Design Takeaways from “The Email Design Conference”

Monks recently attended the email design conference hosted by Litmus in Boston. Our team attended some really inspiring sessions from some of the coolest email marketing folks and here we have listed design and coding takeaways from the email design conference.

In this post, we showcase the marketing, design & miscellaneous takeaways while in our next post, we share the coding takeaways.

Marketing, Design and Miscellaneous Takeaway

1. Send compelling emails – With more brands sending emails that attract eyeballs, most marketers should aim to send compelling emails that inspire subscribers to check emails twice. Checking an email twice is like an act of love these days.

2. Adapt to outlook and gmail – Outlook and gmail aren’t changing anytime soon. Hence, your existing emails should adapt to these email clients for better open and click rates.

3. Use offers wisely – Appealing emotionally to users and demonstrating value of products will significantly outperform big discounts offerings. And if you decide to go for offer, use a compelling description to talk about offer than simply calling them exclusive. Gamify-ing coupons/offers is a great way to make it more enticing and not blend in with generic promotions.

4. Send emails when audience demands – Send time REALLY depends on your audience and product. If your CTA is time consuming, later in the day might be better as the audience gets time to engage with it. According to one more logic, the best time to send email is when you have something useful to say for a given person.

5. Who comprises top 5% of your list? Identify right segments and loyal email advocates for your brand as 5% of your list is responsible for 38% of opens – with this you ought to treat ’em special!

6. Aim for optimized subject line – Longer or shorter either of these formats can work for you, but 50 characters are the sweet spot. Test what works best for you as 47% of those who receive an email say the subject line is the reason for opening an email.

7. Make logical interactive emails – If you want to make emails interactive, make it goal driven. Build a goal for using interactive elements and how it will improve the overall experience. Don’t try and turn emails to websites unnecessarily. Think if you really need all that navigation? TEST!

8. Use font variation, but don’t overdo it – Using 3-4 fonts in your email is okay; click rates decrease w/ 4+. Design (& typography!) matters. Don’t distract users, but a little variation always helps the right message to stand out.

9. Use HTML typography in emails – In regards to the typography, using HTML typography has many benefits including faster load times, dynamic content, and easier updating.

10. Use pixel art as fallback option – It’s great to try pixel art when your images are blocked in email is a fun, clever idea. Using background pixel art in emails is great for control freaks.

11. Images & Content: Less is more – When it comes to images, try subtle animation—be purposeful as less is always more. Talking about content, Emails with 20 lines of text work best.

12. Use background colors and alt text invariably – Using background colors and alt text also helps to keep designs intact. ALT text + styled ALT text are a great way to combat image blocking too. Keep width set to 600px for content while colors and background can go upto 100%.

13. Choose live text over images – Moreover, include live text in emails as more than 65% of email clients don’t show images by default.

14. Find a solution for text-heavy emails – With more and more marketers sending verbose emails, there are two solutions to deal with it. (a.) Take the fluid design approach which is best for text-heavy emails or (b.) use interactive accordions to stack up content.

15. Aim for Modular pattern email – Break designs down into smaller bits. Keeps focus on components rather than grand designs. Spongy, not fully fluid. Sketch out common design patterns: calendars, image with caption, buttons etc. The aim of spongy design, or any kind of email design, is not perfection. Pixel-perfect design in email doesn’t really exist. However, breaking down email designs into simpler components allows you to visualize how best to mark things up with tables.

16. Design for your audience, but keep mobile a priority – With more than 50% of users opening email on Apple devices and more than 65% on mobile, mobile first strategy is mission critical. Consider the mobile user as a priority: single column, large buttons & text, white space, concise copy.

17. Go local with emails – Use appropriate imagery, tone, body expressions if humans in imagery. Check the legal compliance. 56% of consumers say the ability to obtain info in their own language is more important than price. Also, if you aim to send internationally stay away from heavy HTML emails.


– Litmus

– (Constant Contact, Matt Laudato)

– MailChimp

– Amazon

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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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