12+ Best Practices for Email Marketing Layout Design

Categories: Email marketing
Sam Thomas avatar
Sam Thomas Updated: July 03, 2021


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Are your company’s email designs out of date? Because, here’s a hot take: that’s not necessarily a negative thing. While there are many email design trends to keep an eye on, there are also many timeless email design best practices to keep in mind when you design your marketing emails. In this article, I will share with you the best practices that you can use to create powerful email marketing layouts. Let’s jump right into the details!

Table of Content:

7 essential elements of an email layout

7 essential elements of an email layout

By understanding each of the elements that form a powerful email layout, you’ll be able to better put them together in an effective way.

Every email lay has these seven essential elements:

  • Header and metadata
  • Preheader
  • Logo and colors
  • Images
  • Body
  • Call-to-action (CTA) buttons
  • Footer

Let’s address one of these elements and their roles in an email layout.

1. Header and metadata

Header and metadata

When your subscribers receive your email, the header and metadata are the first thing they see. Email marketing clients typically pre-populate the “From” and “Reply-To” sections with information you submit to your email marketing provider, but you can modify a message’s header information by simply clicking on that area in your draft.

An effective subject line

While the subject line isn’t technically a part of the email layout, it is critical to the performance of your marketing message delivery. This is the first thing your recipients will see, and dull, irrelevant, or spammy subject lines may result in your email being ignored.

A subject line is useful for more than just motivating the recipient to click open. Emails with no subject lines are more likely to be routed to the spam bin. Try including a cute emoji in your subject line as well.

Here are some useful tips for writing a great subject line:

  • Keep it brief. The idea is to avoid having your subject line abbreviated by email inboxes.
  • Be honest. Use the subject line to let the recipient know what’s inside the email. Don’t try to be deceptive – no “bait and switch.”
  • Be astute as possible, but not too astute. Check with your team to make sure if a joke is appropriate.
  • Avoid spam trigger phrases (such as “FREE” or “$$$”) and excessive punctuation.

2. Preheader


An email preheader, often known as an introduction, is the text that frequently appears alongside the subject line in a recipient’s inbox. While not all email clients display the preheader automatically, it’s still a good idea to add a custom one and use this as an opportunity to tell your readers exactly what to expect when they open the email.

Start with the most vital facts, just as journalists do. If you’re promoting a discount or debuting a new product, for example, start with that information to entice visitors to click and read on.

Preheaders are not required when sending an email, but they can assist your readers understand your content more clearly. Preheaders can be used to instill a sense of urgency. Pay attention to the first five to eight words, which virtually always appear in a person’s inbox.

If you leave the preheader field empty, it will just display the first few lines of your email. Your recipient will see your preheader as well as the first few lines, depending on their settings. Consider this when creating your headers.


Email layout design can be a creative process, but if you want to establish a strong sense of who you are as a brand — it’s crucial to keep to certain basic best practices and to be consistent. You want your email receivers to become accustomed to your brand identification before you shake things up, so make sure you have a consistent set of brand colors and a great logo to display in your email design.

When adding your logo to the body of your email, be sure it doesn’t spread out to occupy the entire screen. You might need to reduce the size of your logo so that your email readers don’t have to scroll down a whole page to view what’s underneath it. Of course, make sure the logo is large enough to be identified or read.

You can want your logo to have a transparent background or to be a form with your company’s color palette. Take the time to modify your logo while creating a template so that all of your emails seem more professional.

4. Images


Images can be a useful tool to use in your emails, but only if they complement your content. Customers or potential clients may rapidly scroll past words, but they will pause if they see a compelling image. What is it about an email graphic that makes it appealing?

Images should be clear and in high-resolution, but not so large that the loading takes too much time. Aim for a file size of roughly 1 MB and no more than 5 MB. Images that are too small may appear pixelated, and your email will appear amateurish. When they are excessively large, your readers’ email clients may take a long time to download them or, worse, they may route your email to the spam folder.

5. Body


When someone opens an email, the first thing they see is the body, which is where you may get creative with your design elements. Consider using a drag-and-drop template tailored to your specific sector. It is also feasible to develop a bespoke template from scratch, but a template will assist you in creating a cleaner, better-designed email that adheres to best practices.

To create your layout, you can utilize elements often known as content blocks. These help you build your email as you’ve envisioned. They can contain:

  • Text
  • Images
  • Dividers
  • Buttons
  • Spacers
  • Videos
  • Social media links
  • Links to other content pieces, like your blog

What information do you wish to give your readers? This determines the content blocks to include in your template. When deciding where to place which blocks, keep readability in mind. When arranging your content blocks, keep your email’s aim in mind.

