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The Ultimate Guide to Email Templates – Everything You wanted to know!

Category : Email Design

Email is the King! Even after its inception 4 decades ago, email marketing is still the most popular medium of communication for marketers to build meaningful relations with their customers. If you take apart the layers, the core of a successful email campaign is a well-designed and attractive email template.

The quest for creating a flawless email experience is so high that monthly search volume for email templates is a whopping 8100. This is an indication that many email marketers wish to break away from the default email templates that ESPs offer in their template library. We at EmailMonks, understand your pain and this article is an honest effort to answer all the questions and troubleshoot the hassles involved in creating an email template.

Purpose of this article

  • For a marketer to understand what goes on behind-the-scene in developing an email template
  • For a designer to learn the minimum elements required in an email and addition of different elements so as to create different emails
  • For a developer to identify the challenges faced while coding an email and also while testing it across different email clients

 


 

Table of Content:

What is an email template?

Everyone knows that an email is a combination of a subject line, a quirky email copy, an actionable call-to-action (CTA) and a CAN-SPAM compatible footer. Anything you add above these bare minimum email elements are like the seasonings you add to flavor your email template.

  • Stick to the bones and you have a plain text email.
  • Include attractive images and colorful text and you have a HTML email template.
  • Include some CSS animations and you have an interactive email.

Isn’t it fascinating?

Let’s understand about plain text email and understand it’s significance in recent times.

Introduction to plain text email

Before the integration of HTML coding in the early 1990s, emails were plain text emails available only in Unicode formatting (i.e. Unicode font and left aligned text only). Even after HTML was widely adopted, plain text emails still hold its own importance and till date, ESPs send a plain text version alongwith their HTML counterpart. Also, many email marketers make it a point to create a plain text version, as emails risk getting into spam folders. Also, some people are considered to prefer plain text emails to html.

The advantage of using plain text emails are:

  • To supersede the spam filters of certain email clients, like Outlook and Gmail, as they require the plain text versions of html emails.
  • Some email clients do not support html versions, which means that your html letters risk getting into spam folders.
  • There are people who prefer plain text emails to html.

Although, plain text emails are getting better open rates than html version, it lacks the luster of HTML emails and so has to rely on strong email copy to improve the click rates.

HTML emails and its variations

Coming to the second type of emails, HTML emails are the feature-rich version of plain text emails. Irrespective of using <div> or <table>, HTML emails have a structure, which can be manipulated to create an attractive email like this by Uniqlo:

Uniqlo Email Template

Or an out-of-box email design like this one by Random Penguin House:

Penguin Random House Email Template

The advantage of using HTML emails are:

  • When the best practices are followed, even HTML emails can avoid the spam filters.
  • Most brands like to create a seamless experience across their website, emails and even landing page and HTML helps in achieving it.
  • Different hyperlinks can be linked to different buttons in an aesthetic way.
  • A picture, as you know, speaks many times more than words can describe, and image support in HTML helps in conversing better.

Check out our step-by-step guide to create an HTML email from scratch >>

A custom-made template or ready-made template

ESPs have a library of email templates for you to use in your email campaigns. This is greatly helpful for email marketers who are starting out. But are you focusing on building relationships, rather than building brand identity. Moreover, ready-made templates are great opportunity for sending last-moment email campaigns. These email templates are mostly free or available for a small fee – a  great way for reducing overall template production cost.

Unfortunately, you however tend to compromise on the brand identity, scope of customization and exclusivity.

On the other hand, custom-made templates are unique designs & customized to your requirement. For creating an interactive email design, you need to create a custom email template. You create a brand identity that sets your email apart from the rest (once opened, obviously). Yet good things come to those who wait. Creating a custom template involves a lot more people right from design to code and testing the custom template. So, the overall turnaround time and cost need to weighed in when planning a custom email template.

Here’s an in-depth comparison between a ready-made and custom email template, check it out >>
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Starting with your email template

It is time for action; it is time to plan your email template. Email templates are like clothes, each outfit is tailored for certain occasion and has certain purpose. While welcome emails are short in email copy and more visually attractive, lead nurture emails tend to be descriptive with individual CTA buttons. Again, transactional emails have the receipt of purchase along with some cross-selling. So, while creating your first email template, you need to start with…

Which type of email will it be? What goals will it satiate?

In the buyer journey of an email subscriber, there are a minimum of 5 (or 6, if you are an ecommerce brand) email types you need to send them.

  1. Welcome Email: An email thanking the subscriber for subscribing. The email copy should introduce your brand and the call-to-action should prompt the subscriber to complete their profile or update their preferences.
  2. Newsletter Email: This periodic email educates and informs the subscribers about your brand and its products / services. Such emails should make your subscribers interested to make a purchase from your brand.
  3. Sale Promotion / Announcement Email: The email that converts an email subscriber into a customer. This email will be purely marketing in tone and should make the subscriber believe that this purchase will solve the problem ‘get the job done’ that brought them to your brand in the first place.
  4. Order receipt Email: An email to confirm the purchase made by the subscriber. This email should be triggered when a subscriber makes a purchase and can be used to promote other relevant products but the ratio needs to be 80% transactional and 20% promotional.
  5. Re-engagement Email: Not all subscribers are going to stay active and keep opening your emails. This email will give a little nudge to such dormant subscribers and may bring them back to your sales cycle.
  6. (For ecommerce) Cart Abandonment Email: Owing to many reasons, a well-nurtured subscriber may abandon their purchase mid-way. It is toxic to your business and this email will try to draw such abandoners back and re-unites them with their carts. A must-have email for ecommerce emails.

