Email List Building Basics
Relevancy, Segmentation & Testing On Limited Resources

20 HTML Email Design Tips

Loren McDonald offers 20 HTML design tips in three key areas: format, functionality and usability. He covers issues that affect how your message appears, including coding, images, message width and file size.


  • Code emails by hand if you can.
  • Avoid nested tables.
  • Do not use canvas background images.
  • Host images on your Web site instead of embedding them in emails.
  • Avoid 1x1 pixel spacer gifs.
  • Avoid using Cascading Style Sheets.
  • Keep HTML Emails to 500 to 650 pixels wide.
  • Keep message file size under 100 KB.


  • Validate HTML content.
  • Avoid scripting if you can.
  • Link to a Web version of your email message.
  • Use image alt tags.
  • Redesign the top of your email template so that readers will see your key content, even if they don't see the images.
  • Use horizontal layout rather than vertical.
  • Incorporate both text and HTML and use alt tags, color and graphics instead of live images linked to your Web site.


  • Provide lots of active links to content at your Web site.
  • Navigation through your email should reflect your Web site navigation – don’t use different terms.
  • Add functionality such as Send-to-a friend...carefully.
  • Add a subscriber-management section to each template.
  • Host rich-media functions such as inline audio, video or Flash on your Web site instead of embedding them in an email.

Read the full article here.

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