BEST PRACTICES DESIGN

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1 BEST PRACTICES for EFFECTIVE DESIGN

2 July 2008 BEST PRACTICES for EFFECTIVE DESIGN The number of professionals and businesses using as part of their marketing campaign is growing. According to the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), marketers spent approximately $500 million on commercial marketing in That figure is projected to rise to $1.2 billion in 2012 a statistic that hints to the importance and effectiveness of marketing. Marketers are discovering the multiple benefits of including as part of their B2B and B2C integrated marketing mix. Increasingly, marketers are discovering the multiple benefits of including as part of their B2B and B2C integrated marketing mix. Targeted, opt-in s are accepted and welcomed by most recipients. And, as a survey by Jupiter Research reveals, 60% of business decision makers prefer the Internet and as the method to receive marketing messages. This great news is compounded by the fact that cost per qualified lead is five to 15% less online. Additionally, the DMA estimates ROI in 2008 at $45.65 for every dollar spent. So, for marketers that strategically plan emarketing campaigns and practice effective design, the benefit is clear. This white paper focuses on best practices for effective design, an important factor influencing how platforms and recipients view marketing s. WHY DESIGN MATTERS Any communication from a business, including s, is an extension of brand. The tone set by design represents part of the brand s story. Furthermore, design conveys a great deal about an s sender and the s purpose before any content is read by the recipient. Another reason to consider effective design is not necessarily a subjective element. Design affects how platforms filter, categorize and display messages. Understanding design in these terms will help marketers improve deliverability and ROI. page 1

3 UNDERSTANDING THE OBJECTIVE OF AN Understanding the main purpose and goal of an communication is critical to developing effective design. The design strategy will change based upon the objective and intended goal. For example, newsletters should have a different design and layout than a sales or brand-building . This is so because recipients look for visual cues to guide them through the s content and to determine how it should be read. A clear understanding of the goal will make it easier to determine where to place different elements such as call-to-action buttons, links, phone numbers and images within the . ANATOMY OF AN design is not solely confined within the main body of a message. Good design starts before a recipient even opens and views the content contained within an message. Following are the five parts on an as viewed by the recipient: TIP Limit subject line messages to 50 characters or less. Extending subject line messages past 50 characters is a fruitless effort since most platforms cut off messages beyond that point. Additionally, recipients viewing s on portable devices will see even less. The From Name The From of an tells the recipient about the sender. Typically, it s also the first field recipients see when viewing all the s collected in their inbox. Having a clear and recognizable name will prevent an from being immediately deleted by the recipient. The Sender and Provider Coalition (ESPC), reports that 73% of opted-in recipients junk or report it as spam based on the information in the From field. So, by using a company name, the name of a familiar associate or product name in the From field, marketers may cut down on the rate at which recipients delete or report s as spam. Subject Line The subject line of an is the second chance for marketers to make an impression on recipients. It s also the second chance recipients have to decide whether they want to open or report an as spam. And, according to industry studies, they ll make that decision in less than six seconds. Therefore, the more precise and relevant the subject line can be, the better. page 2

4 TIP Place call-to-action buttons, phone numbers and promotional offers toward the top of s above the fold. newsletters that contain lengthy copy should include a table of contents describing topics covered in the . Marketers should also consider including only portions of articles within the using links leading to a website landing page for continuation of the article. This tactic will provide tracking and analytical data. Preview Pane Many platforms, like Microsoft s Outlook and Google s Gmail, display messages for recipients in preview panes. A preview pane allows recipients to take a sneak peek look at the s contents. Often, only a portion of an is visible via the preview pane a few inches of the s top portion when viewed in a horizontal preview pane or a few inches of the left side of an when viewed via a vertical preview pane. Therefore, critical information such as a company logo, offer or call-to-action button should be placed as close to the top left of an as possible to accommodate preview panes. An Opened Once a recipient opens a message, they are presented with the content that makes up the body of the . However, many recipients do not immediately see the entire contents of the message. Initially, recipients see content that resides above the fold. The term above the fold refers to the content seen before viewers need to scroll. This area s dimensions depend upon the viewer s screen resolution, which varies. According to ClickZ, 60% of people viewing s only see or read 50% of the message. Some of this is due to much of an s content residing below the fold. The Full Marketer s that have guided viewers beyond the four steps as listed above are ahead of the curve. The real test is in how viewers engage with the full . First and foremost, marketers should make the full body of the easy to navigate and include relevant content. HOW PEOPLE READ S It would be great if recipients carefully read each word included in an message. However, studies have shown that people naturally scan for information that peek their interest rather than digest content word for word. They look for visual cues to guide them through landing pages and messages. One method that describes how people read web content is called the F-Shaped Pattern of Scanning. By tracking eye movement using heat mapping technology, researchers discovered that readers move through web pages by starting on the top left of a page, then moving horizontally to the right. The left to right pattern is followed once again, then readers scan the page 3