Now depending on the industry your brand belongs to, there will be more emails that you are going to need such as birthday/anniversary emails, survey / review emails, re-order emails to name a few.

What are the pre-requisites for designing an email template

Once you finalize your email type, next step is to get it designed. The email design is a very important stage as it creates your visual identity and defines the brand personality. So before you rush off to sending your design requirements, consider the following pre-requisites.

  • Your brand guidelines
  • Images of your products
  • Target Audience / Buyer’s Persona
  • Are you going to A/B test?
  • Will the mobile layout be separate?
  • Email content copy (Discussed later)
  • Hyperlinks to the landing page
  • Is there any interactivity involved? If yes, which interactivity?

 

Monks list out 13 unique interactive design elements you can use in your emails. Experience it in your inbox >>

Tools to see competitors email templates & Get inspired!

It is good to have some competition. By studying the email designs / templates of your competition you can understand the ongoing trends in your industry and decide either to follow them or create a new path for your brand. No matter which option you choose, following tools can help you scope out email templates for inspirations and competition.

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What will the email copy contain?

While email design shall visually allure your subscriber, email copy is where they get to know about the message your email wants to communicate. Do you know, your email copy actually works the magic well before the email is even opened? Well, we are talking about ‘subject lines’.

An email copy essentially contains following elements:

  • Pre-header and Subject line: This is the first thing that your subscribers are going to see. 80% of email opens depend on your subject line. Your subject line should hint what your email copy is about i.e. the purpose needs to be communicated here. Make sure it is not misleading.
  • Body Copy: The meat of your email is the body copy. The conversation started by the subject line needs to be continued here. Your email needs to provide vital information and drive the subscriber to a landing page for more information. So, your body copy needs to be short and crisp.
  • Before you sign off: The footer copy or your email signature is where you sign off but most email marketers don’t utilize it the proper way. Email signature is a real estate where a small amount of marketing can be effective.

Formatting and text alignment is as important as the email copy as it helps subscribers to scan through your email with ease. Yet your email copy has better chance of converting when you include…

Personalization in email

Approximately 60% people have shared of unsubscribing owing to irrelevant content.  Personalization by addressing your subscriber by their first name is a great step but only the first step to winning their hearts and trust. Any subscriber shares their email address in exchange of engaging content that is based on their preferences instead what you want them to read. Observe their online behavior and the stage of their buyers journey, to customize the content as per their requirement.
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Designing the email template

Now that you have the decided the email type, it is time to move forward to understand the email template from the design point-of-view. Email design is an important factor when it comes to emails. Combined with the email copy, the email design is the frontend of your email that will engage with your subscribers.

What does email design contain?

Any email design is based on 5 pillars.

  • Email Layout: An email layout dictates the placement and hierarchy of different elements of your email. A good email layout will help a subscriber scan over the content and yet take away the gist of your email copy. There are two basic email layout style:Single column layout where the email elements are stacked in a single column for minimal eye movement. This is layout is mostly preferred for creating mobile layout of emails as this layout leverages the small screen width to accommodate all the email elements without cluttering.
    Away-Email-Template
    The two column layout as the name suggests has the email elements separated in two different columns. Generally, the email elements are placed in a zig-zag pattern as subscribers are known to scan in a ‘F’ pattern and zig-zag layout combined with ample whitespace can guide the subscriber’s eye path.
    Uber-Email-TemplateThe header and footer are also a part of the email layout, even though they will remain static across all different types of emails.
  • Fonts / Typography: While the email copy conveys the message of your email, how you present the message also plays a vital role. This is where typography as well as the formatting comes into picture. Different fonts trigger different emotions in our minds and so it is important to choose the correct font.
    While emails don’t have a wide support for custom web fonts, there are different ways to implement them. Check out an extensive infographic on Typography in emails >>
  • Colors: Just like typography, different colors also communicate different emotions. The background colors, CTA button color, colors on the hyperlinks as well as the images are the part of brand guideline and define an email personality.
  • Images and Visual media: A picture speaks a thousand words. By balancing text and visuals in your email, you encourage more interaction from your subscribers, since the email message is not lost behind a wall of words. This is specially important for online retails and ecommerce industry where a visual of the product enhances the description.
  • CTA button: The point that measures how effective your email copy was, i.e. CTA button is what completes your email design. While the email copy may not be able to communicate your message completely, the CTA button redirects the subscriber to a relevant landing page and should never be missed while designing an email.

The typography and colors in an email are part of the brand guidelines that needs to be also followed while designing an email.

Importance of sticking to branding guidelines

Popular leaders and orators draw in large crowd of followers, thanks to their empowering personalities. Similarly, in order to make your emails engaging, it is important to have a towering brand personality also. You can easily replicate the brand personality in your emails by following the brand guidelines. Brand guidelines are a set of rules regarding how to use your branding elements such as colors, fonts, logos, watermarks and brand tone.

An email following brand guidelines is more identifiable and helps subscribers to build trust on your brand. Unfortunately, 38% of surveyed brands didn’t follow brand guidelines as per Litmus’ 2018 State of Email survey of 3000 marketers globally.

Why implementing a visual hierarchy can help conversions

Certain elements should catch the subscribers’ attention when they open the email. This is why creating a visual hierarchy in email right from the first fold is important. Most email designers visualize an inverted triangle while designing an email (like shown below) and place the most important information such as sale announcement, hero Images, CTA buttons, navigation buttons, etc. in such a way that the subscribers’ eye pattern is guided from a broad path in the beginning, ending to a point which is the centre of the CTA button.

