Email Message Design for Better Response

by Karen J. Marchetti

What are the most important design elements for better response from email now?

Beyond the Subject Line, and avoiding the latest “spam trigger” terms, there are 2 critical elements of email design . . .

1. Put the most critical words at the top

What are you placing in the top 2 to 4 inches of your email?  That’s about all that will show within the “preview pane” of many email programs.  You should have the single most important thing you can say to the email recipient in that top 2 to 4 inches.

  • Be sure you include a benefit-oriented headline that gives the recipient a reason to read further.
  • If you’ve merely got a big masthead or big logo there, you may not be getting all the response you could be.

2. Call to action “above the fold”

What’s “above the fold”  in a preview pane? It’s that same 2 to 4 inches mentioned above.

That means your benefit-oriented headline needs to introduce the Offer, and be clickable.

With a newsletter, each article headline should also be clickable, to take the recipient directly to the complete article.

If you’re making an Offer, be sure the link appears “above the fold” :

  • You want the recipient to see there’s something to respond to in your email
  • Links tend to catch the eye and draw the reader in

If you’re doing an HTML email, position your response button “above the fold”, as high up in your email as possible.

And be sure you have a text link to respond, in case the recipient has “images off” or is viewing your email on a mobile device.

Do Your Emails Pass These 5 “Effectiveness Tests”?

  1. Is the most critical copy in text with no background, so it can be easily read even if graphics are turned off — and no matter what the email program?
  2. Do you have your most critical message in the first few lines of your email message — to ensure the most critical words show in the preview pane?
  3. Is your email message easily scanable? If I just read the items that stand out to the scanning reader, do I get your entire message? What if graphics are turned off — can I still easily scan and get the entire message? 
  4. Is your HTML version completely usable without the graphics? (The majority of email programs now have “graphics off” as the default.)
  5. CAN-SPAM required elements:
    • Do your email messages contain your physical mailing address in text (rather than within a graphic, that might not be read by the recipient’s email program)?
    • Do your email messages contain an unsubscribe link that is operable with graphics off?