Are Longer Emails Better? Why Scrolling May Be Your Friend

Hey, you! Want to go down a slide? No, not

Hey, you! Want to go down a slide? No, not our slides. But it’ll be fun. Ready? Let’s go:

Wasn’t that cool? I made you scroll for a really long time.

Scrolling used to be considered a hindrance to conversions on most sites, but not anymore. Facebook, Twitter and other social networks made it okay, even enjoyable.

That explains why you’re seeing more and more sites that look like this. Saucony’s website design is known as parallax scrolling. This is a design technique that makes background images move slower than images in the foreground, creating the illusion of depth and immersion for the person scrolling on the site. You can see more examples of it here.

But this is website talk. What about emails? Is it better to have longer emails? Well… maybe. Let’s dive into this concept a little further.

Why Scrolling IS Working on Websites

Here are the three main reasons this type of design has really picked up in recent years:

  • It’s visually appealing – you’ll notice that the length does not mean it’s content-dense. These websites rely more on images and whitespace to achieve their desired effect.
  • It tells a story – we know that people like stories. On the communication theory side, Walter Fisher’s Narrative Paradigm theory says that all meaningful communication is a form of storytelling. On the marketing side, we see it trending in content and businesses are paying to keep up with the trend.
  • It’s fun to interact with – yeah, it’s pretty awesome.

What About Emails?

Traditional best practices in email marketing will tell you to keep your emails short. People have short attention spans and you have to plan for that. Some people even use scripts to block emails that have too many words.

But remember that sites that use parallax scrolling don’t have a lot of words. It’s the design elements that make it so long. That makes this something to consider for email.

Here are three takeaways for applying this technique to email:

  • More whitespace and images might be worth a test, even if it makes the email longer.
  • The call to action doesn’t have to be “above the fold.” Many of the websites include a call to action at the end of all that scrolling.
  • Look at what keeps your subscribers engaged. Are they more likely to click on your links if you have something fun that leads them down to your call to action?

What Do You Think?

Do you think this design on websites will lose its magic? Do you think longer, more image-heavy emails will start to emerge?


  1. Will

    4/3/2013 9:15 am

    Interesting and thought provoking post.

    My newsletter is usually longer than a screen-full so I’m really glad to hear this. In my case, I generate the newsletter using the Blog Broadcast facility so there are links all the way down the page to various articles at my site. My visitors can therefore effectively ‘bail-out’ when they see something of interest.

    Personally, I am not keen on long promotional emails. That said, it’s all down to copywriting. If your opening grabs me, I will be prepared to read. In most cases, thought, I don’t see marketers using great copy in their broadcasts.

    Will 🙂

  2. Randall Magwood

    4/3/2013 2:47 pm

    Good point Will. I personally like to keep my emails short. This is not based on theory, just testing. And when I rarely write long emails to my list, I sprinkle links back to my site all throughout the email (but not excessively).

  3. Leo Searle-Hawkins

    4/4/2013 3:22 pm

    Well, I’ll say something in favour of this post is that it got me to leave a comment.

    The description of this approach to web design sounded interesting. I was engaged and enthusiastic.

    The I went to the sample sites.

    Almost threw up. Never had such a reaction to a website. Hate it! Totally hate it.

    But at least I now know what it is and if some web designer suggests I use it I know what to say.


    Give me something simple any day. KISS! 🙂

  4. Pieterjan Decoster

    4/4/2013 5:53 pm

    Interesting thoughts! But what about the image-off experience of these heavily designed emails? Images are blocked by default in many mail clients.

  5. Wendy

    4/4/2013 6:24 pm

    I don’t like long emails but I did like the slide to the water. Made me feel relaxed and summery. Lots of white space is good. Still I personally prefer short emails.

  6. Tanya

    4/4/2013 8:29 pm

    awesome information & i love the links in your message above, the website on the link is unreal & layout is very interactive and it even made me scroll down, now that is something for me to do that. So i really see the point in the images and white space being used more, i like it! thanks

  7. Terry

    4/5/2013 4:58 am

    I see a lot of client newsletters and broadcast emails and generally, if there is one criticism on this topic, they all want to say more than most readers want to consume.

    Imagery and very compelling copy will draw someone down a long page (whether email or site) but it has to be good and not confusing.

    For example, in the great article linked above about parallax scrolling, some of the examples are way too ‘clever’. Rather like the old accusation that some commercials are more to do with winning awards than getting people to buy.

    Lesson: always think, write and do, with the customer in mind. (and they will tell you if they don’t like the length of the content, if you ask)

  8. Lorna Joy Shashinda

    4/6/2013 2:30 pm

    Hmmm…. For all the effort and money involved in that 14-story email, they might want to check their grammar.

    “Have you imagine it live?”

    –Lorna Joy

  9. Terry

    4/8/2013 10:09 am

    Lorna…totally agree. I spotted this, but then saw that the ad is for South America so gave them the benefit of the doubt…:)

  10. Julie

    4/8/2013 10:34 pm

    Not everyone has the time to scroll through a lengthy email, unless of course the topic of the email is relevant to what the customer is looking for.

    My dislike in an email is when reading it, the author has not furnished enough information about the topic in question and you would need to read it till the end to find out what this message is all about.

    If you can say what needs to be said in a shorter email, your landing page
    will do the rest.

  11. Crystal Gouldey

    4/9/2013 7:24 am

    Great discussion going on!

    Pieterjan – Studies show that most users will turn images on when they open their emails. You can help encourage this by putting in some alt text that will get readers curious.

  12. Maegan Anderson

    4/10/2013 10:40 pm

    Great article!For me,Long page scrolling designs are great for delivering end-to-end stories to your audience, and with the proper execution can propel your users toward the main goal – whether that’s a form submission, a product purchase, or even just reaching understanding of an idea you want to share.