Never put too much text in a single block, as this might be confusing to readers. Use a soft background color, subheadings, or bullets to break up the material. Include visuals that can represent the message of your email campaign so that the receiver understands exactly what you want them to do.

It is also possible to share videos, experiment with animation, and even insert a countdown timer in an email. Just be careful not to overdo it. Use no more than one or two of these interactive design components in a single email.

6. CTA buttons

CTA buttons

While technically contained in the body of an email, call-to-action buttons are so crucial that they deserve their own section to discuss best practices. Your CTA acts as a pointer for the reader to follow.

The text on the buttons instruct them on what to do next, such as “buy now” or “learn more.” Whatever text you use, the fundamental reason you’re sending the email in the first place is the idea behind it.

Have a CTA button with clear and direct language at all times. If your brand is youthful and exciting, don’t be scared to adjust the wording on the button to reflect that. Use active language and as few words as possible to explain the activity.


A footer is the section at the very bottom of every email. It allows you to insert special information required by regulations such as the CAN-SPAM Act without interfering with the main design.

Mandatory information in the footer ares:

  • Your company’s name and physical address
  • A way for your recipients to update their profiles
  • An Unsubscribe link
  • Your company’s privacy policy

Now that you’ve learnt about the 7 essential elements of an email layout, let’s move on to the 15 best email layout design practices.

Top 12+ Email Layout Design Best Practices

1. Design with mobile in mind

Design with mobile in mind

The amount of emails opened on mobile has surged by 180 percent in the last three years alone, which means you’re losing the majority of your email subscribers if your emails aren’t optimized for mobile.

When it comes to email design, adopt a mobile-first mindset. Most email clients now change email layouts for mobile devices automatically, while others still do not. Use adaptable layouts, templates, and cascading style sheet (CSS) coding to ensure that your emails are responsive.

Stick to a single-column layout whenever practical, and never use more than three columns. Make sure the fonts you use and calls-to-action (CTAs) are large, clear, and simple to click (46 x 46 pixels is an ideal size for mobile-friendly CTAs). Always test your emails on different email clients and devices to ensure proper display.

2. Stick with the width of 600 pixels

Because you never know which email client your recipients will use, you must build for the lowest common denominator (cough, Microsoft Outlook) when it comes to email width.

Keep your emails at around or under 600 pixels wide for the maximum visibility. This ensures that your marketing emails can be viewed properly in any email client’s vertical preview pane.

3. Avoid using background Images

Background images are not supported by some email clients (cough, Outlook), so use them at your own risk. If you have to use a background image, make sure it does not include any critical information or imagery.

4. Balance your images and text

Background images aren’t the only ones that can fail to load. In fact, many email clients automatically block all graphics. Furthermore, image-heavy emails are more likely to be marked as spam, which means your recipients may not receive your marketing emails at all.

To address these challenges, aim for a 50/50 mixture of graphics and text. You want graphics because they attract the reader’s attention and tell your tale faster than text can. However, be certain that you continue to convey your narrative. In addition to body copy, include alt text (as well as a fallback background color) for each image.

Here’s how Medium balanced their images with text in a email layout:

Balance your images and text

In the end, it’s best to just assume that all images will be blocked. If no one can see your images, will your email still make sense?

5. Optimize your images

Along with using alt text and background colors for images, there are some other image formatting tips to remember for optimal email layout design:

  • Image size should be optimized. The larger the image, the longer it takes for the email to load. Keep photos as minimal as feasible while maintaining high quality.
  • Declare the width and height of the image. When photos fail to load, specifying the exact size of your photos will assist your email maintain its structure. Never go beyond 600 pixels wide.
  • For picture locations, use absolute URLs. Absolute URLs are preferable to relative URLs for a variety of reasons. For all email photos, use absolute links and host them on your own website.
  • PNG files should be avoided. PNGs are not supported by all email clients. Instead, use JPGs.
  • Don’t use videos. Flash and JavaScript take lots of time to load and frequently route your email to spam. If you really want to share a video, use a still image that links to a page that contains the video rather than embedding the video within the email itself. (However, consider incorporating GIFs to increase engagement.)

6. Stick to common fonts

Stick to standard system typefaces like Arial, Helvetica, Georgia, Tahoma, Times New Roman, and Verdana when selecting a font for your marketing emails. Other fonts may not be supported by some email clients, thus they may not render correctly unless you choose a fallback web-safe font.

