The Internet is a mean place for your email. Your carefully crafted email is released into the wild. If it isn’t mangled by the email service, it might be caught in a spam filter. If it survives, your email might surface in an email app using 10-year-old Web technology. Images might not be displayed. If it gets past those obstacles and is opened, the email likely will be viewed on a screen the size of a business card.
Emails break, get lost and turn ugly. Don’t let this happen to your email.
Here at Bader Rutter, we think about this stuff a lot. We build nearly one email campaign per day (more than 300 in the past year). We brought our best email minds together and locked ourselves in a room with a whiteboard to recount every horror story and every heroic fix. After much discussion, we realized there were seven key weaknesses that will break your email. We call them the Seven Deadly Sins of email design.
Avoid these sins and watch your email survive and thrive:
Deadly Sin No. 1: Lust. “If it’s on the Web, I want it in my email.”
If it works on a Web page, it should work in an email, right? Nope. For safety reasons, email apps such as Outlook and Gmail, as well as the inbox on your iPhone, restrict an email’s content. Videos don’t play, animated GIFs might not work and custom fonts are sketchy. Even typical features such as columns, multiple sections and borders are not always displayed correctly.
Our advice: Embrace the constraints. Every email (even your competitors’) faces the same challenges. You still can stand out.
Deadly Sin No. 2: Pride. “My email design is so great, it will work everywhere. Right?”
Email programs have different capabilities that affect the layout. Is your audience using Outlook 2002, 2003, 2007, 2010 or 2013? Outlook.com? Gmail? Yahoo? Are they on an iPhone 4S? 5? 5S? Samsung Galaxy S3? S4? iPad Mini? iPad Air? There are at least 40 email apps that your audience might be using. Each one handles email differently.
The appearance of your email depends on the email app used. Look at the examples included here that show email layouts before and after our team tested them in various email apps. Your email developer needs the time and the design flexibility to make your email work across all email apps.
Our advice: The BR team recommends an online email testing tool named Litmus that lets an email developer quickly test an email across all email apps and devices.