What are email templates?
Email templates are nothing but the format in which you wish to display your email content to your audience. Which is why before we begin, let’s look at a basic email message, which could be:
- Text-only, which requires zero coding
- HTML + text, in which case the email client of your audience will determine what content gets displayed.
Advantages: Simple and easy to create; looks the same regardless of the email client in use; better accessibility appears more personalized
Disadvantages: Too plain and cannot use colors or graphics for better branding; cannot use Call to Action buttons and need to rely on URLs; cannot use multiple columns for arranging your content better; cannot track performance metrics like open rates and clickthrough rates; cannot use social media sharing buttons
Advantages: can use colors and graphics which allow you to stand out, owing to better branding; better engagement due to use of images; can organize content in a more readable format; can track performance metrics and gauge user engagement; can use Call to Action buttons; can use social media share buttons
Disadvantages: Requires more effort to create, hence, takes more time; might not pass spam filters if there are way too many graphics, as compared to text; the appearance isn’t consistent throughout various platforms and devices.
Don’t you think designing each email from scratch is tedious? This is where email marketing templates come into the picture. Email marketing templates are nothing but the format in which you wish to display your email content to your audience. These are great resources to make the process of editing and sending messages way easier, because the structure remains the same, allowing you to change only the content.
Email Marketing templates could be normal or responsive, depending on the way you code them.
Normal and Responsive Templates
Normal templates are templates that do not use any special adjustments in the CSS script for elements such as font, padding, colors, etc.
On the other hand, responsive templates use media queries – a special set of CSS styles – that detect the screen size of the device and adjust the dimensions of the message accordingly. So if you are using a responsive template, you will see a large template on your PC and a relatively smaller template on your smartphone, for the same message.
Statistics courtesy: Litmus
Email marketing templates could either be bought, or designed from scratch. It all depends on how good you are with coding. If you have no prior knowledge of coding, then using a pre-designed template is your best bet. If you have some knowledge of HTML coding, then you can try develop an email template, or modify a pre-designed email template.
What is better – buying an email marketing template or designing your own template
If you wish to use pre-designed templates, there are plenty of places where you can download templates for free and these include Slate by Litmus, Zurb, Email on Acid, Email Monks, among others. Another alternative here is to use a low-cost email marketing software, like Mailee.me, that will not only help you with designing your emails, but also aid you in finding out how your emails fare with your audience.
On the other hand, if you have decided to design a template from scratch, check out Litmus webinars, which is a good place to learn how to code. Tim Slavin, Owl Hill Media has some really good presentations uploaded on Slideshare that are quite informative and contain some good coding hacks.
Choose the right email marketing template
If you have decided to use a pre-designed template, a critical decision you need to make is regarding the template itself. What type of template should you use? This is a vital question that needs answering because the template could either make or break you. Your emails could be newsletters, birthday emails, promotional offers, etc. Depending on the type of email communication, you need to change the email template. Check out this helpful post explaining how to choose the right template from the plethora of templates offered by Mailee.me.
Guidelines for designing and coding your own template
So you have decided to go the extra mile and design your own template. Good decision, however, there are a few things you need to bear in mind, before you take the plunge:
Know your audience – do a generic research to find out commonly used email clients; Mailee.me has an amazing functionality to aid you with this aspect and that is Reports. Through Reports in Mailee.me, you can find out how your email campaign is faring, what is working and what isn’t. Based on the results of your research, focus only on those clients that are actually being used by your clients and improve your email campaigns.
Use nested tables – If you wish to have a consistent structure for your email, you need to include nested tables. A few tips while using tables is that you should set cell widths instead of table widths and use pixels and not percentages for defining widths. This will ensure that your design stays consistent across email clients.
Use inline CSS – CSS helps you format your content. Since external and embedded style sheets might not always be supported by all email clients, you need to use inline CSS that will apply styles to each element of your code. This is pretty tedious and time consuming, however, there are tools like Premailer available to ensure that your CSS is inline and make this task easier for you.
Don’t use images in emails – Email clients routinely block images from downloading until the reader clicks a special button or link (a number of popular clients, including Gmail, Windows Live, and Outlook 2003 and 2007 block images by default). Hence, all that gets displayed is the ALT text. Take a look at the sample image below.
Use ALT text – ALT text describes the nature and content of your image. When the image in your email won’t load due to broken link, bad connection, email client settings, etc. the ALT text will appear instead of the image. Keep it short and precise. If needed, style it so that it doesn’t look unattractive.
Note: If your ALT text isn’t getting displayed, then probably it’s longer than the width of the image being used. As a rule, image ALT text should not exceed the overall width of your image in your message.
Test, test and test some more! Testing is critical to success. You must test your email design across different email clients and across different platforms. Things to test:
- Subject line and preheader text
- Email design and fonts
- Readability across different clients
- Compatibility across different platforms
To buy or to not buy
Ultimately, the classic dilemma that every email marketer faces is deciding whether to buy a pre-designed template or to design one from scratch. Want my suggestion? If you are a newbie, I would suggest you download some free templates and figure out how it works. If you can afford to spend, then here’s my advice – subscribe to an email marketing service that will help you learn the ropes and get some experience in this field. Simultaneously, you could learn how to code and try designing a few basic templates. Once you think you are ready, start designing your own templates to build your brand identity. Alternatively, you can purchase an email marketing software that aligns to your business requirements.
“Don’t be afraid to try new things and explore new options. Try to be unique, for that will ultimately make you stand out of the crowd.”
Interested in using an email marketing software as a one-stop solution for all your email marketing woes? Check out Mailee.me. It is inexpensive, easy to use and implement, and you can try it for free!