During the many years I worked on digital experiences, I realized there is probably nothing as overlooked and under-appreciated by design teams as the humble email. And it works the other way around by marketing teams, who tend to try to fix everything with this little message form. To me, emails are powerful tools, and I am happy I had the chance to work in design teams that welcome its value and most importantly their the flow that lies beneath a strong outbound communication system. Being on these kinds of teams is a great way to understand things from a marketing perspective and introducing user experience design to other departments.
When I have the chance to design email campaigns, I use an approach that is similar to a design system in many ways (atomic, systematic, compliant with development restrictions) but I add the following ingredients and considerations:
- Emotional: The complexity of human reaction to something unexpected or unwanted even is key. I use context and brand tone of voice as a constraint, it will influence how the brand will be perceived. Wording, microcopy and use of space deserve special consideration too as they are perceived and provoke emotions and different responses from the user.
- Taxonomical: Emails have so many different functionalities. Like the wide range of pages dedicated to a specific goal, emails can be transactional, news-driven, status, legal, ads, feedback among others. Mapping these out next to the user journey will speed up the process.
- Operational: The team that will ultimately put the email pieces together and hit send are not designers, and will have to Frankenstein" their way from a set of pre-existing components using diverse tools (Mailchimp, Autopilot, proprietary tools, outsourcing designers). This needs rules, planning and a lot of cross-team efforts.
- Technical: I follow best practices that have existed for emails from their birth decades ago like HTML and CSS constraints, browser limitations, email clients, fonts, image sizes, responsiveness, above the fold vs below scares from marketing teams and so on) always consulting with developers if the effort of creating new features or finding workarounds is budget/time friendly.
I could write much more about these processes (I probably will :D) but for now, if you are interested, contact me and let's discuss design for emails! Here's a short collection of designs from different verticals I've worked on, some brands are undisclosed for privacy purposes. Lastly, I'd like to add a big thanks to the great copywriters and strategists, project managers and developers that are behind every delightful experience I worked with for continuing to evangelize with good UX on outbound communications, there's a long way to go!