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Three common mistakes in e-mail design. (Online Publishing).

Ariad Custom Publishing, Toronto-based publisher of dozens of print and online nonsubscription newsletters, believes that good design makes the message easier and more pleasurable to read. In other words, strong design gets people to read the text.

So what happens if an enewsletter or other pieces of emarketing communications is poorly designed? The recipient

is confused or frustrated or, even worse, completely uninterested in opening the e-mail. Response rates are low, and opt-out or unsubscribe rates are high.

And the real shame, Ariad says, is that with HTML-format e-mails, you have enhanced design capabilities available.

Here are the major design flaws in HTML-format e-mails that Ariad sees again and again--along with Ariad's suggestions for avoiding them.

Mistake #1: E-mails that look like web pages. E-mail newsletters or promotions that look like web pages (even the home page of a website) are far too common. They may have too many columns (three or more), several illustrations or graphic items that fight for attention, densely packed type, and too many navigation options. In addition, an e-mail will look more like a web page if it lacks an introduction or letter, and if it's not personalized.

Websites, of course, vary widely, but typically their purpose is to be more comprehensive than an e-mail. Think of the e-mail as the advertisement or commercial--with a more targeted message. By contrast, the website is the main feature.

Here's a case in point: When we created Email Marketer, we gave it a look that's distinct from, while keeping some key branding points (such as colors and image style). We designed it to offer targeted information about issues in email marketing, while the website provides general information about our company.

Mistake #2: E-mails with confusing navigation. Too many e-mails have uninviting or even non-existent navigation. Make sure that your e-mail is reader-friendly, by taking advantage of these tips:

--Use internal jumps--that is, links within the e-mail itself A table of contents below the title (or nameplate) of an e-newsletter can double as a set of jump links, letting readers jump down to the articles of interest, right within the e-newsletter. That's why we place a table of contents at the top of Email Marketer.

--Label buttons clearly Think of links and buttons as doors that you want the reader to open. Label them accurately and clearly, without being clever. Also be sure that your links are visually identifiable as links. You don't have to stick to the standard blue underlined text, but you should be consistent. In Email Marketer, for example, we use orange for all links within the text and for buttons.

--Lead your readers clearly. If your readers get lost in a maze of links, chances are they will not follow through in the way you wanted. Your e-mail should have a primary purpose, and you should lead subscribers to the right information or call to action as directly as possible. That's why, in Email Marketer, we continue our longer stories on the landing page itself.

Mistake #3: E-mails that are hard to read. Online communication puts more visual control in the hands of the reader and less in the hands of the creator. Still, marketers need to put as much care into the appearance of their e-mail pieces as they do in print direct mail, to ensure easy readability. Here are our top tips for creating legible e-mails:

--Avoid light-colored text.

--Avoid dark screens behind text.

--Avoid reversed type.

--Use a typeface that won't break up onscreen--the default HTML sans serif typeface (Verdana) is clear and readable.

--Pictures must be "readable" too. Make sure they're big enough for readers to see what they are.

Hugh Fumeaux. president. Ariad Custom Publishing. 1000.119 Spodina Ave. Toronto. ON M5V 2L1, Canada. 416-971-9294, fax 416-971-9292.
COPYRIGHT 2003 The Newsletter on Newsletters LLC
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2003, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:The Newsletter on Newsletters
Date:Apr 30, 2003
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