Email Template Design

7 New Email Themes For StudioPress

By Julie Jarrett

You asked; we listened. AWeber’s design team recently released new mobile-responsive email templates created to match seven of StudioPress’ top themes.

Optimize Your Emails for Preview Panes

By Amanda Gagnon

Could you engage over half your subscribers better with a simple design adjustment?

If you send B2C emails, about 53% of your subscribers first see your emails in a preview pane 1. If you send B2B, the number is even higher (around 80%).

The preview pane is part of the inbox in some email clients. It lets users peek at part of their emails to decide whether or not to open them.

If those few inches of space don’t entice previewers to open, they’ll simply ignore or delete your message. Don’t let that happen. Get the corner on the preview pane market with these easy design changes.

What to Include

Some preview panes show a horizontal strip of your email, while others display vertically. To accommodate both kinds, fill the top of your message with items that snap previewers to attention.

(As an added bonus, your email will be more mobile-friendly as well.)

Make sure to include:

  • Your logo, company name or other indication of your brand. This is especially important if your subject line and from line aren’t strongly recognizable. Subscribers are far more likely to open emails from senders they know and trust.
  • Compelling copy. Hook subscribers with a strong offer or interesting tease near the top – don’t let them slip by unnoticed!
  • A table of contents, if you have enough content. Any one of your article titles could grab readers from the preview pane, so make them all available.
  • The call to action. Some viewers may feel they don’t have time to read your email, but your call may be to an action they like. Providing it in the preview pane lets them take action immediately.

Preview Pane good practice

Fitting all this in the top of your email can be tough, depending on your design. Avoid unsightly cramming with this trick: a side column lets two items exist in harmony near the top.

What to Avoid

When filling the top with sticky content, you may need to make room by removing less compelling items. Make sure these common culprits aren’t hijacking precious preview-friendly real estate:

  • Large images or headers. These drain the efficiency of your design. If images are turned off, they’ll appear as blank space. If they take too long to load, readers may just move on. If they show up, but don’t create the desire to find out more, they’ll waste space where you could put more compelling content.
  • Too many navigation links. These can be very helpful by providing many opportunities to click back to your site and letting you track which options are most popular. But they can get in the way of more compelling items. Consider shrinking them, reducing how many you use, or listing them across the bottom of your message instead.
  • Ads. Place them elsewhere, unless you want your previewers to click through to your advertisers’ sites instead of your own.

Preview Pane bad practice

You may be thinking, “This is really going to change our design. Is it worth it?” As always, changes are important to test.

Think about which of these changes might be most effective in your own campaign, then split test your broadcast to monitor the results.

Do You Accommodate Preview Panes?

Do you use any of the techniques above? What kind of results are you seeing?

Do you have a favorite technique for appealing to the preview-pane market? If you do, please share your ideas!

*according to Marketing Sherpa’s Best Practices in Email Marketing handbook.

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Email Design Tips: Leverage Your Logo

By Amanda Gagnon

Leverage Your LogoWhen your subscribers check their email, they immediately start picking apart their inboxes. They harvest useful details, respond where necessary and trash junk mail (anything they’re not in the mood for).

It’s a heartless process. And it goes fast. If your message isn’t compelling and recognizable, “click” goes the delete button.

Your logo could prevent that delete. Logos remind subscribers of the brand behind the email – a brand they expect value from. With that value in mind, they may be more likely to read your entire message.

Outfitting your emails with your logo is as easy as inserting one quick link. The question is, how should you use it? Read on to find out how to create the effect you’re looking for.

First Things First: the Top Left


This common placement means the logo is the first thing readers encounter in a top-to-bottom, left-to-right world.

Here, Groupon’s logo identifies the sender for readers who didn’t pay attention to the “from” line – for example, those scanning through emails in a preview pane. It’s easily findable, but the subtle colors and modest size let the main content command attention.

Even better, Groupon presents its logo alongside the email’s main benefit. When readers see the combination, they’re reminded of the message’s value and excited to scroll down.


Snapfish’s logo is also inconspicuous but available, blending in with the email design. Like the Groupon logo, it’s strategically placed to trigger memories of past experiences on the way into this new one.

Incorporated Into the Header

Memorial Hospital

Memorial Hospital includes their logo in a subtle way. They used the color of the logo to influence the rest of the header’s design. This keeps their design appealing and their branding consistent.

With the Call to Action

Marketing Experiments

The Marketing Experiments logo follows the call to action in this email generated for an ME online clinic by Go2Webinar.

Since this email was sent only to registrants for the event, it was most likely expected. The logo doesn’t need to come first as a reminder of trust, but it’s still available as an identifier.

Another consideration is design. The logo’s bright colors keep it highly visible against the low-key text. This logo doesn’t need top placement to capture the eye.