As you can see in the above email from inVision, proper text formatting and semantic tags also create a textual hierarchy which aids in the visual hierarchy.

inVision Email Templates

Visit our blog post to get more details about using hero images in email

Let’s explore two elements of visual hierarchy that are sometimes placed together and sometimes at the extremes.

1. Hero image visuals – Stock photo or illustration

Hero image doesn’t fight against crimes or fly around saving damsels in distress but is a term adopted from the print industry, it is given to an image that prominently covers the entire width of a page. Hero images are placed in the first fold to act as an introduction to the email, with brands sometimes using compelling text within the image to tempt the subscriber to take action in some way.

Hero images either feature a real life photograph or an illustration to create the visual charm that entices the subscriber to open the email. Just like photographs of a product in real life helps subscriber visualize; illustration help subscribers visualize a concept which is not tangible.

Photographs as hero image are mostly used in online retails, ecommerce, travel & hospitality like the following email by the Plum Guide.

Illustrations as hero image are mostly used in industries providing I.T., SAAS or digital experience service like this email by Dropbox.

Dropbox Paper Email Template

2. Placement of CTA button

Now, this is highly crucial. As stated earlier, CTA button is a testament of how well the email was able to convert your subscribers into customers. Owing to this, the placement of CTA button is a point that has been argued since long. Most marketers stand by their faith that no subscriber would be willing to click a CTA button without learning more from the email copy. However, there stands a drawback in doing so – their are chances of less people being inclined to scroll back to the top to click the CTA and hamper click rates if there is no secondary CTA button at the bottom of email. So, make sure your CTA placement is accurate. You can also A/B test.

Referrals Email Template

On the other hand, marketers have managed to gain decent click rate from placing a CTA button in the first fold of the email.

Trello Email Template

We suggest that if your email is longer than 2 scrolls, it is a good practice to add another CTA button at the bottom of the email. Additionally, you could also place a fixed CTA button in your email. Download Sample in your inbox>>

Things to consider while designing an email

Responsive email design

Roughly 34% of emails are opened in mobile devices and with different devices available in  the market having different display sizes, it is very important that your emails are rendered flawlessly in all your subscribers’ devices. Owing to this most email marketers prefer to have a ‘mobile-first’ approach when having their email designed.

Mobile-first approach means having a one column layout created in a 600px width and adjusting the elements in a two column layout for desktop layout (only if needed). Additionally, responsive email design governs following factors:

  • Use preheader text
  • Use minimal body copy
  • Use a clear and easy to click CTA button
  • Increase the font size of body copy compared to desktop layout
  • Images are resized appropriately

Current trends in email design

There are different styles of designs that have been used in web designs since long; we have observed some brands adopting the same in emails. These are mainly campaign or event specific email designs, yet they prove that email designers/brands are attempting to make them flourish as email design trends.

  • Color crossover (Gradient backgrounds): One of the most popular web designs, the gradient background, was overshadowed by the introduction of flat / material design in early 2013. Like a phoenix, gradient backgrounds are making a huge comeback with designers and brands like Jack Threads and American Eagle Outfitters using gradients of two contrasting colors in their emails.
    Jack Threads Email Template

AEO-Email-Template

  • Double Exposure: Superimposing two different images to create an altogether new form of visual medium was discovered by photographers while accidentally exposing a photographic film with different images.Later on, designers started combining different images and layers to recreate artistic and trendy designs for the digital realm. While it is being widely used in posters and ad copies, email designers shall soon be using this illusion in email designs too.
    Spring Email Template
  • Typography: The practice of email designers using custom stylized fonts is a thing of the past. Yet email designers using big bold text over the hero image (as a part of the email copy) is a twist to the existing trend. Read more about the influence of different typography styles in email and how brands are using it effectively>> This email design by apparel retailer Banana Republic is a prime example of the same.
    Banana Republic Email Template
  • White Space/ Negative space design: One of the design trends that serves a purpose along with aesthetics is the ample use of white space, which not only improves the readability of the email copy, but also ensures that the email subscriber’s eyes are not strained while skimming through the email.Even though this is a trend that has continued for years, Monks predict that in addition to white space, email developers shall also dabble with negative space in email designs. Meanwhile, brands such as Sugarfix and Everlane have been doing well while using white space in their emails.
    SugarFix-Email-Template

Everlane-email-template

  • Single tone / Single palette (Monochromatic): Colors are all about shades, tones and tints. Yet, sometimes between the emails with colors picked straight from a bad acid trip, a monochromatic email can be a welcome change. Now with most brands acknowledging the importance of following branding guidelines , there is a chance that some more brands may come up with monochromatic emails.
    CSSConf Email Template
  • Illustrations: Another favorite amongst most email designers, there had been a dip in the emails featuring illustrations. An illustration in email gives the feel of a brand that has a fun tone to it without edging out business goals. Brands such as Post Planner and Anthropologie have been consistently sending out emails that feature an Illustration.

PostMark Email Template


Anthropolgie Email Template

  • Glitch Design: Taking a leaf out of old VHS tapes and CRT monitors, the glitch design has been a huge hit in the digital domain with many designers using the Glitch effect in various webpages, logo designs and other creative assets to recreate a retro look. With brands such as Steve Madden using the glitch effect only for its Cyber Monday promotions, there is chance that other brands shall also be inspired.
    Steve Madden Email Template
  • Minimalism: Somewhat similar to emails making use of white space, minimalistic emails are those which convey the message using very few design elements as well as a compact email copy. In the below email by Code School, there is a hero image of the courses they offer followed by a short description and relevant CTA button.
    Code School Email Template
  • Contrasting colors and Pastel colors: One of the most radical design trends is that of using pastel and soft backgrounds with harsh and contrasting elements, so as to create attention all through the email. Based on the colors used, the email tone can be dominating like the one by Spotify or professional yet casual like the one by Church Media.
    Spotify Email Template

 


ChurchMedia Email Template

  • Stock yet relevant images: Stock images are a boon to agencies who can’t spend an arm and a leg for a custom photoshoot. However, brands have made stock photos infamous amongst subscribers by using cheesy, non-authentic, outdated or irrelevant stock images. While the email looks made-up, it also loses the credibility. 2017 was witness to brands trying to eliminate the perception about stock images by using niche, relevant and actionable stock images.

