With a new year here, it’s time to start making plans for the year ahead. But first, you need to figure out what to focus on.

In the world of email marketing, that means learning about some of the top design trends and making notes on what you and your marketing team could improve on in 2018.

We reached out to some top email design experts to see what common trends and shifts they’re seeing in the email marketing world. Here’s what they had to say.

Trend 1: More use of images and emojis in email

In 2017 we saw a 25% increase in image use. This means brands are adding more images, more high-fidelity images, and are using more animated GIFs within their emails. Image file size may indicate more production finesse, but be careful: it’s slower to load on mobile devices that are still bandwidth-constrained. Also worth noting: Emoji usage is way up. In 2017, emojis appeared in 10% of subject lines, which is a 66% increase from 2016.

Tom Buchok

Tom Buchok, MailCharts

Trend 2: Emotive design

Another trend that we saw last year, and I think will continue to pick up steam in the year ahead, is design becoming more human. As technology becomes an increasingly intrinsic part of our lives, companies will try to fill the need for human connections. This includes a deeper understanding of the customer and communicating to them on a more personal and emotive level. This may manifest itself in many different ways including an increase in photography, illustration, and emotive language.

Nikola Keavy

Nikola Keavy, Campaign Monitor

Trend 3: Progressive enhancements

In 2018, I think designers and stakeholders are more willing to embrace progressive enhancements – whether they are background images, animations, or interactivity. We’ll be seeing more diverse content within 2018 email designs and less insistence on an email design looking the same within all clients.

Justin Khoo

Justin Khoo, FreshInbox

Trend 4: Greater accessibility

In 2018, we can plan on more email designers working to increase the accessibility of HTML email. That means writing code that can be read by a screen reader for visually impaired users, making designs that scale for screen magnifiers, keeping color contrast for colorblind users, making text readable for dyslexic users, etc.

Mark Robbins

Mark Robbins, GoRebel

Trend 5: Refined design processes

Brands will spend more time refining their email creation processes so they can do more than spend eight hours a day just trying accomplish the basics. That means building out master templates, using more email creation tools, creating stronger documentation, and empowering their teams to be more effective in general.

Elliot Ross

Elliot Ross, Taxi for Email

Trend 6: Text-based emails

I think we’ll definitely see more text-based email designs. There have been quite a few studies recently A/B testing image-based vs text-based emails, and text-based generally sees more open and click-through rates. To me, it signifies the user’s quest for simplicity. They are also less likely to end up in the spam folder. The user can get exactly what they need without feeling ‘marketed’ to. Plus, it looks more personalized to the reader.

Anna Hetzel

Anna Hetzel, AnnaHetzel.com

Trend 7: A clear and easy way to unsubscribe

When it comes to the unsubscribe link, some brands have created complicated processes. But moving forward, more and more brands are making the unsubscribe process simple (as it should be) and some even go so far as to welcome it. The reason: Smart marketers realize that if someone wants to leave your list, it might not have anything to do with your brand (and it doesn’t mean you’ve lost them as a customer). The last thing you want to do to a potential customer is to make a simple process more complicated than it needs to be.

Val Geisler

Val Geisler, ValGeisler.com

Trend 8: Increased interactivity

Interactivity is going to get more and more common for sure. That poses a unique set of design challenges; the design has to be novel but intuitive at the same time. But the creativity this will spawn is going to be great…I just know it!

Anne Tomlin

Anne Tomlin, Pompeii79.com

Wrap up

When it comes to email design trends, things are always changing and evolving– and that’s a good thing. With change comes innovation and opportunities for better, stronger email efforts.