How to Be a Great Email Designer: Essential Tools

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It’s can be hard to get excited about email design. But it is an ever-growing and ever-important part of branding and design for a large number of businesses, freelancers and even designers.

Email design can make or break the messages that you send to potentials customers or clients. Every email needs to have a strong framework and striking design. And it can be easier to create that you might think with the right resources and tools.

What Makes a Great Email Design?

Email Design

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If you are looking for a magic email design formula, you won’t get it here. Simply because there is not one. But there are some things you can do to help maximize the impact of your email newsletter design.

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  • Keep it simple.
  • Include a direct call to action.
  • Make it responsive.
  • Eliminate bells and whistles, including lots of links back to your website.
  • Be wary of images and backgrounds. It is important to note that many mobile browsers or email programs won’t automatically render images.
  • Connect the email you’re your brand’s style and design concepts.
  • Copy should be short, to the point and exciting.
  • Keep it in a single column format. If you are used to designing websites, think of it as a one-page website.
  • Relevant information should be above the scroll.
  • Use HTML for emails, rather than lots of images. This will improve load times and overall usability of the email.
  • Test it before sending on a variety of devices to ensure that the content and design will look like you intend it to.

Great Email Design Tools

From design and sending software to tools that help you code and test emails before sending, there are plenty of items out there that can make designing a great email even easier. For the new email designer, it can be a little daunting to figure out what tools you need to use or invest in.

Campaign Monitor, an email software company, recently asked a handful of email designers what they could not live without in terms of tools. Give designers were asked about the top tools for text and code editing, browser, testing and framework.

  • The top code editors were Sublime Text and Atom.
  • The top browser was Chrome by far, followed by Firefox.
  • The top testing tools were Litmus and Email on Acid.

Email Marketing Tools

There are different approaches to creating email newsletters. While some designers prefer to code from scratch others prefer the comfort of third-party software (most of which offers custom design features and templates).

There are a lot of third-party options out there. These can range in price from free to hundreds of dollars, based on the side of your email list and the frequency of distribution.

Some of the benefits to third-party tools are great list management and analytics features. Most also include responsive email newsletter frameworks for ease of building and make it easy to build with pre-coded parts.

Here are the top 10 options that are pretty widely used and get great feedback from users, according to PC Mag. The ranking takes a close look at each platform, features and cost. This is a great tool if you are shopping for email marketing software.

Email Design Gallery (Examples)

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Great emails come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Scouring the web (or your inbox) can be a great source of inspiration. There are also a handful of websites such as Really Good Emails, HTML Email Designs, The Email Design Gallery and Beautiful Email Newsletters that provide a great deal of inspiration.


A great email newsletter design starts with the same basic principles as any other design project. The main difference is that you need to design and create something in a simple format that is easy to digest quickly and will likely include some type of call to action.

A good email design is readable on a number of devices, includes clean code and is user friendly. Have you received or created some emails that fir that description? Share yours with us in the comments.

Carrie Cousins

Carrie Cousins has more than 15 years of experience in media, design, and content marketing. She's a freelance writer and designer and loves helping brands and businesses build amazing things. You can connect with her on Twitter @carriecousins.

Posts by Carrie Cousins

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