Seamless design between email and landing page

Any email campaign strategy is incomplete if you only focus on the email template. An email copy only has a limited space to communicate everything and so the goal of such an email is to redirect the subscriber to a landing page by peeking their interest. Subscribers expect a seamless transition across all channels and so most brands tend to maintain a seamless design between email and landing page. This means using same design style, images and tones in both emails and landing page.

As you can see, J. Hilburn has a seamless design between both its email and landing page.
J-Hilburn-Email-Template


Associated Landing Page

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Coding the email template

Now that the email design is ready, it is time to code the 2-dimensional design into an email design. Getting an email rendered perfectly across all email clients is the dream that every email marketer and developer follows. Let’s look behind the scenes of coding an email template.

Most commonly used tags

An email marketer doesn’t need to poke their head into the email coding, yet having a basic knowledge about common used HTML tags in email coding can help you troubleshoot minor bugs in your emails yourself.

HTML tag Description
<head></head> Any style guide or media query is placed in the head section. This section is not visible to the end user.
<body></body> This is the flesh of your email and anything placed here is visible to the subscriber.
<table> Used to create a table
<tr> Creates a row within the table
<td> Creates a cell within the row
<a> Used to hyperlinking anything placed in between
<img> Specifies which image to be embedded from the source
<h1>,<h2>,<h3>,… Heading tags to specify the formatting
<p> Anything placed here will be shown as normal text
<ol> Creates an ordered / numbered list
<ul> Creates an unordered / bulleted list
<li> Adds a list item
<span> Implements a style to text as per the specified style sheet

Workarounds for different email clients

A plain looking email without much bells and whistles involved will render perfectly across all email clients without much issues. Yet it is important to take care about rendering and workarounds for 3 main email clients:

Common challenges faced

 <div> vs <table>

HTML was primarily used to code webpages, and developers adopted the practice to code emails. While webpage coding has evolved into providing better user experience using different coding technologies, emails are stuck to be coded using <table> layout.

While email clients like Apple Mail, iOS mail, Gmail and Yahoo support <div> html tag, email developers still code in table layout as Microsoft Outlook is still stuck to prehistoric rendering engines that doesn’t support <div>.  Each <div> section can be nested inside individual <td> but that would increase the code weight. Exceed the 120kb limit and Gmail will clip your email >>

Coding for maximum compatibility or selective email clients?

Different email clients use different rendering engines to render an email. So there is a chance that some of your email subscribers may not be able to see the email the way you had visualized. While  ‘View Online’ will help subscribers to see the original email but it involves more clicks and this may not be helpful from the conversion point of view.

At such a point you need to weigh in the pros & cons and code an email for maximum compatibility. In case you are including an interactive element in your email, it is a good practice to add a fallback support but it will restrict your creativity. Alternatively, you can also segment your email list based on the email clients and specifically send the email to only those subscribers with supporting email clients.

Curious to know which email clients support interactive emails? Download our ebook to learn about different interactive email elements and which email clients support them >>

CSS inlining

Webpage developers specify stylesheets either in the <head> section or by linking it to an external stylesheet. Email developers don’t have such a freedom and have to inline them. This increases the overall bulk of the code but reduces the overall loading speed of an email.

Tools to test your email template

An email template that has no gone through a stringent QA or testing process is a recipe to quickly reduce your email subscribers, and also the sign of an inexperienced email marketer. EmailMonks provide hand-coded email templates that are tested against 40+ email clients. Yet in case you make any alterations, it is a good practice to test your email templates once your email developer sends them across.

  • Email template rendering
    • EmailonAcid
    • Litmus
  • HTML validation
    • HTMLemailcheck
  • CSS inlining
    • Litmus Builder
    • CSS inliner by Campaign Monitor
    • CSS inliner by HTMLemail.io
  • Accessibility (Discussed later)
    • IA Toolkit
    • Google’s Accessibility Developers Tools
    • Wave Tool

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Building accessible emails

Accessibility in emails has been the topic of the year with everyone emphasizing on the importance of it. Designing for accessible emails means following certain regulations and respecting certain limitations when designing and coding an email. Checkout this insightful infographic on Email Accessibility created by EmailMonks in collaboration with accessibility enthusiast Paul Airy.

Following these guidelines makes email easy to access for over a billion people globally fighting disability in some way and also makes emails easy to understand for rest of your subscribers as well.  Moreover, this will greatly improve the conversion potential of your existing emailing list as well.

Things to take point while coding

  • Use Semantic Code: People rely on screen reader for ‘reading’ emails. By using relevant semantic code for heading <h_> and paragraphs <p>, screen readers can differentiate between the two and making reading your email a pleasant experience.
  • Add a relevant title: Adding title in your emails can double up as the preheader text as well as help your email subscriber gain some context when relying on screen readers.
  • Tables as presentation: By adding role=”Presentation” to each table, screen reader will read the content of your email body instead of each cell.
  • Accommodate ample white space: Whitespace is the best friend of anyone who is going to read your email on a device held at an arm’s length while being surrounded in a crowded subway. whitespace provides a breathing space between different elements in your email and helps a subscriber to glance through the entire email copy.