5 remainder of the page vertically forming a shape similar to the letter F. Additionally, readers tend to scan or follow information that is sectioned or blocked. By understanding and using this knowledge, marketers are able to structure s to maximize visibility of content. EFFECTIVE LAYOUT / STRUCTURE Optimal layout and structure will vary depending on business type and objective of the message. Following are some key elements to consider when designing an message. Simplicity On average, people spend about 50 seconds reading e-newsletters. This period drops for other types of messages. Therefore, the content and design of an should be clear, concise, easy to read and relevant to the recipient. Utilize bullet points, paragraph breaks, bolded headlines and images to present content in organized groups. Minding the Fold Although many recipients are familiar with scrolling, many do not take the time to look below the fold of an . Marketers should keep the most important information towards the top of the message area. Promotional offers, contact information, company logos and call-to-action buttons should be accessible to readers without having to scroll down the page of the . For e-newsletters or other potentially lengthy messages, marketers should utilize a table of contents and place it above the fold so that readers can quickly scan topics without having to scroll. The area of an located above the fold varies depending on the recipient s computer screen resolution and the platform used. A general estimation of this area is 600 pixels wide by 750 pixels high. Top-down Format Used in newspaper writing, the top-down format is a writing style that places the most important information at the top of an article and supporting information below, organized in decreasing importance. This is done because most people just scan headline articles for a topic that is of interest to them. Journalists are taught to compress the most critical information about a story in the headline page 4

6 TIP Use image alt tags to support missing images. An image alt tag is HTML language that offers a text description of the image. If a browser does not load an image, then the contents of the alt tag will be displayed. Additionally, marketers can include a link within an that allows users to view the message in a browser window. A message viewed in a browser window should display all images along with text. fact A MarketingSherpa survey revealed that 64% of key decision makers use portable devices such as a smartphone to view s. and first paragraph of a story. All other supporting information and details follow. The same tactic should be used for design. USING IMAGES Images add visual appeal and interest to messages. They can also help to organize content within a message. However, they come with a special set of issues to consider. According to MarketingSherpa, one out of four consumers use preview panes, 59% of which block images. Therefore, it is suggested that marketers design s to be visually appealing and functional even when images are not visible to the viewer. This may be accomplished by using a healthy balance of imagery and text. USING TEXT Marketers have the ability to format text in a way that guides the reader and provides visual appeal. Adjusting font size, using bold and italics, and displaying text in color are ways to accomplish this. Marketers must note, though, that extensive formatting can result in s being blocked by content filters. So, simplicity in text formatting is stressed. In terms of functionality, it is recommended to provide an alternate, text-only version of messages to accompany HTML versions. Not all platforms display HTML. Also, text-only versions are valuable for recipients viewing s on portable devices where images make reading the contents of an difficult. CONTENT FILTERS Another challenge facing marketers is understanding the benefits and pitfalls of content filters. A content filter is a function of platforms that help to manage the delivery of s separating spam from opt-in or valid messages. Content filters look for specific elements within an in order to determine whether an should be classified as spam or not. In order to prevent being blocked by content filters, marketers should avoid: y Excessive images and/or images with large file size y Poor spelling y Using all caps y Copy written in red or blue page 5

7 y Excessive use of certain words such as free and click here y Messy HTML code y Missing subject lines CHECKLIST Done responsibly, can be a powerful tool for marketers. Following best practice in design will give marketers a good foundation on which to develop and fine tune messages. Every should include: 99A valid and recognizable From name 99A clear subject line that describe the s contents 99Unsubscribe link 99Sender s contact information 99Good, relevant content page 6

8 About QuantumDigital QuantumDigital is your complete online service provider for direct mail, on-demand printing and emarketing. For more information on QuantumDigital s products and services, please contact us (toll-free) quantumdigital.com Get your daily fix for direct marketing news, tips and commentary by visiting: thedirectmarketingvoice.com

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