‘Tis the season for decorating all the things for the holidays: your house, your desk at work, and even your emails.

But before you douse your next holiday email in glitter, tinsel and garland, it may be good to take a step back and ask yourself if it’s creating the right experience for your subscribers. While your intentions may be good in that you’re embracing an important time of the year, there are some design principles to keep in mind.

So how can you be sure your emails convey a festive winter wonderland and not a winter disaster?

I teamed up with our Email Designer, Kim R., to get her expert advice on how to create a fun holiday email in a way that doesn’t break all of the design rules. Here’s her advice:

1. Aim for simplicity.

Some people like to decorate for the holidays by covering every window, exterior, and blade of grass with festive decorations. But that doesn’t mean you should do the same with your emails.

“Adding too many photos or festive elements can be overwhelming,” advises Kim. “Aim for a simple email, especially if you’re working from a design that’s already busy.”

In general, emails with a lot going on in them easily become distracting for the average subscriber – and that goes beyond design. Emails that have too much content, too many different types of fonts, and too many columns can present too many places for readers to focus their attention.

Instead, try choosing one or two elements to focus on and add to your email, like:

  • An image or GIF
  • A new color scheme
  • A new holiday template.

If you’re using a pre-built email template provided by AWeber or another email marketing platform, for example, this might be all you need to convey that festive vibe.

For inspiration to help you along the way, check out this email from the content management platform Uberflip:

Uberflip Holiday Email Design Example

They recently launched their “12 Days of Uberflippin’ Giveaways” promotion and incorporated a simple, yet totally festive, design. The hero image includes their logo, but embraces the ugly sweater pattern, and other unobtrusive visuals that give it just enough holiday spirit.

2. Limit your calls-to-action.

This is a busy time of year for businesses sending email, but it’s even busier for the individuals who are receiving them.

To make it easier for subscribers to take action and get more clicks in your emails, stick to a brief number of calls-to-action.

“Keep it really clear as to what you want people to do,” Kim adds.”If listing products, give them a few things to point to. Don’t use too many products to feature in your email.”

Ideally, you should stick to one link that you want your subscribers to click. But if you have a few different items to feature, consider limiting it to three or four, and then direct individuals to those specific product pages.

In the email below from Nest, a home automation product company, there’s no confusion about what they want subscribers to do after reading the email:

Nest Holiday Email Design CTA

By having one button positioned at the top of the email as the main focus, they make it simple for subscribers to take action.

And that doesn’t prevent them from sharing the benefits about their family of products, either – readers can learn what’s in it for them (and potentially the people they’re purchasing gifts for) and choose to buy a specific product from the set.

3. Stay aligned with your brand.

Swapping your usual email template with a holiday-themed one? Go for it!

When you do, just make sure it remains aligned with your brand.

“Be sure to include your logo and consider using your usual headers and footers,” Kim says. “You can focus on making smaller changes, like adding festive colors that go beyond your usual color palette.”

So before you pull a complete 180 on your readers, think about the experience it’s creating for them. To ensure the email still feels like it’s coming from you, consider how you might add holiday delight without turning away subscribers.

Check out this holiday email promotion from online marketplace Magnolia:

Magnolia Holiday Email Design Branding

The visual design of the email is simple and doesn’t feel like you just walked into a HomeGoods the Monday after Thanksgiving (although I love that store!). They use their regular header, but incorporate a touch of the season by including a red, festive image and applying the same color to the text above.

Get festive with your emails.

If your holiday emails are already in motion, not a problem! It’s never too late to make adjustments to your next send – especially when it can improve the experience for your subscribers.

Not comfortable with changing your email design? If you’re an AWeber customer, try one of our brand new holiday email templates. Just log into your account, and you’ll see them in the Template Gallery.

These templates are ready to be customized, so you can make them fit with your brand by doing things like adding you company logo and changing the background color.

Not an AWeber customer? Sign up for a free 30-day trial today to wrap up the holiday season!