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Common Mistakes in email template

  • Balance between promotion and problem solving: As per Inbound marketing, your customers needs to approach your brand instead of vice versa. So, when they subscriber to your brand, they believe that your products / service shall solve their problems. Some marketers tend to tip over the line and start promoting their offerings while problem-solving aspect is in backburner.

Solution: Transactional email templates are always supposed to be 80% transactional and 20% promotional. Similarly, while creating an email template for lead nurturing automation, primary focus needs to be on educating the subscriber.

  • Single image email: This mistake is done by most email marketers. Email clients disable images by default and if your email copy is text included in the image, there is a good chance that it might get hidden away. Even worse is when marketers don’t include an alt-text to the image.

Solution: Don’t accommodate your email message on a single image and always add a relevant alt-text to your email images.

  • Illegible email copy: Custom fonts look cool but lose the charm if they cant convey the message in your email copy. Certain fonts look good when used in headline and become illegible when used in a paragraph of text. Additionally, provide whitespace by adding proper line spacing between words in a paragraph and appropriate line length.
  • No CAN-SPAM compliant footer and Misleading email copy: According to CAN-SPAM act 2009, any brand sending out marketing or commercial emails, need to include certain information in their footer to be compliant to CAN-SPAM act. From email template point-of-view, an email needs to include a valid physical address of the brand, unsubscribe link at the end i.e. footer of email to be avoid heavy penalties.Similarly, marketers need to stay away from misleading email copy as this only helps you score a handful clicks but it will cost you greatly as your subscribers may feel cheated and this will lead to unsubscribes.ISPs monitor these unsubscribes and can flag your email address as spammy and always hit your email deliverability – sending your email into SPAM.Also, certain email design methods may lead to your email being flagged as SPAM. Steer clear by learning about how email design can trigger SPAM traps.
  • Not A/B testing: The most novice mistakes that most email marketers tend to commit is believing that they exactly know what their subscribers need / are looking for. Unfortunately for them, times change; tastes change with time. So, it is a good idea to A/B testing your email templates to check what works and what can be improved.

Email templates are an indispensable part of your email marketing strategy. Understanding what goes behind the scene of email template production can help you create better email templates.

Experts Speak

We asked experts different questions regarding what are their thoughts about email templates and here what they had to answer.

 

Sam Hurley

Sam Hurley

John Thies

John Thies

Matthew Smith

Matthew Smith

Kath Pay

Kath Pay

Kait Creamer

Kait Creamer

Dave Charest

Dave Charest

Annette West

Annette West

Erik Harbison

Erik Harbison

Dennis Dayman

Dennis Dayman

Michal Leszczynski

Michal Leszczynski

Nick Crawford

Nick Crawford

Syed Balkhi

Syed Balkhi

Nout Boctor-Smith

Nout Boctor-Smith

Alex Papadopulos

Alex Papadopulos

John J. Walsh

John J. Walsh

Paul King

Paul King

Veronica Williams

Veronica Williams

Tammi Myers

Tammi Myers

Sam Hurley

Sam Hurley

Founder @ OPTIM-EYEZ

First thought that comes to your mind on hearing the word ‘Email Templates’?

#1 THOUGHT: The really bad ones I receive on a daily basis!
#2 THOUGHT: Wishing people spent more time / care ensuring templates are personal.

Which email templates are must-have in an email marketer’s template library?

It SHOULD go without saying, but you need a professional signature and/or footer – for both your brand and personal emails.
This counts for a lot, when it comes to first impressions.

Here are 5 templates I believe are must-haves:

  • Template #1: Blogger outreach template
  • Template #2: Sales-focused template
  • Template #3: Newsletter template
  • Template #4: Drip-feed template [educational / value-focused]
  • Template #5: ‘Special’ template [HTML crafted / standout]
Do you believe in sending innovative emails (planned months in advance) or plain-looking emails (less time consuming)?

A mixture of both is best to try & You won’t ever know if you don’t experiment!
It’s all about what YOUR target audience expects, and every business will require different strategies.

For example, I find results are better when sending plain-looking emails – although beatifully-designed templates would probably work infinitely better for a home decor brand…
Apply different styles, split test, and measure performance!

What are the 3 things you first notice when you open an email you just received?

“Subject line, email address, formatting, signature and language!

Just one of those can put me off for good … i.e. An email coming from rankfastSEO@gmail.com or a copied and pasted outreach template that literally says, ‘Hey Name,’.
** FACE PALM **
It sounds silly, but this occurs on a daily basis!
Take care on the details, because EVERY detail matter when it comes to email.”

Read Other Experts>>


John Thies

John Thies

CEO/Co-Founder of EmailOnAcid

First thought that comes to your mind on hearing the word ‘Email Templates’?

When I think of “Email Templates”, my first thought is a library of emails to support the email needs of the business that don’t have to be recreated for every campaign. They consist of newsletters, transactional, promotional, informational, product updates, on-boarding and many others.

Which email templates are must-have in an email marketer’s template library?

Newsletter, transactional and on-boarding (welcome emails)

Do you believe in sending innovative emails (planned months in advance) or plain-looking emails (less time consuming)?

I think its a combination of the two. At Email on Acid we do both. We want to inspire email marketers about what they can do within email while also being able to leverage the power of email by regularly engaging with our subscribers. Innovative email development can be time consuming and expensive which reduces the ROI of a campaign.

What are the 3 things you first notice when you open an email you just received?
  1. Preheader Text (pre-open)
  2. White space
  3. Calls-to-action

Read Other Experts>>


Matthew Smith

Matthew Smith

Founder @ Really Good Emails

First thought that comes to your mind on hearing the word ‘Email Templates’?

