Emails: Designs that Sell Your Products
Designing for e-mail clients: The most difficult aspect of Web design creating sites that work and look the same on all mainstream browsers. Interestingly enough, creating e-mail templates is much trickier than standard Web design. While Web sites have to be created to work and appear the same way on four or five different browsers, e-mail templates have to be built to look the same in hundreds of different e-mail clients (hotmail, gmail, yahoo, aol, etc.). In addition to that, e-mail clients are designed to ignore a great deal of modern Web design standards and provisions to keep custom e-mails from interfering with their functionality.
This makes custom HTML e-mail design even trickier. There are also little tricks and known standards that can be applied to get the most out of your e-mail marketing efforts. For example, most e-mail clients (AOL e-mail, Outlook, etc) have some form of preview pane. This allows the user to see a preview of the e-mail before actually opening it.
Often enough, this is the most people will ever see of an e-mail, so it's imperative to make sure that the most important or enticing information is visible in this area. Since the preview pane often exposes the top half or left half of an e-mail, it's best to keep the main substance in the upper left-hand corner. This allows you to take advantage of most e-mail client's preview pane.
Another important thing to remember is that nearly all e-mail clients disable images by default. They require the user to click a link that may say something like, "Click here to view embedded images," to display the images. By adding well written "alt text" to the HTML image tag, a small paragraph of text will be displayed in place of the images if the user does not decide to activate them. Let's say you had a simple ad for a new book that you have just released and it's on sale for a short time.
The image may look great, but there's a chance it will never be seen. However, you can have alt text in place that will show up in that very situation. A good example of effective alt text might be, "New book release: [Book Title]. Take advantage of our new release sale! For a limited time only." It's simple, direct to the point, includes a call to action, and fear of loss.
Avoiding SPAM filters: Spammers are constantly changing their tactics to outsmart SPAM filters. As a result, SPAM filters are in a constant state of evolution. At first, filters were designed to look for specific words and phrases. Spammers learned to embed images of their content into e-mails, so that the SPAM filters couldn't detect them. As a result, SPAM filters are very sensitive to e-mails with a one large image or a high density of images.
Because of this, it's important to balance the use of images with equal textual content, proper HTML markup, and, as mentioned before, clear alt text. Some other SPAM filter triggers include: Excessive use of exclamation marks. LOTS OF FULLY CAPITALIZED WORDS. Unbalanced use of images. Poor HTML markup. Any of these things can cause your e-mail to end up in your subscriber's SPAM/Junk folder before ever seeing their inbox. Worse yet, your e-mail can be marked as abusive by default, which can eventually lead to your e-mails being blacklisted entirely. Note that typically, when you are blacklisted, many e-mail clients (not just the ones that reported your e-mails as abusive) will send your e-mails to the junk folder by default. Getting off of a blacklist is a very tedious and difficult process.