Throughout the Design


Vosges’ logo borders the email at the top and bottom and extends into the rest of the design. For Vosges, the logo is part of the brand experience. Elegant and feminine, it denotes the luxury of gourmet chocolate.

The task of this email is selling customers on a high-end candy experience. The delicate glamour of the logo is part of the experience, so the design makes the most of it.

This full-design overhaul goes further than simply inserting a logo. Think about ways you could incorporate elements of your logo into the rest of your creative with colors, fonts and other images.

Invoking your website

Body Central

The goal of Body Central’s email is to encourage shopping on the web site. Accordingly, the logo here is arranged as a full banner across the top just like the banner on the site pages.

The email body shows an example of a current deal on the site, but by the time subscribers view it, the logo itself has already done much of the work by evoking the shopping experience.

Tip – No matter where you position your logo, make sure to include alt text in case images aren’t displayed.

Creating a consistent brand

Your logo can help you create consistent branding. That’s a lot of impact from the few easy clicks it takes to insert it.

Does your logo fit with your email campaign? Could using it in any of these ways help your email accomplish its purpose? How do you use your logo in your emails?

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A Plain Text User’s Guide to HTML Email

By Amanda Gagnon

HTML and plain text each have their place as email formats.

Plain text has a no-nonsense, businesslike air, and is simple to create. HTML grabs attention with colors and images. It lets companies incorporate logos and display data with graphics.

Sometimes, though, plain text is used by marketers who would prefer the gloss of HTML, but aren’t sure how to create it. The good news is, many email marketing services provide pre-designed HTML email templates that make the switch practically painless.

Of course, there are still a few things to learn. If you’re new to HTML email, follow these tips for polished, professional messages.

Getting Started With HTML Email

If you are using a template, make sure to take out any dummy text. This text is usually meaningless, included only to suggest how you may want to lay out your content.

Dummy text in your emails is likely to confuse subscribers, so make sure to replace or delete it!

HTML email lets your readers simply click on links to open new pages instead of copying URLs into new windows. Take advantage of this benefit by making sure to create the links properly.

If you use AWeber, just highlight the text you want to become clickable, click the link button and paste in the URL of your destination page.

Tip: If you’re tracking clicks, don’t use the actual URL as the text of the link, or your message could be mistaken for email phishing.

Good: AWeber’s blog Bad:

A link to the web version of your email can help readers who have trouble viewing your messages. If an email appears incorrectly or subscribers are too wary to let images display in their inboxes, all is not lost.

Put a link at the top of your email, where distressed openers will see it right away. In AWeber accounts, use the “Direct Link” from the broadcast archive.

Otherwise, just save the image as a page on your web site and use the resulting URL.

Make sure your message is comprehensible without images.

Many email clients don’t display images by default. Subscribers who don’t change these settings won’t see your pictures and graphics, so make sure you:

  • don’t display important information as an image
  • don’t rely on a background picture to make text readable.
  • do include ALT text. This is alternative text that describes images when they aren’t displayed.

When you’re finished editing, send yourself test copies of the message in different email accounts.

Each ISP renders email a little differently. Make sure they are at least consistently readable.

To do this, create test accounts in the most popular webmail providers and desktop email clients.

Although creating your messages in HTML opens up all sorts of creative, organizational and branding possibilities, it’s not a good idea to abandon plain text altogether.

Always include a plain text version. Your email service provider should provide the option or, if you are coding your own emails, follow these instructions.

Then if an ISP can’t display your HTML email, it will revert to the plain text version and your message will still be delivered.

Your Plain Text-to-HTML Concerns

Have you made the switch from plain text to HTML?

If so, what were the trickiest bits for you to learn?

If you want to switch but haven’t yet, what concerns are holding you back?

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What Do 73.9% of Email Newsletters Have in Common?

By Justin Premick

Graph TeaserNearly three quarters of all broadcasts sent from AWeber last month share a common basic characteristic.

It’s not subject line personalization (although many email marketing campaigns do indeed use this).

It’s not that the sender chose to tweet the email newsletter.

It’s not that they were created from blog content using our RSS to email tools.

Nope, it’s even more basic than that. And it might surprise some of you (at least, based on some of your responses to Bob’s recent post on HTML email design examples).

So what is it?

Most Email Newsletters Are Sent In HTML

In August 2009, 73.9% of all broadcast messages sent through AWeber included an HTML version.

For comparison, in August 2008 only 58.9% of broadcasts included an HTML version. In other words, the use of HTML in email newsletters has increased 25.47% in the past year!

Here’s how the percentage has changed over the past four years:

Graph - HTML Email Percentages Since August 2005


I’ll admit that even I was when I saw the stats. A lot of marketers still believe that plain text is the “default” format to go with (just see the comments on Bob’s post), and while I knew that the reality was different (even 3 years ago, over 53% of the broadcasts sent from AWeber included an HTML version), I didn’t expect such a strong majority of broadcasts to include HTML.