Cheap, like stock photos. Website templates means something that’s already done, not something that a tool. It feels cheap.

Which email templates are must-have in an email marketer’s template library?

Welcome, Newsletter, List, Article series, Article, Thank you, Unsubscribe, Survey.

Do you believe in sending innovative emails (planned months in advance) or plain-looking emails (less time consuming)?

Both are appropriate. Depends on the audience. Sometimes both are appropriate with the same audience.

What are the 3 things you first notice when you open an email you just received?

Is it what I thought it would be according to the subject line? Is it succinct and clear? Is it valuable?

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Kath Pay

Kath Pay

CEO @ Holisticemailmarketing

First thought that comes to your mind on hearing the word ‘Email Templates’?

Strategic, Ease of use

Which email templates are must-have in an email marketer’s template library?

A Master Template from which all emails can be created from

Do you believe in sending innovative emails (planned months in advance) or plain-looking emails (less time consuming)?

Both – it depends upon the objective for the email and the audience. Having said that, just because you use a template which allows you to create emails quickly and easily, doesn’t mean they have to be plain-looking. We develop Master Templates which are very visual and have made allowances for innovation within the relevant modules within the template – yet are easy to create an email from.

What are the 3 things you first notice when you open an email you just received?

From name, Subject line and preheader

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Kait Creamer

Kait Creamer

Digital Marketing Manager | WanderingKait

First thought that comes to your mind on hearing the word ‘Email Templates’?

Time savers

Which email templates are must-have in an email marketer’s template library?

Well, it totally depends on the audience. For my markets, I most frequently use webinar, featured blog content, newsletter, welcome, and onboarding/educational templates.

Do you believe in sending innovative emails (planned months in advance) or plain-looking emails (less time consuming)?

I actually don’t mind plain emails. I think the content of the email is what shines most often. With thoughtful design, you don’t need a lot of flash. It’s nice to delight with innovative emails when the time’s there, but that’s not a luxury we often have.

What are the 3 things you first notice when you open an email you just received?
  1. Overall message
  2. Ability to understand CTA
  3. Visual hierarchy

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Dave Charest

Dave Charest

Content Marketing Director at Constant Contact

First thought that comes to your mind on hearing the word ‘Email Templates’?

Starting designs that can easily be customized to your needs.

Which email templates are must-have in an email marketer’s template library?

Welcome, Birthday, Anniversary, Holidays, Sales, Announcements, Thank You, Newsletter, and Invitation.

Do you believe in sending innovative emails (planned months in advance) or plain-looking emails (less time consuming)?

Both. Use the email that best fits the goal and nature of your business.

What are the 3 things you first notice when you open an email you just received?

Image, headline, call to action.

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Annette West

Annette West

Project Manager @ NewZapp Email Marketing

First thought that comes to your mind on hearing the word ‘Email Templates’?

Library of options

Which email templates are must-have in an email marketer’s template library?

Welcome, news digest, announcement

Do you believe in sending innovative emails (planned months in advance) or plain-looking emails (less time consuming)?

I believe in the middle ground, as planning months in advance is a luxury thats not always an option for SME marketing

What are the 3 things you first notice when you open an email you just received?
  1. The subject line and preview text before opening.
  2. Does the email have impact visually and give me key information before the need to scroll?
  3. If it’s not one of ours, how we could have made it better 😉

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Erik Harbison

Erik Harbison

CMO @ AWeber

First thought that comes to your mind on hearing the word ‘Email Templates’?

An often overlooked, critical piece in a successful email campaign puzzle.

Which email templates are must-have in an email marketer’s template library?

Regardless of business type or industry, there should be an image-centric template (hero image, product image) and one that is a succinct ‘plain’ text-centric template.

Do you believe in sending innovative emails (planned months in advance) or plain-looking emails (less time consuming)?

I believe there is a need for balancing both. New feature/product releases can require a more integrated promotional approach that includes a more robust, image heavy email. Whereas a quick update, tip or simple ‘thank you’ to your subscriber with an all text email can strengthen engagement and trust.

What are the 3 things you first notice when you open an email you just received?
  1. Pre header text – Have become obsessed on if/how brands are using it.
  2. CTA – scanning for the ‘WIIFM (What’s In It For Me)’ promise & if it is via text link or button.
  3. Signature – how personal does a brand try to be. Use a “Team” sign off? Headshot from one person? I think a personal touch matters as a key piece of the overall process of building trust with people that agreed to join your list.

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Dennis Dayman

Dennis Dayman

Chief Privacy Officer, Return Path

First thought that comes to your mind on hearing the word ‘Email Templates’?

Impersonal. Nothing screams “impersonal” more than a templated email. Most brands use templates, but as formulated approach to message design and that is where they stop. Customization is key. Yes, templates can help keep a consistent tone in your emails when you use templates, but I feel that most marketers use that as an excuse to not go beyond making a connection using the data they already have on you to really personalize it more than just Hi .

Emailing your list should feel like emailing a friend and the content behind it should reflect that. So sure, you can say that you are using email templates, but lets use the type of templates that help formulate the look and branding, but make sure the content itself is personalized for the user and based on past interactions whether it be purchases or their visit to your website.

Which email templates are must-have in an email marketer’s template library?

I’d say things like a welcome, a trigger, a retention, a referral or discount, card abandonment, order confirmation, maybe even a survey, and last but not least a thank you. All of these will at some point need to be used in the lifecycle of a normal client who is buying something for you or engaging. These emails help raise conversions and convince existing customers to purchase again and should be set up as soon as possible.

