319.6 billion emails are sent by email developers on a daily basis, which translates to 126 emails per email user per day. Those are very big numbers, and among a myriad of messages, the easiest and most effective way to stand out is to use visually appealing email templates. Ever since HTML email templates became mainstream, businesses have extensively used the generic, ready-to-use templates available online, which isn’t completely a bad idea.
When intending to meet your sender intent, one size fits all approach doesn’t benefit your email strategy. Today, I will share a few tips that I came across during my long career as an HTML email developer that will help add visual appeal to your email design. Let’s get started.
#1 Use Animations To Instill Humor
It is no secret that using a GIF will provide you with an opportunity to display emotions without having you embed a video. It gives you an alternative to static images, which have limited ability to draw engagement and videos that might not go well with the low latency regions. Among all emotions, humor is one of the most sought after and hence, I recommend instilling humor through animations.
When embedding a GIF, make sure to keep its size below 200kb as it helps keep the email file size lighter. Also, many email clients don’t render GIFs, and hence, you would want to include all required details in the first frame of your GIF. In the below example from Headspace, you can clearly feel the ‘meltdown’:
Another trend gaining traction is cinemagraphs, where a small portion of the image moves while the rest of the elements stay steady. They are also simple to use as cinemagraphs are saved as either GIFs or an HTML5 video.
#2 Play With Size To Display Importance
When using static images, email developers seldom pay attention to what size they can achieve for them. Just like in real life, you can use image size to display importance and relevance. No doubts, it will require you to do away with the traditional block-based email templates but doing it correctly will make your messages look surreal.
It again boils down to using whitespace aptly and interweaving the image size with context. In the below example from Chipotle, you can clearly find how they used the size of their food items to signify that the rewards were huge enough to lure customers. Similarly, you can use different image size combinations to reinforce your message, but don’t forget embedding ALT text as many email clients may not display images while a significant number of email users read their messages with images turned off.
#3 Be Creative With Typography
Typography is not a new trend in email design, but we can surely agree that it isn’t explored to its full potential yet. You can experiment with different layouts and even backgrounds to imitate various design languages instead of using cliched templates. In the below example, we can find a very classic typography design wrapped in an email template:
As I said, there’s a lot of scope for creativity when it comes, and you can also overlay images on the typefaces:
#4 Use Hero Image Properly For Storytelling
Hero images are, in fact, underrated when it comes to using them for storytelling. In most cases, they are used for adding aesthetic appeal or for simply displaying the products. While that’s completely fine in many cases, one needs to understand that they can play the ‘hero’ when used for storytelling.
I recommend using hero images as a proper storytelling prop and resonate with your email copy. This would require you to show action or the results with a proper background that makes it easy for the recipients to understand the context. You don’t need to go overboard as even simple representation works well, and in many cases, it’s all you need, like in the below email:
#5 Embed Videos In New Avatars
Videos in the email are appreciated by both email marketers and subscribers, but when it comes to embedding them, they follow pretty much the same fashion since the beginning of this trend. In most cases, a video is hosted on a third-party website, and the subscriber can click on the video to play it.
You can try embedding a GIF that depicts a small portion of the video to tickle the curiosity of your subscribers. A still from the video and a simple play button can also give a fresh appeal to your email designs. Thus, one needs to understand that divulging from the expected design language can create a better overall feel. But you need to keep in mind that the email design should follow all accessibility best practices. Netflix nailed this concept in the below example:
In this article, we can clearly find that adding a unique touch to otherwise known design elements is the key to redefining the visual appeal of your email design. On top of that, I would like to add that a visually good email design should also be intuitive and lead the subscribers towards click-throughs naturally. Visual appeal is all about striking the right chords, and email design hasn’t harnessed most of the designing principles that other media formats are using for a long time now. I hope this article inspires you to create unique email designs in 2021 and beyond.
Kevin George is the Head of Marketing at Email Uplers, one of the largest Email Templates production company which specializes in converting PSD to email templates. He loves gadgets, bikes, jazz, and breathes ‘email marketing’. He is a brand magician who loves to engage and share insights with fellow marketers.