Why Has HTML Email Become So Much More Popular?

I’d like to think that at least in part this is due to the increasing number of HTML email templates we’ve released over the past couple of years.

But that certainly isn’t the only reason, and it’s probably not the primary one. If you’re going to use HTML, you’re going to do so because you’ve found it gets better results than text, or you believe it has the potential to do so.

So what potential/results might people see in HTML email?

  • An opportunity to provide an experience that more closely matches the one your customers & prospects have on your website.
  • The ability to deliver product and other images directly in the email body; to link text/images; to display content in multiple columns and take advantage of other HTML formatting.
  • Easier tracking of activity – no need to type out tracking URLs in the body where subscribers can see them; ability to track opens (even if opens are a somewhat imprecise metric, they can help you to compare the relative success of campaigns).
  • You can add a preheader to remind subscribers why they signed up, encourage them to whitelist you and take other actions that can increase response and deliverability.

More on HTML vs. plain text.

Don’t Join The Crowd “Just Because” – But Don’t Avoid HTML “Just Because,” Either

The point here isn’t “hey, 3/4 of broadcasts are in HTML, so obviously yours should be, too.”

It’s this: if you’re sending your emails in plain text only “just because” you always have, or because the people you receive email campaigns from send in plain text, then try HTML – run some tests with it to see how your subscribers respond!

After all, you never know until you try…

More On Email Newsletters and HTML

Your Thoughts?

Were you surprised to find that so many broadcasts are sent in HTML?

Have you been sending yours with an HTML version, or as plain text?

Share your thoughts on the blog!

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2 New HTML Email Templates

By Bob Ricca

Ever wish your email template could match your blog?

At AWeber, you can use any of our 100+ HTML email templates to create great-looking emails in a variety of color schemes – but what if you could match the look of your email marketing campaigns perfectly to your website?

To help make this happen, and have some fun in the process, I’ve created a couple HTML email templates based on some free WordPress themes that you can download and use for your blog.

Check them out…

“Outdoorsy” HTML Email Template

The “Outdoorsy” template is based on the free Outdoorsy WordPress Theme from Function.

It’s a 2-column (right-hand sidebar) email template with an organic feel and navigation links available to use in the header.

Click image for full-size sample.

If you want, you can download and use this template outside of AWeber – but if you want to use it in AWeber, it’s already integrated for you! When you’re creating an email, just choose “Outdoorsy” from the list of templates.

“SuperFresh” HTML Email Template

The “SuperFresh” template is designed to match the free SuperFresh WordPress Theme from ThemeTation.

It includes a “featured post” section at the top, and then a 2-column area (content and sidebar) beneath.

Click image for full-size sample.

If you want, you can download and use this template outside of AWeber – but if you want to use it in AWeber, it’s already integrated for you! When you’re creating an email, just choose “SuperFresh” from the list of templates.

Enjoy – And Tell Us How You’re Using the Templates!

If you use these templates and themes for your campaigns and site, let us know!

And if you have ideas for other HTML email templates, I’m all ears :)

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Design Inspiration From Fellow AWeber Customers

By Bob Ricca

Ever since we made the move to our new office, I’ve found myself really cherishing each morning — not only because our office literally feels like home (Eric and I are quite the decorators), but because as part of my morning routine, I get to check out what’s going on in the design community and what our customers are doing with their email designs.

To start my day, I:

  1. Water the flowers outside my office.
  2. Grab a hot cup of coffee.
  3. Catch up on my RSS feeds.
  4. Surf Twitter to see what cool stuff AWeber customers have been sending out.

Today, I’d like to give a subtle nod to some customers who put together awesomely designed newsletters:

Let’s See What AWeber Customers Are Tweeting!

Club Caitlin Newsletter – Cooking With Caitlin

I really like the way this newsletter was done. The contrast between the reds and the greens really makes it fun and interesting and its all tied together nicely with the gray background.

Cooking With Caitlin

Whoever designed this email also spent time laying out the footer of the email (seen below)… something that can often be overlooked and neglected.

Cooking With Caitlin

FB Gathering

This newsletter design feels fresh. The pastel greens are very inviting and the imagery works well to balance out the newsletter.

FB Gathering

Eye Spy Spain Magazine

Not only do the colors work very well but check out the exceptional detail they put into the text header above where the newsletter starts. That sort of detail makes an email look very clean, crisp and extremely professional. Bravo!

Eye Spy Spain Magazine

Inspiration Is Everywhere!

Now that I’ve shared a few examples of newsletters I’ve found inspiring, take some time to reassess the design of your emails.

Create a separate email address and start collecting newsletter subscriptions. Maybe you’ll stumble across something that will inspire you to take your newsletter design to a whole new level! Maybe your email newsletter will end up catching my eye…

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