Do you believe in sending innovative emails (planned months in advance) or plain-looking emails (less time consuming)?

It really depends on several factors. Things such as if this is B2C vs. B2B. B2B usually has a longer sales cycle where in B2C the buyer already has done a great deal of research on their own or possibly visited a store to see the product before going online to find a lower price. I’ve always been a data fan, yes I know that sounds odd now in my career as a privacy officer, but you can respectfully and properly use data to make a closer and more meaning connection to a buyer if you’ve crossed all your T’s and dotted your I’s as they say.

Now, there are some emails that should be plain and quick, usually alerting emails about flight changes or delay’s etc that need to be delivered in a quick fashion and using less bandwidth, but yes I like to see brands and marketers to attempt to at least know what might be coming down the pipeline especially for companies with multiple divisions who might be sending emails to the same person for different reason and SHOULD know if the brand itself is fatiguing the user. So, a little preparation and data use in my opinion is now a bad thing in today’s overload world of information.

What are the 3 things you first notice when you open an email you just received?

The sender in which I’m looking for the status of our relationship and what priority this email will get. The subject line, to understand again what the purpose of the message is and again where it calls in the priority OR if I will continue to read it into the content. And then last, but not least, the first paragraph to see what sort of tone they sender is sending to me. If there might be an action that I need to further read down into the message for or hold this message for something else more important.

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Micheal Leszczynski

Michal Leszczynski

Content Marketing Manager @getresponse

First thought that comes to your mind on hearing the word ‘Email Templates’?

Re-usable pieces that can help you get your campaign up and running within a couple of hours.

Which email templates are must-have in an email marketer’s template library?

It mostly depends on the industry, but one can never skip these three: welcome email, post-purchase thank you message, and a customer survey. These three will not only help you build long-lasting relationships with your audience but they’ll also equip with you knowledge that’ll make your campaigns more targeted and impactful.

Do you believe in sending innovative emails (planned months in advance) or plain-looking emails (less time consuming)?

Use templates whenever possible but if you want to make one particular campaign stand out – then put your creative hat on. Only the most-creative ones have the chance to become viral.

What are the 3 things you first notice when you open an email you just received?

Email subject line, header, and the hero image – these either make or break my email experience.

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Nick Crawford

Nick Crawford

Director & Principal Consultant @ twistconsultancy

First thought that comes to your mind on hearing the word ‘Email Templates’?

Simple, easy, consistent and tested for render across email clients. Restrictive, repetitive and can reduce creative execution.

Which email templates are must-have in an email marketer’s template library?

If you want to work with separate templates then base this on your current most common or successful sends. Welcome, solus, newsletter, and simple postcard (short image and text that can be used for most ad-hock needs) A more flexible approach would be to build a single modular template that has your most used content layout options in rows of content blocks that can be removed and moved as needed.

Do you believe in sending innovative emails (planned months in advance) or plain-looking emails (less time consuming)?

There is a place for both, If you have a clear idea of what you want to say, the best approach for that audience segment and what action you want the reader to take, you’ll be able to match approach with rich content or resource/time limitations with simpler, but effective execution.

What are the 3 things you first notice when you open an email you just received?
  1. Banner image – has it been made to work hard and portray key message and value (or is it just a stock or generic brand image with no extra info specific to that email content)
  2. Large blocks of text (does it look like this email will take effort to absorb)
  3. Does the headline or key banner message look like it will be of benefit to me (should I invest more time in reading this email fully)

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Syed Balkhi

Syed Balkhi

Entrepreneur venture OptinMonster

First thought that comes to your mind on hearing the word ‘Email Templates’?

Great starting point for those that are new to email marketing, but nothing beats continuous A/B testing to maximize conversions.

Which email templates are must-have in an email marketer’s template library?

Welcome email, new blog post, feedback email from CEO, and we miss you email to bring back churned customers.

Do you believe in sending innovative emails (planned months in advance) or plain-looking emails (less time consuming)?

I think the less fancy the better. Sometimes too many images looks too corporate and customers want to know that they are talking to a human being. This is why you’ll notice that most of our emails come from people that you can email back.

What are the 3 things you first notice when you open an email you just received?

Who’s it from? What do they want? Is it important?

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Nout Boctor-Smith

Nout Boctor-Smith

Email Marketing Manager @ Red Hat

First thought that comes to your mind on hearing the word ‘Email Templates’?

An email template is a reusable HTML file that includes HTML and CSS and placeholder images and text where all you’d need to swap out is the copy and images. I like to use the blueprint and house analogy. An email template is a blueprint, while your email itself is the house.

Which email templates are must-have in an email marketer’s template library?

It really depends on what type of marketing you’re doing and whether you want to use a master templates with all available elements to build out your specific templates. For me, I focus on B2B marketing (technology), so I recommend the following types of templates: newsletters, webinar invites, event invites, asset downloads, product updates. If you’re engaged in B2C marketing, you’ll need some product templates for sales, new products,

Do you believe in sending innovative emails (planned months in advance) or plain-looking emails (less time consuming)?

I believe in sending both. I’d recommend the 80/20 rule for this, where 80% of your emails are planned in advance and 20% are more ad-hoc. Of course, every company is going to vary.

What are the 3 things you first notice when you open an email you just received?
  1. Headlines, button copy
  2. How the email renders in my email client or on my phone: is it responsive, do they use hi-res images, does the email look good without emai
  3. What’s the offer or value presented.

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Alex Papadopulos

Alex Papadopulos

Head of Operations @ striata

First thought that comes to your mind on hearing the word ‘Email Templates’?

