Good email design is a critical part of ensuring a high response rate.

A major frustration within the industry is the lack of standards to guide designers when creating HTML email. Though there isn't one email-marketing design bible, there are fundamental design rules that should be applied. This article reviews some of the high-level design principles as well as more in-depth rules affecting some of the most common issues and questions we are most often asked.

Basics

Some basic elements should always be considered when beginning the design process:

  • 600-620 pixels is a good width for email design.
  • Don't use external cascading style sheets (CSS); instead, use CSS inlinks.
  • Optimize image sizes so they load quickly.
  • Don't use flash.
  • Don't use forms; provide readers with a link to a form if you're asking them to take a survey.

Microsoft Outlook 2007

Microsoft challenged email marketing designers after the release of Outlook 2007. In the past, Outlook rendered HTML email using Internet Explorer. The latest version of Outlook relies on Microsoft Word to do its rendering. This means that designers have several limitations, including the lack of CSS support.

What does this mean for you? Hire a designer who is familiar with email marketing design. For those of you in the B2B sector, this is even more critical as Outlook is used most frequently in the business community.

You can find extensive information on Outlook 2007 at Microsoft's Web site.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Winston Bowden is marketing and sales manager at Durham-based Contactology (www.contactology.com). Reach him via wbowden@contactology.com.