How to Create an Eye Path In Marketing Emails

Big fonts, bright colors, pictures and graphics are powerful attractions

Big fonts, bright colors, pictures and graphics are powerful attractions for the drifting eye.

Placed haphazardly in your marketing email, they can yank readers’ eyes around your message in an unorganized, ineffective fashion.

Instead, you want to position them deliberately in the order you want readers to see. There are a few ways to make this happen:

Resist the Temptation to Cram Everything Into Your Email

If you’re sending a newsletter, you may have an awful lot of bits of information you want to feature in each message. But too many items create visual clutter.

They also compete for readers’ attention. As they say, with too many options, readers will choose none at all.

According to Flint Mcglaughlin, director of MECLABS, your email’s job is to sell your landing page – whatever page on your site you want readers to click through to. So introduce your offer in your email, then list the rest of your selling points and any other relevant information back on your landing page.

Use the F-Pattern

Understanding the F layout

It’s practically the golden standard for designing web pages: laying out your elements and text in the shape of an F, as first proposed by Jakob Nielsen. Start at the top left, move over to the right, and continue that pattern vertically down the page. Eyes used to reading from left to right are trained to follow that pattern.

Of course, if you’re writing to those whose native language is read from right to left, according to Nielsen, you’ll want to reverse your pattern.

And if you’re skeptical, might we suggest split testing your layout? Create two versions of the same message, using the same template and sharing the same information. Just lay one out in the F-pattern, and use a different layout for the other version.

Place Your Call to Action Carefully

Whatever the topic of your email, there’s most likely an action you want readers to take. Positioning your call to action carefully can help you create an effective eye path.
Some marketers swear that call to actions should be placed above the fold so readers don’t have to scroll to respond.

If you go with that placement, call readers to action as soon as you’ve provided enough information for them to understand the context, then follow with any relevant details, much like a journalist’s inverted pyramid structure.

Others insist that you shouldn’t call your readers to action until they’ve demonstrated interest by scrolling below the fold. If you like this idea, build up your offer all the way down your eye path, eventually pointing it to your call to action at the bottom.

(And of course, you can split test call to action placement as well.)

What Path Do You Follow?

It’s far easier to delete a cluttered email than to struggle through navigating it. Clean design, on the other hand, makes it easier for readers to respond.

Do you use any techniques to lead your own subscribers through your messages? We’d love to see your ideas, so if you would, share them below.

And if you’re looking for email design inspiration, follow AWeber on Pinterest – when we come across brilliant marketing, we’ll pin it for you!


  1. Sarkari Naukri

    6/5/2012 7:47 am

    thanks for sharing this wonderful piece of information. For sure this will help a newbie like me

  2. Joseph D. Shiller

    6/5/2012 8:54 am

    Perhaps use the pop-up for above the fold and inline for below the fold.

    By the way, when I clicked through to this post from my email, I got a delayed pop-up form asking me to subscribe to the blog. I know is probably because I was not signed in, but it was just a little weird since I am already a subscriber to the blog.

  3. Takara

    6/5/2012 9:10 am


    I love the article. It presented some great ideas and I think I am going to tweak my autoresponder series to have more visuals and texture.

    I’ve heard from some pretty savvy internet guru’s that it is actually a Z that is the correct pattern to use?

    What’s your take on that?

    Thanks for the great work – and the great service! I’ve been a happy customer since 2004.

  4. Amanda Gagnon

    6/5/2012 9:50 am

    Joseph, on a site page, that’s definitely an option. The pop-up shouldn’t show for you again, unless you clear your cookies. It’s new, so even subscribers will see it one time. Thanks for your patience!

  5. Juri Hass

    6/6/2012 2:39 am

    Put call to action above the fold, when you are sending out some “Special Offers”. If it’s an ordinary newsletter, it should be below.

  6. Amanda Gagnon

    6/6/2012 9:17 am

    Takara, that’s a great question. Take a look at the heat maps here: The very same patterns could be said to reflect either an F or a Z. Either way, you’ve got top-left to top-right to lower-left to lower-right.

    And Juri, that’s an interesting rule of thumb. Would you say that’s because you’re trying to be more personable with a newsletter, so a request should come after a polite introduction?

  7. Anna

    6/12/2012 2:35 am

    Very nice article, it’s been extremely helpful!!!

  8. Troy Vayanos

    6/16/2012 4:53 am

    Great information Amanda,

    Do you know what fonts & colours in emails have proven to be the most effective to get clickthroughs?



  9. Kent

    6/24/2012 4:20 am

    There are a lot of eye tracking tool that allow you to track the email effectiveness, rather than playing guessing game, why not use tool to track to get accurate result.