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Why Email Design Matters [UPDATED]

We once created the World’s Worst Email, which breaks nearly single marketing and design best practice imaginable, and mailed it to a subsets of our subscribers. Although an over-the-top exercise, as the stats below confirmed, it proved to be a great device for shining a spotlight on why marketers should invest more resources in email design.

Some experts say that good design relates to humankind’s wellbeing. I don’t know about that but, on its most basic level, email design reinforces a company’s image. After all, email is the primary channel most sellers use to stay in front of their customers. That’s a big deal.

More directly though, email design is powerful contributor to increasing profitability and user-satisfaction. How your customer feels, and therefore if they’re going to engage and buy, is initially influenced by the design of an email. It’s the gateway to  meaningful actions.

An let’s not forget that the world is rapidly moving to mobile. In fact, there is close to a 50% chance you are reading this post from a mobile device right now. That’s also true for email opens and clicks; needless to say you’ll want to truly embrace mobile-friendly email design as part of your strategy.

Properly applied, good email design can give sellers a sustainable advantage, help them gain market share and even command a premium price.  I’ve seen it with my open eyes, time and again. I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right, quality content matters, but superb email design matters too. Most importantly, it’s the design that optimizes perception and experience to whatever medium the viewer is participating within will be the greatest winner this year and beyond.

But even if your email program is built on a solid, or should I say responsive, foundation you’ve still got to tinker, test and experiment with your emails, including the look-and-feel.  Too often email marketing templates are considered to be a set-it-and-forget-it type of deal. That’s especially true for automated or drip email campaigns. Sorry marketers, but you’ve got to mix it up or you’ll soon become background noise and ultimately you’ll be silenced.

About the Author: Scott Hardigree is the Founder of Indiemark. Connect with him everywhere here.


My good email-friend, Tim Watson of ZetaSphere, asked that I share the results of the World’s Worst Email, which was mailed to mailed to our “industry/practitioners” list segments. These are folks that work in the email industry and/or have responsibility for email marketing at their company.

As you might imagine this segment usually sees good open/click rates but as you can see clearly see below the BlackBox Promo, which we mailed a week later, crushed the Worst Email Ever.

Email Marketing Stats

Although the messages and objectives of each campaign were quite different this far-from-scientific, but incredibility entertaining, experiment showed us that a) the readability of the poorly crafted email resulted in inordinately low clicks and b) a combination of worst-practices (obscuring the unsub link/language, the use of spammy text, etc.) and sloppy coding drove this ugly newsletter into a lot spam folders. No shocker there but proof all the same.

In the unforeseen-plus category, the email insiders that did receive, forward or otherwise share our ugly newsletter helped to create something of a buzz around it (thanks!) but given that they’re all a bunch of straight-up email geeks I suppose that’s not too surprising either. :-)


Scott Hardigree
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  • by Simon Cave
    Posted February 10, 2015 4:09 am 0Likes

    Awesome! Your world’s worst email has still a great click rate considering its ugliness (no offense) ;)

    • by Scott Hardigree
      Posted February 20, 2015 8:57 am 0Likes

      Yeah Simon, it’s not too bad, but I’m sure it’s skewed high because a) this list is comprised of a lot of email geeks and b) many of them went searching of Easter eggs. :)

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