E-Mail: Think Small Screen
In the recesses of Web time-like the early '90s, when Mosaic was "the" browser-there were few choices for designing on the Web. Now with CSS 3.0 looming on the horizon, the possibilities for designing on the small screen are increasing exponentially. But for those needing to create the digital counterpart of the printed flier, the technical possibilities are not much progressed from the digital Wild West equivalent of the mid-'90s.
First, and most importantly, who is your target audience, and what is the visual image of your company or product? This focus should be at the basis of every design decision made. Run down your mental checklist with each design revision: Are you keeping on target of your goals? Can you verbalize exactly why each item is in your design? If your answer to any of them is your version of, "Well, it looks cool," then take out that element.
Don't Forget the Basics
There's a good reason you learn basics first. If your background is in print design, think of the e-mail as a poster. And like a poster, it's all about immediate impact! If you don't get your message across quickly, your e-mail is destined for the trash folder. Hierarchy, space, composition, alignment-all those things are found in the beginning pages of a design textbook, and they should govern your creative execution. One trick to try: Look at the design on the screen, and then squint your eyes so everything is out of focus. What do you see? Do some elements stand out? Or are you just seeing a mass of medium gray? If you're in the 50 percent gray category, it's time to seriously re-evaluate your design.