Simple, easy, consistent and tested for render across email clients. Restrictive, repetitive and can reduce creative execution.

Which email templates are must-have in an email marketer’s template library?

Welcome Email, Seasonal Marketing Emails, Triggered Emails such as post purchase and abandoned cart emails plus administrative emails such as lost password, new account set up and billing related emails, Newsletters

Do you believe in sending innovative emails (planned months in advance) or plain-looking emails (less time consuming)?

There is a place for both, If you have a clear idea of what you want to say, the best approach for that audience segment and what action you want the reader to take, you’ll be able to match approach with rich content or resource/time limitations with simpler, but effective execution.

What are the 3 things you first notice when you open an email you just received?
  1. Banner image – has it been made to work hard and portray key message and value (or is it just a stock or generic brand image with no extra info specific to that email content)
  2. Large blocks of text (does it look like this email will take effort to absorb)
  3. Does the headline or key banner message look like it will be of benefit to me (should I invest more time in reading this email fully)

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John J. Walsh

John Walsh

Email Marketing Specialist at Billy Graham Evangelistic Association,

First thought that comes to your mind on hearing the word ‘Email Templates’?

Mobile responsive code that allows email marketers to quickly and easily add content, images, links, link sourcing and allows them to move these pieces around in any order.

Which email templates are must-have in an email marketer’s template library?

A newsletter template, a simply designed email with one image, text and one call to action, and a skeleton responsive template that I can quickly add the content, images, and links I need to.

Do you believe in sending innovative emails (planned months in advance) or plain-looking emails (less time consuming)?

We believe in sending both types of emails, innovative and plain text. The planning for our end of year email campaign begins in August and will include our most innovative emails including ones where we use GIFs. I also feel it is important to send plain text emails interspersed with HTML emails. Our newsletters rely hevily on HTML. When we send thank you emails and simple emails with one call to action, we use plain text. I believe it feels more pesonal, like an email you would receive from a friend.

What are the 3 things you first notice when you open an email you just received?

Does it feel, look and sound personal, has thought gone into if I would be interested in this email? Is it too busy? If there are too many images, lots of color and tons of links I usually skip over it. Who has the time? Lastly, as a email marketer, I notice if there is anything innovative or usual about the email, something that catches my attention. I like a litle whimsy so a well-timed GIF, animation, or quiz is welcome.


Paul King

Paul King

Email Marketing Manager at Warners Group Publications.

First thought that comes to your mind on hearing the word ‘Email Templates’?

Pre-designed layouts that require minimal work to adapt for future use.

Which email templates are must-have in an email marketer’s template library?

Welcome emails, Re-engagement, regular newsletter, basket abandonment

Do you believe in sending innovative emails (planned months in advance) or plain-looking emails (less time consuming)?

While there is a time and a place for plain-looking email we prefer to plan creative emails that will engage subscribes.

What are the 3 things you first notice when you open an email you just received?

Header image, interactivity and CTA’s


Veronica Williams

Veronica Williams

Senior Email Marketing Specialist @simpleviewinc

First thought that comes to your mind on hearing the word ‘Email Templates’?

A tool for technical or non-technical users to delight and inform their subscribers in an easy-to-use way.

Which email templates are must-have in an email marketer’s template library?

Since I work with DMOs (Destination Marketing Organizations), their template libraries are going to be a little different than most:

  1. Newsletter
  2. Invite/Registration
  3. Announcement
  4. Press Release
  5. Welcome/Thanks for signing up
  6. Bid Book/Proposal/Sales Lead
Do you believe in sending innovative emails (planned months in advance) or plain-looking emails (less time consuming)?

There is a land of happy medium between over-planning and over-simplifying emails that I feel the clients I work with, DMOs, have been able to capture. Together, we work on newsletters based on the type and then plan from there. For example, the big, monthly emails that go out to their entire subscriber base will sometimes be planned months in advance – knowing there are portions that must be added in right before sending to capture events happening around the email send.

On the other hand, there are the weekly member/partner newsletters that are not as fancy and more utilitarian in nature. They have a far smaller planning period due to the weekly nature. The thought I would like to leave you with is that, you don’t have to be on one side or the other of a planned email – you can find what works for the type of email that you are sending and make that work for you.

What are the 3 things you first notice when you open an email you just received?
  1. I look to see if it is broken anywhere – I guess a habit I just can’t break – lol!
  2. I look for any interactive elements so I can see how they work and how many people are using them IRL – I have Gmail so they *could* work there.
  3. I then look at their layout to see what article types/section types are being used and of course compare it to the templates I work on to see how I can make mine better!

Tammi Myers

Tammi Myers

Senior Email Marketing Manager @ Zumba

First thought that comes to your mind on hearing the word ‘Email Templates’?

Guides to maintain consistency within a brand’s style & cross-browser rendering.

Which email templates are must-have in an email marketer’s template library?

General notification, newsletter, sale, ecommerce/suggested products, cart/browse abandon

Do you believe in sending innovative emails (planned months in advance) or plain-looking emails (less time consuming)?

Always striving for innovative emails but still realistic about our actual turn-around time.

What are the 3 things you first notice when you open an email you just received?

The sender logo/identity, the imagery & any main headlines.


Email templates are an indispensable part of your email marketing strategy. Understanding what goes behind the scene of email template production can help you create better email templates.

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Kevin is the Head of Marketing at EmailMonks, one of the fastest growing email design and coding companies. He loves gadgets, bikes, jazz, and breathes ‘email marketing’. He is a brand magician who loves to engage, share insights with fellow marketers, and enjoys sharing his thoughts on the latest email marketing best practices at EmailMonks Blog.

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