The size of the font is equally significant for email reading. For body material, the minimum suggested font size is 14 pixels, whereas for headers, the minimum suggested font size is 22 pixels.

7. Create an eye-catching header

Unless you’re sending a plain-text email, you should create a simple but attractive header at the beginning of your email.

The top-left corner of your email is the most precious real estate – it is where the reader’s eye will be drawn initially. Make good use of it by including your company’s logo there, along with other pertinent information (such as your phone number or an important call to action) on the right.

If you want to bring attention to your logo alone, stamp it in the center, as seen below by Artifact Uprising:

Create an eye-catching header

Ensure that your header spans the entire width of the email. However, don’t jam too much into your header; aim to keep it around 150 pixels tall. If you have a lot of products or categories to show, you should think about utilizing a navigation bar. It should be tucked in between the header and the body copy.

8. Place your key message “Above the Fold”

The term “above the fold” in journalism refers to the front-cover article — the first one that readers see (and thus the one that gets them to either buy the paper or move on).

Although there is no literal fold in email marketing, the principle remains. Put your most interesting information at the beginning of your email if you want readers to stay reading. The optimum place is within the first three inches of email depth.

We’re talking about CTA buttons, graphics, and text – don’t assume you have to wait until the conclusion of the email to encourage readers to take action. The CTAs with the highest engagement are frequently those at the top of an email.

Make advantage of the left side of your email as well. People linger the longest on the left side of the screen, according to eye-tracking technologies, so keep that in mind when displaying key material.

9. Keep your body copy simple

When drafting an email, keep it short and to the point. This includes short phrases and paragraphs, plenty of white space, and stylistic hints such as bullet points and bolded text.

If you have a lot of text to present, consider including a table of contents with links to the individual parts so that readers can easily jump to the one they want to see. However, avoid including too much text; not only will it overload readers, but it will also be a spam sign. Instead, include clear links to your website’s content.

If you’re emailing from someone’s real name and email address, you might wish to include an email signature at the conclusion. This not only adds a personal touch, but it also provides readers a specific person to contact if they have questions or feedback.

10. Add Social Sharing Buttons

Neglecting to include social sharing buttons in your email marketing campaigns is one of the worst errors you can make.

Isn’t it true that your ultimate goal as a digital marketer is to gain brand advocates? What could be more beneficial to your brand than having people share your content on their own social media channels?

Include social networking links at the bottom of all marketing emails to make it easier for them. If urging readers to share the email content seems too forceful or unrealistic, “Follow Us!” buttons can be used instead. Do you have a mobile app? Promote it here as well!

We like how Uber showed their social sharing icons in a subtle, brand-appropriate manner:

Add Social Sharing Buttons

The footer, while frequently neglected, is one of the most important aspects of any marketing emails. The footer is an important part of an email layout. To begin, all commercial emails must comply with the CAN-SPAM Act, which requires you to provide an opt-out link as well as your company’s name and physical address in every email you send. You should additionally explain why the recipients are receiving this email (i.e. they subscribed at some point).

This information is not only required by law, but it is also a good idea. If you don’t make it simple for your recipients to unsubscribe, they’ll grow even more dissatisfied with your company.

The email footer is also a good area to include additional contact information, subscription choices, and links to relevant website pages (such as your new inventory, store locator, or calendar of events).

12. Keep simplicity in mind

Above all, simple and straightforward email templates are the way to go. They are not only easier for readers to scan and digest, but also for email clients to skim and digest.

13. Test and improve

Finally, in order to genuinely identify the best formula for your email design, you must test it. Send yourself test versions of emails before sending them to examine how they look in different email clients (and whether it may end up in the spam folder).

You should additionally run tests once the message has been sent. No two email templates are alike, just as no two readers are alike. Split your list and test several variations of your marketing emails to find the optimal delivery times, CTA placement, and other factors.

Make your email marketing layout design easy with AVADA Marketing Automation

Make your email marketing layout design easy with AVADA Marketing Automation

AVADA Marketing Automation is a powerful email and SMS marketing tool that can help you design your email easily with its drag-and-drop email builder. With this tool design emails will be a piece of cake because you only need to drag and drop your email elements without any coding required. It also provides all the features you need to create and manage email marketing campaigns.

Final words

That’s it! I hope that this article has provided you with the best practices for email marketing layout design. Please feel free to leave comments below for further discussion on this topic!

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