Everybody knows that email has the highest ROI among all other marketing channels. The reason is quite obvious. It’s the channel most used for lead nurturing. You create a list of contacts interested in your product, send them timely and engaging content to get them to buy from you repeatedly. Emails allow you to send highly targeted and personalized messages in the right time to the right people hence reducing the costs and increasing the ROI. 

But to take advantage of email’s great potential, you need to know how to design them to have the most impact. In this article, we discuss the most common email design principles you should use to see the most impact. 


1. Prioritize the copy

The obsession over designing beautiful emails should not prevent you from writing engaging copy. As a matter of fact many email experts prioritize email’s copy over the visual design. Let’s get a little deeper on how you should do email copywriting. 

 The copy of your email has two main parts you need to focus on: 

  1. Preview part (what the receiver sees this part before opening the email)
  2. Email’s body (what the receiver sees after opening the email) 

Obviously the first part is important for getting your email opened in the first place while the second part is focused more on getting CTA clicks. 

1. The preview part

The preview part is what’s visible from your email in your recipient’s inbox. Most of the inboxes show three parts of your email: the sender’s name, the subject line, and a few words preview of your email’s body. 

  1. Optimize the sender’s name. Sender’s name is probably the first thing people check when reviewing an email. So make sure to use a familiar name. I personally prefer the combination of your first name + your company’s name. 
  2. Honest subject lines work best. The hype over attention-grabbing subject lines is overrated. Kudos to clever subject lines but sacrificing everything else for your clever subject lines is not a good idea. Avoid deceptive and clickbait subject lines at any cost. If you can’t come up with a clever (but honest) subject line, a description of what the email’s about is the best choice.  
  3. Pay special attention to the first few words of your body. People might judge your whole email based on the few words that are seen in the preview part of your email. Make sure to spend time to make them interesting and engaging. 


The body part:

The copy of your emails has one single goal. To get people to click on your CTA.  

  1. Your email’s body should not divert from what you have promised in the preview part. The content of your body should match the sender’s name or the subject line of your email. You don’t want to lose people’s trust in your email communications. 
  2. To write engaging copy, you need to know your audience well. It’s more about addressing their core issues, problems, or interests in a timely manner than the choice of words. Research your audience’s demographic (age, gender, nationality, etc.) and psychographic (interests, concerns, issues, etc.) and use them in your email copy. 
  3. Be clear about your offer and include a CTA with a link to your website at the end of your email’s body. 


2. Use consistent branding elements

Branding is about leaving your mark in all your marketing efforts. Your email design should reflect your brand as well. To do this apart from the tone and style of your copywriting, you need to be consistent in the choice of design elements such as fonts, colors, icons, etc. 

Brand consistency in your emails makes it easier for people to recognize you when they receive an email from you. This increases the chances of getting your emails opened and your links and CTA’s clicked. 

You want to make sure that people who see your website, your social media profiles and your ad campaigns have a consistent experience and expect the same good results from you. So even after clicking your links and CTA’s in your emails and being delivered to your landing page, you need your customers to see your brand all along. 

Here’s how Freshworks keeps its branding consistent through its different channels. 

By using the same copy and design elements its website and emails Freshbooks manages to: 

  • Provide the same pleasant experience for its users across all channels. 
  • Stick its messages and values in the mind of its customers for a longer time. 
  • Create trust and credibility for its brand. 

3. Optimize for mobile 

 61.9% of email opens occurred on mobile in 2019 according to stats provided by EmailMonday. Obviously if your emails are not optimized for mobile viewers, you’re providing a bad experience for a huge chunk of your readers.  

Most email services have the option to view the email on different devices such as desktops and mobile phones. Make sure to use this option to check out your emails before sending them. 

There are some ways to optimize your emails for mobile: 

  1. Optimize the sender’s name. As you can see in the image above, the first thing that’s seen from an email on mobile is the sender’s name. So you need to optimize that to have better effects. There are various formats but the one I’m personally interested in is [sender’s first name + company’s name] like in “Kevan from Buffer”.
  2. Keep your subject lines short. Because mobile phones are held horizontally most of the time, the length of your lines should be so much shorter. The optimal subject line length on mobile is 40 characters and below.  
  3. Use large fonts and write in one column. The optimal width for your emails on mobile phones seems to be 600 pixels. Try not to exceed that. 
  4. Don’t use too many images. Images are perfect for getting people’s attention. Consider using necessary images only (such as backgrounds, product images, data visualizations, etc.) 
  5. Consider post-click optimization. The success of your email marketing depends on whether people would act in the page they’re being directed to from your email. Always use responsive design to optimize your pages for mobile and optimize them for more conversions.  


Heavy images take longer to load and are in many cases blocked and not shown in the viewer. Remember to use alt texts for your images as well. 

Phone numbers, mails and emails are some of the most popular direct marketing channels. Because of the great personalization potential of these channels, they’re used more frequently as lead nurturing methods as well. You basically do all your marketing to get people’s email addresses or phone numbers and start building trust with them through meaningful communication. 


Email is more preferred by people because of the ease with which they can respond back to the brands as there is no pressure to respond quickly — they can respond back in a few days and still consider the communication fruitful. If you’re interested in faster communications that are as fruitful as email, consider using live chat for your brand. 


**The views & opinions expressed in this guest post are of the guest author’s and do not necessarily reflect the opinions & views of the Design Roast community as a whole.**


About the author

Lexie Lu

Hello! My name is Lexie and I have a fervor for design, writing, and coffee. I graduated with a dual major in Creative Writing and Commercial Design, and through those grueling study hours (facilitated by coffee, of course) I always found time to write for myself.

My posts feature design trends throughout all industries and show how the field is always changing. There’s never a dull moment in the design world!

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