DzineBlog recently published some 2011 Web design trends that are worthy of notice for email designers. When it comes to the cutting edge of design, DzineBlog tells Web designers to: "Think bold fonts, loads of sub headers, definitely lots of images, numerous articles and text; making it so much more inviting for a user to wish to read. Think magazine layout, think more users, and think hard work!"
How is this relevant to those of us e constricted by the rules of the inbox? It's certainly true that the Web offers more flexibility in terms of space, layout, font options and user behavior than does email. And it's also true that some of these ideas push against the email creative best practices that we hold dear. But we still think that there are plenty of inspired opportunities for savvy creative teams to ensure that their brands stay on the edge of design trends -- and that creative triumphs should sometimes trump the focus on best practices.
Already, we're seeing top brands stray from email creative best practices to incorporate print-inspired design elements into emails. The way that subscribers interact with email is evolving, and so should our designs.
When creative best practices were established for email, it was with the knowledge that emails were rarely seen in their entirety. The focus was always on telling the whole story in the preview pane to grab subscribers before we lost them. But these days, we're seeing that when you use design elements to pull people's eyes through the layout, people will scroll. This can make room for fun with design and give your message some breathing room.
We're seeing successful brands do this by cropping images in interesting places, using graphic treatments with arrows and lines and picking up other cool elements traditionally reserved for magazine pages and websites.
Here are some approaches that maybe off-best-practice in some ways, but that are nonetheless on-brand and on-trend:
NORDSTROM: We imagine that this "Nordstrom Spring Best" email was tricky to code, but it's definitely worth the effort. The email created tons of visual interest, giving the recipient reasons to scroll up and down and all over this email. Even with this complex layout, Nordstrom stuck to html text for the body copy by keeping it sitting over a flat background color.
KATE SPADE: Headlines get to have a little more wiggle room with this approach. Kate Spade begins with the assumption that the subscriber will scroll, allowing more room for the copy to be playful and clever while following up with clear, concise sentences and calls-to-action.
J.CREW: "Jenna's Picks" is a regularly occurring way for J.Crew to hand-select products to share with its subscribers. In this particular version, the retailer uses vertical placement of a belt to help with eye flow and keep the subscriber scrolling and engaging with the layout.
BANANA REPUBLIC: This email looks as if it were peeled off a catalog spread. The headline and call-to-action are still in the best-practices-friendly top portion of the email, but the way the clothes are laid out in the shape of an outfit, with information out to the side, is a pretty different approach from the on-body photography we usually see in the inbox.
Taking a page from print design will work for some brands and some industries, and it's up to you to decide if it's the type of risk that makes sense for you. The portion of your email that falls in the preview pane continues to be super-important, and we recommend giving your subscriber visual cues to scroll through the rest of the design and messaging so that all of your hard (fun!) work doesn't go to waste.