Three Design Tips To Help You Create Visually Stunning Emails

When it comes to email design, there’s a golden rule to keep in mind:

Less is more.

Look, we get it…

Drag-and-drop email builders are fun, simple to use, and they come with so many elements that you can play around with.

Bearing this in mind, it’s easy to get carried away when you’re designing your email.

You start by adding one element.

And then another.

And another.

Before you know it, you’ve got:

  • A fire-engine red banner
  • A countdown timer
  • 3 different Calls To Action (CTAs), and
  • A GIF with a dancing bear

…all in the same email.

But it’s important to rein it in, and exercise some restraint.

Why? Well, you don’t want your reader to get distracted or confused by your email.

It’s really a split-second thing…

If your reader opens your email, and they aren’t IMMEDIATELY sure of what they should do, they’ll trash the email without a second thought.

But here’s the good news:

You don’t have to be a UI expert to create emails that look good and are effective in getting your readers to take action. It’s not rocket science!

In this article, we’ll discuss 3 email design tips that’ll help you send out beautiful and high performance emails every time.

Alright, let’s get to it!

1. Use the inverted pyramid technique to channel attention

If you’ve never heard of the inverted pyramid technique, this is basically a framework that helps you structure your emails.

Here’s what it looks like:

Basically, you’re funneling readers through your email message by grabbing their attention then keeping them engaged in a way that motivates them to act!

Let’s dive into some specifics so you can learn more about each level of the pyramid!

Level 1: Attention-grabbing Headline

The main purpose of your attention-grabbing headline is to convey a specific value proposition.

For example, say you’re emailing to share 3 tips for aspiring bloggers. You could craft a headline that reads:

Check out my 3 tips on how to blog effectively

But, you really want your headline to grab reader’s attention. To make it even more compelling, use powerful words that evoke some sort of emotion from your reader. Like this:

Here are the 3 worst mistakes that rookie bloggers make!

Or even:

How to become a successful blogger… even if you’re a TERRIBLE writer!

The content is essentially the same, but by reframing it, you can get your message to be that much more intriguing.

Level 2: Exciting & Informative Details

Next, you’re going to build anticipation & talk about how you’ll deliver on your value proposition.

You’ll want to frame your content in a way that is engaging, exciting and keeps readers hooked!

Take that same blogging example. Here’s a few sentences you could use to share more details with your audience:

I sat down with [Influencer Name], the top blogger in the [XYZ industry], and got him to spill his secrets.

Here are the tactics that he personally used to grow his blog from 0 to 3,000,000+ readers per month. (Hint: you can pull this off even if you’re horrible at writing).

Level 3: CTA

Finally, you use your call to action to seal the deal!

Your CTA should be strategic, compelling and (most importantly) impossible to miss.

Keeping with the blogging tips example, you could try a CTA with bit more detail:

Get insider access to [Influencer Name]’s blogging strategy

Or, you could keep it simple with something like:

Blog like a pro!

If you’re not totally sure what type of call to action will work best for your audience, you can learn more about crafting irresistible CTAs right here.

Now that you know all 3 levels, here’s a quick recap of how you can use the inverted pyramid technique for yourself:

  1. Start with a strong, value-based headline for your email
  2. Build the second level of your pyramid with more details
  3. Finish off the third level of your pyramid with a strong CTA

2. Use a single column layout to avoid distractions

Now, we know some marketers like to use multiple columns in their emails, because this allows them to fit more content into each email.

At what cost, though?

It’s much better to use a single email to convey a single idea, and have that stick…

Instead of using a single email to convey five different ideas, and have all the ideas fall flat.

But don’t take our word for it. Have a look for yourself…

Between this email:

Asana - Stunning Emails - Sendlane

And this other email:

Which do you think will get the point across better?

The first one, of course!

Now, here’s what you should do:

  • Look at your campaigns, and identify all your emails that use multiple column layouts
  • Pick out all the different messages within each individual email
  • Decide on which message you want to focus on with the email (only ONE!)
  • If need be, insert more emails into your sequence to address your other messages
  • Alternatively, look at your targeting and see if you can break down your campaigns and get more granular with them. This way, you can serve different emails to individual segments, instead of bombarding your whole list with all your messages.

3. Make your email easy to scan

Alright, here’s our final tip: make your email easy to scan.

Now, the first thing you can do is include enough white space on your email.

What is white space, you ask?

It’s the section of your email that’s blank or unused. White spaces essentially separate all your text and graphics, and make your email look less “crowded”.

If you still don’t get what the deal is with white space, check out these two images:

The content of the emails are exactly the same, but the second one looks a lot less intimidating, doesn’t it?

It doesn’t matter if you’re using text-only emails or emails with text and images, by the way.

In both cases, white space is still a necessity!

White space aside, other ways you can use to make your emails more readable include:

  • Using bullet points or numbers
  • Using shorter sentences and paragraphs
  • Using bucket brigades (this article talks about them in the context of blogging, but you can apply it to emails as well)
  • Including emojis, pictures, videos and GIFs

Here are two very different emails that use white space in very different ways, yet both emails are still super easy to read and absorb:

Shorter sentences, numbered lists and adequate spacing make a WORLD of a difference, don’t they?

The Key To Great Email Design Is Clarity

Before you send your email out, do this one thing…

Take a good, hard look at it, and ask yourself whether your message is clear.

If it is, then you’re good to go! Go ahead and send out that email.

If not, then review the three tips we’ve discussed in this article, and use them to give your email a quick detox!

Caitlin Hutchinson

Caitlin Hutchinson

Social Media & Community Manager at Sendlane
A native of San Diego, California, Caitlin has a passion for developing creative and engaging marketing content. She is primarily responsible for overseeing the development, execution and delivery of digital content across all of Sendlane’s channels as well as maintaining an online presence of Sendlane's team culture. She has enjoyed being a part of a powerhouse team where she has had the opportunity to wear a variety of hats and take her knowledge and creativity to the next level. When not focusing on increasing Sendlane's online presence you'll find Caitlin playing music on her guitar or piano and spending time with her Husband and their rescue dog, Piper.
Caitlin Hutchinson