[35] Holiday Planning: Design No-Nos – Email Growth Society

[35] Holiday Planning: Design No-Nos

CWEG 35 | Email Designs To Avoid


As we get closer to the holidays, we must talk about design. We all have these amazing dreams on what we may develop and send out this holiday season, but my friends, you must avoid some things to reach max deliverability and keep those ISPs happy. In this episode, I chat through the top 5 design no-nos to avoid. Your recipients will thank you!

Have questions for me? Email them to me at conversations@emailgrowthsociety.com.


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Holiday Planning: Design No-Nos

We are in the thick of holiday planning. In this episode, we are focused on email design. We will be looking at five big no-noes you will want to avoid this holiday season but first, the backstory. Did you know that Google AKA Gmail, cracks down a little bit more during the holiday season, typically starting about mid-November? It makes sense. After all, there are roughly 116.5 million emails sent on Black Friday alone.

If you have not already foldered certain brands, likely they will start appearing in your promotions folder. In some ways, Google is leveling the playing field here. What happens is every eCommerce promotional type email goes into the promotions folder and only the brands with credibility to the recipient. These are brands that your recipients have paid attention to you before or you stand out, are going to be interacted with.

With that being said, deliverability is a huge factor to consider. As we have chatted about before, that has a lot to do with your email designs. In the spirit, we are going to look at five big no-noes to avoid. First and foremost, right out of the gates is literally my biggest pet peeve, the full image email. If I have said it once, I have said it a thousand times before. You must not send an email that is 100% images. I know in your mind you can keep your brand so much more intact. The font is even exact. You have seen bigger brands doing it. It's easier to design these images and then build the email.

Friends, this is not going to work as we progress forward in time and certainly not for the holidays. One big thing our email clients love to do during the holiday season is block images. Imagine how many people will receive your email 100% blank? It happens a lot. Not to mention, we need to remember accessibility best practices. The live text allows you to accomplish this.

The golden rule is this. If your image does not show up in an email, can the recipient still understand what you are asking them to do? If the answer is no because your email is 100% images, time to change that stat. If you take one bit of advice from this episode, I promise you, friends, that if you are going to send full image emails during the holiday season, you are setting yourself up for a disaster.

Number two no-no is going to be image sizes that are too big. It doesn't matter what email service provider you are using to deploy your emails. Every single one of them has a max image size as well as image size recommendations. All you have to do is go to Google and type in your tool's name image size recommendations, and it will pop up.

Email clients do not like loading big images. They likely will begin to flag your email as spam if it takes too long to load. A helpful tip, send yourself a proof and try it on Apple Mail and Gmail or a variety of email clients. If you are getting a delay at all, and I'm talking about even 2 to 3 seconds, time to reduce the size. This goes for gifts, especially. People are impatient. If they open your email, intrigued and the email looks like there's a problem, in this case, the image is loading, they are going to leave every single time. Make sure your image sizes are the right size. Honestly, this is a super easy one.

CWEG 35 | Email Designs To Avoid


The next one is using 2 and 3 columns, too much dirt in your email templates. Oftentimes, we want to get creative with our emails. We usually have a designer that is mocking up this email. They've got the whole brand in mind and are putting in collage pictures and different off-centered 2 or 3-column art blocks. That's a typical thing that happens. This often leads to two-plus columns in the email if we want to bring it to life exactly how our designer has mocked this up. When we started to layer in columns, we risk the email coming through incorrectly on a variety of mobile devices.

Especially if you get creative and have images slanted or slightly askew in a collage format. While this is a beauty on desktop, it is an ugly duckling on mobile and often will be completely dysfunctional. I'm saying that if we are looking at a desktop image and we've got four pictures in a grid, sometimes there's copy layered in there. When we move this into mobile, sometimes the copy is over the wrong image. It's a disaster.

Remember, email is not a print-ready design. We need functionality first. When I meet with clients for the first time that has used simple email, often they have decent benchmarks because simple is great. Sticking with a one-column approach is safe and works well. What I mean by this is you have your headline, copy block, image, and CTA. It is a one-column straight down.

You can tuck in a couple of product rows that have three products but let's not overdo it. This is an easy one that you can start to get wild and crazy. The bottom line is that for the holidays, people want to know what your deal is. They want to know what the deal of the day is and don't care about fancy. Keep it simple.

Number four, your email is too long. I don't mean copy here. The length of the email itself is too long. You have built it too long. This is a sneaky one. Sometimes, we have a wonderful story to tell in our email and I love these emails. They are some of my favorites. We have the lifestyle copy, lifestyle image, maybe some product shots. This goes all the way down.

We put in our loyalty program and have our footer. When we look at this email and screenshot that, it looks like a full infographic. It is long. You typically see an email like this with a gap, for instance, so much in one email but it does work. However, Gmail is notorious for cutting your email off. It happens all the time and likely has already happened to you, and you don't even realize it. Think about maxing out your holiday emails to about five sections and send yourself proof to see if you can see the whole email all the way to the footer.

Deliverability is a huge factor to consider, and that has a lot to do with your email designs.

If you have it cut off in your inbox on a proof, believe me, this is how it will show up on deployment day. Remember, you never want somebody to have to click a link to view your whole email. That's another step. That's more friction. What we want them to do in the email is click to shop. Make sure your emails are not too long. Again, as I said before, and I will say it again, simple is always best, especially during the holiday season.

Last but also super important is you need to be cognizant of colors that don't work with dark mode. In all transparency, as an email provider to others and an email guru, I dislike dark mode. It's a pain but the majority will be using it soon enough. As phones continue to progress, it's going to be the default. In the spirit, you must ensure that your email looks proper in dark mode. Dark mode does the inverse of whatever you are trying to achieve on the surface.

White backgrounds are great because they fill with black on the flip but your fancy brand colors, your dark greens, pale yellows, all of those custom hex goals, you will never know what they look like until you know by getting a tool like Litmus to check. You will be astonished at how terrible some of your emails will look in dark mode, and that could be the only way your recipients are seeing them.

Test out some colors and make sure once you find the top 3 to 5 that work well, you stick with those, especially for go time. One other thing to note here is that if you are using any file that's a JPEG and has a white background in the back, let's use your logo, for example. When you flip to dark mode, all of those logos start to show up as the square of the image. While you have built it looking like it's just the logo and on a white background, so it doesn't matter, it starts to look like a poorly put-together PowerPoint presentation.

You are going to want to start using some transparent backgrounds if you are going to do dark mode the right way. One other thing to note, my friends, is holiday time isn't the place to try new things when it comes to designs. You have likely sent a lot of emails by this time, and hopefully, you have done some testing. Go back and see what emails have the best CTR. There are going to be some trends there. We find that the simpler you approach this, the better. Hands down, this is number three for that tip.

For more on design best practices, go back to my favorite, Anne Tomlin, in episode 24. She is a master developer and has approached email from a deliverability perspective. She has great tips to share on that episode. If you have any questions for me, please send them my way by emailing Conversations@EmailGrowthSociety.com. Until next time, happy holiday planning, everyone.

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