It would be terrific if email marketers had universal standards for the creation of all their html messages. In the absence of such comprehensive guidelines, Winston Bowden offers some fundamental design rules as a jumping-off point:

  • Aim for a width of 600 to 620 pixels. Use CSS inlinks rather than external CSS style sheets.
  • Optimize images for quick loading.
  • Avoid Flash.
  • Link to forms and surveys rather than including them in the body of the email message itself.

Now, let's say you've developed a great layout with these tips in mind. Sadly, that's still not the end of your design job. The reason? A recipient opening your message doesn't automatically see what you designed on your computer. Ensuring that they do requires testing. Here are two areas Bowden suggests you focus on:

If you target B2B customers, you must be well-versed in a quirk of Microsoft Outlook 2007, which renders html emails in Word, not Explorer. If you aren't, it may pay to hire an expert who is.

If you're targeting a B2C audience, testing on other clients—primarily Entourage, Apple Mail, Gmail, Hotmail, AOL, Thunderbird and Yahoo—will prove especially useful.

The Po!nt: Learn from the past. Even though a design "bible" for email marketing doesn't exist, you can still find the guidance you need to avoid the mistakes others have already made.

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