Many days, I come into the office and absolutely dread opening my email inbox. Not because I’m afraid of having to answer questions from clients, discover new tasks or assignments that the emails may be carrying or anything like that.

I just get tired of bad emails!

I hope I’m not the only one who has to deal with this problem. Between work and personal email accounts, our inboxes overflow day after day. Some are just trying to educate you, tempt you with a new blog post or special information on a landing page. Others are directly trying to sell you products or services.

No matter the company, no matter the product, time after time I keep seeing the same mistakes, same design missteps. Quite frankly, I’ve had enough. 

We deserve better emails, dang it! So, pulling a couple emails from my inbox, I want to show you exactly what you shouldn’t be doing. And if you find yourself committing some of these classic email crimes, it’s not too late to make a change, and start sending emails people will actually read.

This one’s for all of you out there, tired of crummy emails crowding your inbox.

All your information is presented in an image

This one is probably one of my biggest email pet peeves and the one I see the most often. It is also one of the biggest mistakes you can make. Take a look at this email from Sony I got the other day. This is how it looked when I opened it.

poor email design

Do you have any idea what this email is supposed to be about? Of course, you don’t and neither do I – until you turn your image filter back on. You may not know this, but 40% of email inboxes are set for images not to appear. Some people set this up on purpose to make emails ignore images, thus loading faster. Some people have it set that way because it is a default setting on their email account.

What this boils down to is all the cool graphics you put into your email aren’t going to be seen by nearly half of your contacts. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing unless your entire email is just pictures – or worse, one great big image with the information presented straight on it. 

This presents two problems. One, your information isn’t being properly presented. Two, the bland, spam-looking and unevenly designed nightmare you’ve presented is probably just going to annoy whoever opens it. You can’t just assume people will be able to see your images, or have the presence of mind to switch them back on. Most people don’t like having to do extra work.

Do this instead: Don’t lean on graphics and visuals as a crutch. Use them to complement written copy containing the information you want people to know. Also, be sure to use alternate text, so If someone doesn’t download the images, they know what they are missing. 

Oh, and this is what the email was supposed to look like. See the difference?

ps email

You’re giving me way too much information

It’s kind of a weird thing to think about, but the best and most effective emails are pretty bare bones. They present a condensed format of the information you want to disseminate and present an opportunity to learn more, typically with a button or hyperlink. If I’m interested, I’ll follow it – if not, no sweat. If the email was short enough I won’t feel like my time was wasted by reading the email.

However, I’ve come to notice that not everyone has gotten the memo on short emails. Take this email for example. Go ahead and give it a click. There’s much, much more than where this came from.

onezone email

Yep, that is just one email this organization expects you to read and digest at once. The longer your email is, the more pictures it has, the more paragraphs there are, the faster my interest and attention and the interest and attention of others plummets. Not only that, but the longer an email is, the faster you lose focus and confuse the reader, especially if you include multiple hyperlinks or buttons..

What’s the main focus of the email? What am I supposed to click on?

Do this instead: Instead, just focus on one topic and present it in a brief and palatable format. If there is more information, events, etc. that you had to leave out, create a landing page on your website where the information can be found and give me the link. If you’ve grabbed my attention I’ll follow. On your website you aren’t quite as restricted and you can be as detailed as you need.

And I’m not trying to knock these guys or be mean, there could potentially be some very useful information here. I’ll just never know because I will never read this entire email that takes 34 scrolls to get through. This is just a bad email. 

Your buttons are bad

Buttons are important. Like I just noted, they are the place people click to get more information. A button gives direction – “Learn More,” “Order Now.” In some cases, a button click is a potential customer taking one step closer to a sale. A good button stands out, enticing the reader. A bad button hangs out in the background and goes overlooked and unnoticed.

1-800 Contacts: your buttons are bad.

1 800 contacts

And it’s a shame too, because the rest of the email is pretty nice to look at! They just made some horrible color choices with their all important button. First, they used a somewhat muted color that doesn’t quite allow the button to pop out like it should. Then, they used a clashing font color that makes reading it extremely difficult.

With their brand colors, I would have used the yellow for the button. It has already been established in this email that the information presented in yellow is particularly important. So why not use it on the button, possibly the most important part of the email?

You should never rush an email design. But you should definitely never rush button design.

Do this instead: Really think about your brand colors before you create your button. What combination of colors will stand out the most? 

This blog isn’t supposed to be mean – but hopefully, it serves as a wake-up call for you to take a look at your email newsletter designs. 

RP BetterLookingEmails Footer