When it comes to email marketing design best practices, I subscribe wholeheartedly to the Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS) school of thought. The simpler your design, the more successful it will be. This means making good use of text, displaying a clear call-to-action and limiting your use of graphics.

Many marketers try to replicate their website design (complete with complex navigation) in their email marketing campaigns. Many do this because they believe that a sudden change in design or navigation might confuse their subscribers as they leap from your email to your website. However, stuffing your email with complex design elements is not a great idea for several reasons:

  1. Too Much Choice Dilutes Your Message’s Impact: Your campaign should have one clear purpose. By offering numerous links to various pages on your website, you risk sending people down completely the wrong path.
  2. It’s Not Fat-Finger Friendly: Although your complex navigation might work well in a larger-screen environment (i.e., on a laptop or desktop computer), it doesn’t stand a chance of working (or even being clearly legible) on a mobile device.
  3. It Risks Pushing the Offer Out of Sight: The more design elements you include at the top of your email, the more chance your actual offer has of being hidden below the fold (i.e., of forcing the recipient to scroll down to find it … which increases the chance that he or she will tune out before ever seeing the offer at all).
  4. Complex Designs Can Break: The more complex your design, the more chance it has of displaying incorrectly across various technologies.
  5. Empty Boxes Send Emails Straight to the Trash: Because graphics are often only downloaded when the user elects to view the complete email, a graphics-heavy email may look like a series of empty boxes. Remember, you literally have a matter of seconds to persuade a recipient that your email is worth opening.  A load of empty boxes will do little to persuade him or her to do anything other than chuck your email in the trash.

This post first appeared on the iContact Blog.