The Road To Email Design Superstardom & A Look Into The Future

Want to be more innovative with your email design in 2015? Contributor Andrew King shares important considerations.


Last month, I explored some of the most innovatively-designed emails of 2014, which included sliding carousels, videos, progressive disclosure and live content.

Those emails might have impressed you, but also left you wondering “how can I apply some of those techniques to my own campaigns?” So, to help you become an email design superstar I’ve put together a list of steps that you need to take.

The Steps To Email Design Superstardom

1. Track Which Email Clients & Devices Are Most Popular Among Your Subscribers. Use an analytics tool such as Litmus or Email on Acid.

Typically, mobile devices that use the WebKit rendering engine — such as iPhone and Android devices — offer the best HTML and CSS support, and therefore, allow you to do the coolest things. Native Apple clients such as Mac Mail and Outlook for Mac also use WebKit and will support most of the techniques shown above.

Web-based and desktop clients have the most limited HTML and CSS support, so make sure you have at least 30 to 40 percent of your subscribers opening on newer mobile and iOS devices. I’m afraid that no one can help you if you’re only sending to people who use Lotus Notes, sorry.

2. Determine Which Innovative Coding Technique Will Actually Be Useful For Your Subscribers. Do you have a lot of content that could be displayed within a carousel?

Or do you produce useful video content that could be featured within your email? Whatever you decide to do, make sure it adds value and is useful for your subscribers. Don’t add bells and whistles just for the sake of it.

3. Keep It Simple! Just because we’re all used to browsing highly interactive websites on our mobile devices, doesn’t mean that your subscribers will know what to do with an interactive email.

Any interactive elements within your email should be intuitive and possibly come with some instruction.

4. Ensure That You Can Re-Purpose Your Code Across A Number Of Campaigns And Templates. I hate the idea of spending hours developing something innovative when it might only be seen once by 20 – 30 percent of your subscribers.

5. TEST, TEST, TEST, TEST. Obviously testing becomes even more important when you’re rolling out some new experimental code as there’s no telling what could happen in some email clients.

I would highly recommend physically testing your emails in your most popular email clients and devices rather than just using a screenshot tool. This will take a bit longer, but will help you identify any interaction issues.

6. Send Your Interactive Email To A Small Sample Of Your Database Before You Roll It Out To Everyone. This will help you gauge your subscribers’ reaction and tell you if there are any potential issues.

You should also ideally keep a control segment that continues to receive a non-interactive email. Some of these techniques are so new that there’s no telling what will happen. You won’t know until you try, though.

A Look Into The Future

I find that many of these innovative techniques are written about on blogs a few years before brands actually pick them up. So I’ll leave you with a couple of seriously cool ideas I’ve read about recently, which we’ll hopefully see in our inboxes sometime in the next few years:

  • Mark Robbins from Email Code Geek has created a couple of interactive games that work in some email clients, which use Webkit. Check out Splat the fly and Thwack-a-vole.


  • Anna Yeamen from Style Campaign has been experimenting with CSS shapes to create a magazine style layouts within an email

CSS shapes

  • Rebelmail is a startup dedicated to email innovation, and they are currently developing a checkout system, which works directly inside of an email. Can’t wait for that to go live!


The future looks bright for the email marketing industry and I expect to see a lot more innovation in 2015.




Marketing Land – Internet Marketing News, Strategies & Tips