Design tips: Creating an email template
Are you just getting started on your email marketing program, or are you upping the game and refreshing your creative approach? Either way, chances are you’re considering a new email template. Here are some things to think about when considering a new template—options for non-coders included!
Why use Templates?
Using a template is essentially committing to a certain layout of your content. Before locking in a layout, you’ll want to know the goal of the emails you plan to build with the template. Knowing this will help determine the type and length of content that will best achieve this goal. If you have a few different goals, you may need more than one template. Once you’ve selected your template, be consistent about using images and copy that fit into the template’s specifications. While this may seem constraining, it’s actually liberating; with the template already decided, you can now focus on the quality of your content each time you prepare an email rather than on the structure of your email. By reusing the same template each time you want to fulfill a specific email goal, you are implementing a time-saving system for your marketing program, as well as providing your subscribers with consistent, well-formatted emails.
Creating your Template System
There are a few ways to move forward with an appropriate template for your needs, here they are listed from easy to… not for beginners.
If you don’t know how to code, don’t worry. You can easily modify a ready-made template with a WYSIWYG (what-you-see-is-what-you-get) editor. Here are two sources for ready-made templates:
A. Your Email Service Provider
An Email Service Provider like VerticalResponse will offer a variety of mobile-friendly email templates to choose from. Using a visual editor, you can drag-and-drop images, insert content and dividers, rearrange copy and images, and adjust colors and fonts to match your brand. Once you’ve created one successful email this way, you can create a duplicate—just swap out images and copy to create a new variation. For most small business owners, customizing ready-made templates within your email service provider’s interface is a great solution. It’s fast, easy, affordable, and convenient because the template library is included with your email service plan.
B. Third Party Templates
We live in a world of choice and, beyond your email service provider, there are many companies providing alternative solutions that fit both general and niche needs. On the niche side, for example, if you send your emails through Marketo, there is a company called KnaK that has a library of templates built specifically to work well within Marketo, a marketing platform that has its own set of coding requirements. Knak offers monthly plans, which you would purchase in addition to your Marketo license.
If you have general needs, you can find well-built responsive templates from a variety of sources, including Theme Forest and Litmus. Templates like these are available for download, and prices vary from free to around $25 each for premium options.
2) Some Expertise Needed
If you want something specific that is difficult or not possible to achieve using a visual editor, you’ll need to either know some code yourself or have an email developer on-hand. If you are comfortable coding yourself, one good option is to find a template that is pretty close to what you want and make adjustments to the code until it matches your needs. Knowing code will help you update the look and feel more precisely, allowing for maximum flexibility.
If you are a coder with confidence and a need for full control, coding your own email from scratch could be a good option for you. Things to consider in this situation are standard code for an email build, as well as resets and fixes you’ll need to include to avoid specific email client issues. Here is a good tutorial from Litmus that breaks down the process very clearly.
Whether you choose to code your email or work from a visual editor, email requirements are tricky. You’ll want to choose or build a template wisely and test it to ensure it works properly across browsers (Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer), email clients (Yahoo, Gmail, Outlook), and different-sized devices (desktop, tablet, mobile phone). Before sending off to your email list, use a tool like Litmus to make sure it works right.
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