to the product page, this counts as a CTR.

Success? Well, kind of. You ultimately want the person to buy the T-shirt and, once they do, this counts as conversion.

Subscribe call-to-action button
This is an example of a call-to-action button that tells the reader exactly what to do next.

Make your call-to-action clear and noticeable. One way to do this is by using buttons that have clear language like, “Learn More” or “Register Now.” Action language inspires a click and clicks lead to conversions or sales.

Additional notes on contact information, social media and CASL

Every professional email has a footer at the bottom with a sign-off.

This could include the sender’s name with contact details or a thank you message with an email address for inquiries.

Beneath that, you can place your most-used social media icons, your company’s address and the option to opt-out of your emails. Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) is a big deal and you’ll want to ensure that every piece of content you send out to your subscribers is CASL compliant.

Editor’s note: The super-easy email tool included with GoDaddy’s Digital Marketing Suite automatically includes a CASL-complliant opt out at the bottom of every email you send.

Email design recap

Email marketing is extremely competitive. This is especially true now that many Canadians are working from home and spending additional time online. By living in our inboxes, we’re becoming more selective about what we want to read and what is worth our time.

When you create an email with personality, you’re creating an experience.

If it becomes memorable, it builds on the relationship you’re creating with your customers.

Beautiful email design includes everything from an enticing subject line and preheader, to well-formatted body copy that’s in line with your brand. Taking these steps will ensure you’re primed to craft emails that get opened — and acted on.

Remember, you’re measuring the success of your email campaigns on three things: open rate, click-through rate, and conversion rate. Keeping your emails pointed, with clear calls-to-action, will help your audience quickly identify what you’re asking them to do.

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