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Destroying the Beautiful Email Myth

By Erin  |   Online Marketing | Websites: The Basics

pretty email design

Design companies along with email newsletter service providers like Mailchimp and Emma are motivated to promote their services by regularly showcasing beautiful, expertly-crafted and exquisitely designed email templates.

The galleries and images showing these beautiful emails make it easy for one to assume that beautiful email designs must automatically translate into better results such as higher open and click-through rates—but that assumption simply isn't true.

Examples of beautiful email designs

The designs below are templates offered to Mailchimp customers for use in their own email newsletter campaigns.

example mailchimp email templates


As you can see, these email templates are highly designed and quite beautiful.


Remember though: in the past we've covered two of the more important components required in highly effective email campaigns, and a gorgeous design was not one of them.

Simple can be exceptionally effective

Your emails do not need to be gorgeous in order to be effective at guiding people to your website or generating increased sales.

In fact, simple emails eliminate the big images, videos, and extensive custom HTML and CSS that can cause lengthy download times for highly designed emails. Also, some of your recipients' email programs may have images turned off by default, causing highly designed emails to display as empty and meaningless. Further, because simple emails are more similar to what people receive from friends and colleagues, recipients are sometimes less likely to feel like they're being sold to when they receive them.

The example below shows an email we send out to people who have downloaded our Secret Arsenal of Website Improvement Tools PDF.

simple email design example

This simple email, which is perhaps one step up from a plain-text only email, has a 24% click through rate, right on target with the (very wide) industry average of 15% - 50% for triggered email marketing campaigns. No fancy design needed.

Additional industry averages for email click through rates are as follows:

  • 5% - 15% for B2B newsletters
  • 2% - 12% for B2C promotional email marketing campaigns
  • 10% - 20% for emails sent to highly segmented and personalized B2B ad B2C lists

[Data: Alert Solutions]

Are highly designed emails ever a smarter option?

Absolutely. A perfect example of when a highly designed email may be a smarter choice over a simple email design is when a company is seeking to increase long-term brand awareness vs. driving immediate traffic and sales.

The main purpose of this blog post, though, is not to convince you that highly designed emails are bad.

Contrarily, the main purpose of this email is to convince you that highly designed emails are not always superior to simple emails. Gorgeous emails aren't requirements. Plain text or simply designed emails can be powerful components of effective online marketing and inbound marketing plans.

You can't improve what you don't test

Remember, despite the fact that there are industry best practices and recommendations you can follow, you'll never truly know what the most effective online marketing tactics for your company are unless you're committed to constantly test, test, test—and tweaking your efforts accordingly.

Test simple email designs and test more complex designs. Which option translates into higher conversion rates for your company? That's the option that's right for you.

It may end up being highly designed emails. But as you've learned in today's post, it very well may not be.

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