Building engaging emails can be a creative challenge for all designers, as there are so many restrictions compared to web pages – but don’t let this deter you! Emails are an excellent opportunity to build positive brand recognition and maintain a strong relationship with your customers. As one in a small team of designers at Movio, I’ve learned to understand customer needs, the importance of testing and redesigning, and how to best work alongside our developers to ensure sharp and sleek email design across all devices. In this blog post, I’ll take you through some of our top tips for producing creative, engaging and functional emails in no time. Learn the rules like a pro so you can break them like an artist!
Tip One: Consistency
Part of what makes a good email is consistency: it’s important to maintain a fluid experience for your customers. From your website to social media to email communication, all content should feel like it belongs together. With strong branding, you can differentiate yourself from others, and offer a consistent experience that builds trust and creates a foundation for loyalty.
If you don’t already have one, consider creating brand style and usage guidelines – it will help you build your brand’s look and feel and tone of voice, making sure all your communication is cohesive. Brand guidelines should steer your messaging and be a reflection of your brand’s values and mission.
Tip Two: Accessibility
Accessibility is the foundation to a great email campaign. In the design world, creating accessible emails means thinking about what device your readers will open your email in, clear messaging, how you use your color palette, and testing your design for color blindness, font size and visual hierarchy. Email campaigns should be a continuation of your relationship with your customer and allow them to experience your content in the best possible way so they can get more out of your campaigns. Understanding accessibility doesn’t have to be complicated - just a few tweaks and tricks can get your email to the next level:
Build a logical structure – Visual hierarchy can make or break your email. Therefore, the most important content in your email should always go at the top. You want to grab the reader’s attention and get them scrolling to read your whole email. Use headers to your advantage, make it clear where you want your reader to look, but remember to keep it short. Long headers can make your email look clunky and can take up too much space. The key to a good email is keeping it simple with compact information, plenty of clear space to keep it feeling fresh and easy-to-read. You can always direct readers to your website to find out more.
Use contrasting colors – Using color contrast effectively will help readers get the most out of your email. There are great tools on the market such as Colorable that will help you make the most out of your color palette. Remember that emails need to be functional, and for that they must be easy to read. Colors with very similar tones or not enough contrast can ‘vibrate’ on your screen, making them harder to read - especially for people with visual impairments. Call-to-actions such as button or links should be easy-to-see, have clear wording, and enough contrast against the background. (If you’re using Colorable, aim for a rating of AA or AAA.)
Responsiveness – Mobile-friendly designs have come a long way. Most web content nowadays adjusts to your screen with no problems, creating a smooth and stress-free experience for the end user. At Movio, we make sure all our email templates are responsive, but unfortunately not all email clients support responsive emails.
Tip Three: Fonts
Fonts are a core part of a brand. They help you create recognition, allow you to be more creative with your designs, and can help set the tone for your message. But there are some restrictions, as not all email clients can support custom fonts. At Movio, we always recommend sticking to ‘web safe’ fonts to ensure email clients will support them, and all end users will see roughly the same email.
Web safe fonts are standard fonts that can be found in most operating systems. Some of the most common ones are Arial, Times New Roman, Georgia, and Verdana. Even if you choose to use a custom web font, it’s still necessary to have one of these as a fallback for those recipients using unsupportive email providers such as AOL, Outlook and Yahoo. These providers will ignore the web font, and will instead render the web safe font you’ve chosen (eg: Arial). Here’s a list of email clients that will support web fonts.
We recommend choosing just one font per template, and certainly no more than two when absolutely necessary. Using too many will make your template look messy and create conflict. Always choose fonts that complement each other, and that are contrasting enough. Visually similar fonts can be problematic as the eye may not be able to distinguish one from another, which can actually look like a mistake rather than a purposeful choice. Instead, try using the same font family with different weights, eg: Bold and Regular.
Tip Four: Imagery
Adding images and simple animation to your email campaign brings your content to life, and should be a crucial part of your marketing collateral. Use imagery to your advantage, as it has the power to make a great first impression on your reader – but don’t rely solely on images to sell your campaign. Emails cluttered with large or numerous images don’t usually look good, and may encounter loading problems. Around 60% of emails created in Movio Cinema’s Email Editor are seen on mobile devices, which means they should load fast and be easy to read on-the-go. Other things to consider are:
Brand consistency – Every image on your email campaign (excluding movie posters) should support your brand’s desired look and tone of voice. Use your brand colors and typography where possible, and remember to keep it simple. Avoid adding large amounts of copy to images, as it won’t look crisp, and may not be legible on mobile.
File format – Whether you’re using static imagery or GIFs, file size and format matter. If your image looks distorted or not as sharp as intended, it could be the size of the file and format it was saved as. The most common and supported formats are JPG, PNG and GIF (if animated). JPGs are better for photographic imagery without text, PNGs work best for vector-based imagery, and GIFs should only be used for animated content. Be aware that not all email clients will load GIFs, so try to use the first frame to get your message across.
Tip Five: Clear Messaging
Simple messaging is one of the pillars to great email communication. If your messaging in both written and visual content doesn’t feel targeted, the content could seem like spam to whoever receives it. Here at Movio, we are constantly working on creating new products and features to help you understand your audience better, and clear, simple messaging is the extension of targeted content.
Emails can hold a lot of information, but that doesn't mean they should. A lengthy email advertising every movie showing this week can feel endless and even irrelevant, especially if a user is viewing it on their mobile device. The amount of content in your email will help you define how many images you’ll need, so the end result feels balanced. Remember: images should support your message, and not drive readers away from your content.
The restrictions in email design are slowly resolving over time and catching up to the rest of the world wide web. In the meantime, having a thorough understanding of email limitations and best practices will ensure you’re achieving the results you want throughout your email campaigns. If you’d like to learn more about optimizing your email and movie marketing, take a look at these blog posts.