Brands once knew "the rules." Email conformed to single-browsing width, and Web-safe fonts ruled inboxes. Resistance was futile, at least for brands that wanted entry to consumers' email inboxes. But designers have begun to throw down their gauntlets and embrace creativity in direct marketing. They're designing for responses, not by "the rules."
Everything we know about direct marketing is shifting. Print-inspired email design is emerging from the cautious best practices once responsible for rigid templates, preview panes and (gasp) plain text emails. As Lisa Harmon and Alex Madison discussed recently: "The focus was always on telling the whole story in the preview pane to grab subscribers before we lost them. But these days, we're seeing that when you use design elements to pull people's eyes through the layout, people will scroll."
Women consumers are scrolling through emails, which are beginning to resemble glossy magazine ads more than the unresponsive direct marketing sell sheets that typically frequent inboxes. Brands are being rewarded for this design rebellion with opens, clicks, oohs and ahs.
There is no one set of rules for email design. The old dictums said the most important content should conform to single-browsing to capture readers immediately. Email design was confined to boxy templates in an attempt to ensure compatibility with multiple email clients and devices. It was easier to play it safe or, even worse, send plain text emails.
Through trial and error, a set of new email design best practices has begun to emerge that replace those rules. Brands such as Nordstrom are greeting inboxes with emails designed to out-style templates. The multi-platform retailer's print-inspired email designs inspire women to scroll beyond preview panes and enjoy the entire message. Each number serves as a visual cue ushering eyes from product to product, and then takes shoppers online for social commerce. Is it more work? Yes. But print-inspired email design can gain responses from women consumers who are immune to emails restricted by rules.