  13. Adam

    4/15/2013 6:05 am

    This was a great mail because it was something out of the ordinary and the creative was very strong.

    I do wonder if they tested this mail against a shorter version because 9 times out of 10, the shorter version would have won.

  14. Tam

    4/18/2013 11:53 pm

    Looooved the slip and slide design. I’ve written professionally for Kraft Foods, Ford, Lincoln, AT&T — newsletters, mailers — often boring!!!! (Except for Kool Aid) So, this water slide made me smile and I’m generally oblivious to this grab the reader type stuff. But I wanted to throw my hands up and scream. I even think I felt a little splash while stittiing on my sofa. Yes, in theory the KISS theory works for some — but this seems trired and tested and I’m wory — So, I love it! Gonna use it at for my spicyseotips. Thanks.

  15. marklouis

    4/25/2013 7:41 am

    I usually find long emails too boring and I end up closing the mail in between but this is an exception you came up with the new idea. Long yet interesting!

  16. Omar

    6/3/2013 7:11 pm

    Yes!! Wow. I loved that image. I cracked up when I got to the bottom.

    I’ve been using long emails, REALLY long… and it does work.

    Some marketers think they’re being smarter by getting shorter and shorter and more concise with their emails, because they feel like people don’t have time anymore, and there’s too much noise.

    My take is this:

    Longer emails can have the opposite affect.

    People are already accustomed to SO many quick bursts of marketing messages and everyone is trying to get shorter and wittier. So I counter that

    When my readers see something that’s not just long for long’s sake, but meaningful, what happens is that they start to know that my emails matter.

    They realize I care about them and am taking time for them.

    They know that if they don’t open my email they’ll be missing some really great content. And that’s ok from time to time. Not everyone is going to be able to read something long.

    But you begin training your audience that your emails matter by sending valuable content.

    I’ve even found that people will open emails and then open it again on another day, when they might have more time to read it.

    The second thing is that, it begins filtering out the people who just don’t care. And that is, more than likely, good for you. Because you’d rather have subscribers who are interested and engaged in your messages.

    It’s a great way to qualify your prospects.

    I’ve personally gotten over 50% open rates consistently.

    Certainly, this doesn’t mean things are set in stone. I’ve tried shortening and I’ve also tried doing videos. You have to see what works for you.

    Ultimately, I think the key is not necessarily longer, but more value. Value could morph into anything. It depends on the audience.

    Happy emailing!

  17. Bruce McNatty

    6/5/2013 3:57 am

    Scrollers of the world unite!… My blog posts have been getting longer and longer lately. And I’ve been feeling that I need to get on top of this, that anyone lurking on the internet is likely to have ADD, and I should say what I need to say in much less space and get the hell out of there, before ye old trusty reader flicks off somewhere else… So this whole idea that people actually like to scroll, well, phew! Thank you indeed… I had not thought of this – yet what you are saying makes so much sense, because I like to scroll. So why wouldn’t anyone else….Scrolling rules.

  18. Leanne

    6/6/2013 3:04 pm

    I agree with Julie in that it’s annoying when the author doesn’t give enough information up front. Don’t bury the lead! The image in the example above was interesting and drew me in, but I also found myself getting a little motion sick while scrolling down. Perhaps a little too authentic! 🙂

    If an e-mail is going to be long, it better be good and easy to scan. Don’t force me to read every word. When it comes to product purchases, I definitely prefer MORE information rather than less. I want to see sample pages/screen shots/multiple views (depending on what it is), FAQ’s, and reviews. My personal preference for this information in e-mail format is introductory text on each of these areas with “read more” links if I’m interested. That way, I can click through to what interests me and easily skip the rest.

  19. TIM

    10/6/2013 4:20 am

    I went to the page for Saucony and scrolled down quickly, not bothering to read anything – my experience on this page taught me it was probably all fluff…

    And speaking of this page – got bored after a couple of wheel turns and grabbed the scroll button to get to the end, which made me dizzy. I thought it was an interesting ad (caught the mistake). Hated that returning from the Saucony site kicked me back up to the top of this page – that was cruel and unusual punishment!

    Went to the page with the other sites (opened in a new tab – learned my lesson the first time). Did not click on any of the samples; the one here was more than enough.

    As a wild guess, I’d say they’re targeting a very young audience. I really can’t see anyone over 25 or so enjoying this more than once or twice. Once the novelty factor wears off, it’s plain annoying.

    As to emails – I have it set to NOT display images. If the images have no alt text, they never get opened. The ones that do have alt text have to be pretty compelling for me to toggle images on. I’ve also disabled active scripting and when given a choice, always choose to receive plain text mail.

    Long emails don’t bother me, IF they have valuable content. If it’s obviously logorrhea with little “meat” in it, I generally bail out.

    The best emails which I do read, even though they’re long, are the ones where they have bullet or numbered points at the start giving the titles of sections. Each section is an intro and summary of a blog post, with a link to read the full post. Then there are brief comments after the last section. A couple of people I subscribe to who do this say they get incredible open rates, and I believe it. They also tend to have very loyal subscribers who are pretty active in the blog comments, too.

    It’s all about the user experience and giving value – and, most importantly, making the customer or prospect feel valued.

    Establishing and nourishing a relationship: that’s where it’s at.

  20. Enstine Muki

    10/11/2013 3:53 am

    I think it’s better to look at what keeps subscribers engaged. Too long may be too boring and too short may lack insight.

    Strike a balance 😉

  21. Myrrhcy

    3/12/2014 9:01 am

    Kind of reminds me when flash was all the rage.
    Saucony failed the 3-5 second load test. When it finally did load, way too much going on. ):

    Interesting that several of the examples in “here” link have since ditched their parallax designs. Wonder why?