For email, what is the first thing that grabs the openers attention? For me, it’s the design and the way the offers are presented. Is it pleasant and easy to look at? Can you scroll down and quickly retain the information that’s presented? Does it look good on your mobile device, or does it ignore the boundaries of your screen?

Below, I will compare some of the emails that have made impressions on me, and some less than impressive examples; all from various brands that regularly appear in my inbox. I will focus mostly on entertainment emails because I think that’s more fun.

My opinion certainly isn’t shared by all, but most people like to have a pleasant experience reading emails with an effortless follow to the layout. Reading an email should not be a chore. But rather an entertaining and informative experience.

I enjoy going to the movies, and one email which I regularly see is from AMC Theaters. This is one example of an email that is easy to read and follow.

amc email send

This is a portion of one of AMC’s email which showcases the things I love about their design. It shows the latest movies and personal picks I might be interested in presented in a layout that does not take over the whole email.

Their custom background very subtly matches the colors and theme of the email. It is dark and contrasts the message while simultaneously emulating a dark movie theater. It’s making me want to see a movie right now. amc mobile email display

Their email also has a mobile friendly version which retains the nice horizontal layout and leaves images and buttons easy to tap with a finger. Something that’s subtle is the completely black background which has been changed for the mobile version to improve the load time of the images in the rest of the email.

This is a wise decision as anything downloaded through a mobile internet connection is usually slower. Buttons and important images should be prioritized over background images and other less relevant information.

Staying with the movie theme, an email from Redbox easily contrasts AMC’s email.

red box emailThis email begins with an offer and gets straight to the point, which I like. The hero image has a nice aesthetic and encourages scrolling down further for the best 2016 picks.

The actual design of the email is not responsive, meaning that the images won’t adjust to your screen size. The preheader text and web view are very close together which make them hard to read and click on, especially in mobile. To some, it might even look like disclaimer text which is typically ignored.

The social icons are typically at the end of the email, so they don’t distract and lead clickers away from the offer. If a brand chooses to display them at the top, like Redbox has done, I suggest opting for a layout that blends with the theme, or a color that is the same as the primary one in the email. In this case a red theme for the social icons.

Scrolling down through this email reveals a grid of available movies:additional movie

This view has large images which are easy to click on, and it provides lots of choices. However, this could come off as distracting. It’s fun to look at movie covers and to see the best movies in each category, but there is a lot going on, and it could be overwhelming. For me, my eye wasn’t sure where to go upon opening the email.

If an email is overloaded with information, the reader will not focus on a single portion but will look at everything until they sort through the content or get overwhelmed and bounce. But, this isn’t necessarily a bad strategy. In RedBox’s case, this can be a good strategy – throw a bunch of options and see what will stick.

Next is an email from Humble Bundle (at left).humble bundles

It has a very clean and simple design. It does not overload the reader with information, and the white blocks are easy to read. However, perhaps this is because I am an email marketer, but I am mostly looking at the social icons on the bottom.

humble book bundle

They seem to just to fill space, and it makes the email feel empty. Overall I can’t tell if this email is trying to have a gray and white theme or if it was an afterthought.

There is also a mobile version (bottom left), which is great.

This version fits the screen and scrolls easily. However, the background is white which tends to make the copy blend together. The CTA buttons are now on the left which gives the email a disjointed feel.

hum bun

If the email layout doesn’t flow, the reader can become bored. An email that feels impersonal will not make a favorable impression on your readers, and they could potentially become unengaged.

Jack Spade, however, has capitalized on the minimalist aesthetic. (at right)

Not only is the gif entertaining, but it was a short and direct message to read a story on their website.

The white background is clearly part of a larger theme for the brand and makes the whole layout feel connected. Emails that entertain quickly engage the audience and compel the opener to click through because they spark curiosity.

There are right and wrong ways to design the layout of your email. Different audiences require different tactics. However, all readers will appreciate an email that isn’t too cluttered, loads important information quickly, and doesn’t feel disjointed. Take into account the user experience and make it personal. Their first impression should equal less work and more clicks for your emails.