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Build Your Email Success with Best Practices in Design


When you use email messaging as a marketing tool, you have to satisfy your subscribers as well as the sensitive spam filters. Fishbowl’s best practices use permission-only marketing, great design principles, and timely, relevant content to reach your customers.


One of the most important components of email marketing is the right design layout. Smart design can significantly increase click-through rates and make an email more successful.  These are some points to keep in mind:

  • Let the design guide the viewer through the message.
  • Use the right balance of images and text.
  • Keep important information above the fold.
  • Avoid text-heaviness.
  • Keep the email width to 600 pixels, maximum.

This Bennigan’s layout is designed to make the viewer’s eye move from their logo to the button, showcasing the offer, and then to the ice cream image, then circle back around a few times.

We pay close attention to eye-flow, which helps us to achieve higher click-through rates.


Using a clear call-to-action increases click-through rates.  The idea is to focus on one primary goal, so the user doesn’t become overwhelmed. Here are some points to keep in mind:

  • The action should clearly tell users what to do, and it should include active language such as “Register”, “Donate”, or “Visit”.
  • Ideally, the button should be above the fold.
  • Use white space around the button to call attention to it.
  • Use unique buttons or a contrasting color, so that the call-to-action stands out.

On this MVP club email, we chose a button with a unique shape, contrasting color, and active language.

Our placement of the call-to-action button is guided by our experience, past test results, and eye-tracking knowledge to ensure users will notice it and take action.


Information overload is a problem, and attention spans are shorter than ever. How to make sure your message isn’t overlooked? Don’t just rely on a good subject line, use pre-headers to display a summary of the email – or an offer – right next to the subject line.

Because pre-headers display, even when your guests turn off images in their email or read their email on a mobile device, they give your guests an overview of your mailing.  This reduce spam complaints, which helps email deliverability.

Links used in pre-headers can have click-through rates of 30%.

Text Versions

Best practices dictate offering members a plain-text and HTML version of your email messages.  The text version doesn’t have to mimic the HTML version exactly. Keep it brief, and focus on communicating your primary message. The most important information should go on the top.

You may choose to remove some navigation or footer links, as this can make the text version difficult to read. Use capital letters and punctuation to divide body copy from calls-to-action and links.  Or, you can divide these categories visually with a horizontal line of repeating characters.

Our plain text version has a clean layout, is easy to read, and the call-to-action is clear.

Live Text vs. Graphic Text

Images embedded in an email are often blocked by default on email clients, which means recipients must choose to download images for each email to display them. Using live text ensures your message is seen by guests, even if they do not choose to download images.

Another asset of using live text:  you can personalize your emails. Email subscribers are more likely to open an email when they feel it is special to them. By using the information you have gathered from guests, such as their first names, you improve both deliverability and open rates, and you make a stronger connection with customers!

We incorporate live text in 90% of the emails we design, because it decreases file size and guarantees that the email is legible.

Navigation Bars

Consistent branding across online and offline materials helps familiarize users with your brand, training them to recognize your company quickly. Using email headers with consistent navigation and branding will help your email stand out in the crowd. The look and feel of the navigation bar and logo positioning should be consistent, and it needs to represent the company’s brand.

This email shows Monkey Joe’s very distinctive branding. Because their emails have consistent navigation from message to message, their e-club members are more inclined to immediately recognize an email as from Monkey Joe’s.  They’re also more inclined to use the navigation to visit the Monkey Joe’s website.

Whether we design your branding, update it, or use your existing brand, our team makes sure our campaigns always strengthen and reinforce your image and professionalism.

Social Media

Including social media icons on the header or footer of an email is good practice for many reasons. Studies have shown email with social media links enjoy higher click-through rates. It also makes it easy for members to join your social media community, and offers your customers another way to connect with you.

Our team includes social media in all emails. Integrating email and social media strengthens your bond with existing members and helps extend your message to a whole new audience.


Animations can enhance email by grabbing your audience’s attention. Animated GIFS function in almost every email client. They also engage users, and tend to be well received.

Because animation increases the size of an email, it should be used selectively. Also, to avoid distracting your users, the animation shouldn’t be too fast, and you should limit it to one place in your email. Animation should be used to enhance a design without distracting from the messaging.

Our team uses animation on 60% of the emails we design, because studies show that it can increase click-through rates by 49%.

Don’t Worry, We Can Take Care of It!

Let us focus on captivating your audience, so you don’t have to worry that your message didn’t make it to your guests’ inboxes. Review more of Fishbowl’s award-winning designs, and sign up for Fishbowl’s Marketing Services today!