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Valentina Pacitti
27 August 2020
Reading time: 6 min.

UX design: how to design user experiences for email marketing

Turning an email in a pleasant and memorable experience is the aim of any marketer who wants to increase his/her conversions. Here are some usefule UX design guidelines.

User experience (UX) is at the very foundation of the design of web pages and online content today. Statistics say that every dollar invested in UX translates into a return of 100 dollars, for an ROI of 9,900%.

User experience design directly impacts a company’s conversions. For example, if an e-commerce site has a systematic hemorrhage of users at checkout, there is something preventing users from completing the transaction. A survey may reveal that the shipping information is confusing or that the payment method annoys users. The site has a problem from the perspective of user experience and user interface (UI): people can’t find what they’re looking for, so they leave the site.

This also happens with emails: when an email has below average opening and CTR rates, the cause is often a confused message structure, lacking consideration of the user experience.

The real problem is not its content, but how it’s presented to the user.

What is UX design?

User experience design is the design of the elements with which a user interacts online (on a website, an e-commerce site, an app or an email).

We have already discussed UX design, underlining the importance of synergy with SEO to increase a website’s traffic.

The term was coined by Don Norman, an expert in psychology and cognitive sciences, to indicate the aspects that characterize user interaction with a product or service. In fact, the engagement of an online user depends on psychological and interaction design factors.

Knowing and mastering the guidelines for designing effective UX and UI increases your chances of conversion, but that’s not all: a good user experience creates credibility and consolidates customer loyalty.

UX design equates with simplifying

UX designers don’t think in terms of design but of functionality: by studying users’ needs, they find the most effective solution in terms of platform, design and content hierarchy. The basic concept is that if potential customers can easily browse your website, intuitively finding what they are looking for, the chances of them completing the customer journey increase.

Email UX design: the 3 basic principles

When it comes to email marketing, user experience often gets pushed to the background. Yet it is quite logical that poorly designed emails, with confusingly arranged content, convert less.

Before diving into the email design phase, it’s important to work on designing the user experience you’ll offer in your messages. There are three basic rules to follow:

  • the email must be simple – enter only the content necessary to achieve a goal;
  • the email must be clear – create an ordered structure;
  • the email must be honest – don’t hide anything from the user.

The most successful emails are those that are easy for users to read. Any unnecessary element dilutes the effectiveness of your emails.

Best practices to improve the user experience of your emails

By following some good practices, you can ensure that the user experience of your emails is optimal:

  • Sender name and address: use your company name as the sender and an email with a custom domain as the address. This promotes brand recognition and reassures the user that you’re not a spammer.
  • Reply-to address: use a monitored email address to ensure your contacts will receive immediate feedback to any queries. This also affects your reliability as a brand.
  • Subject: this must answer the question “Why should I open this email?” Offer good motivation (a real benefit like a discount, a promotion, etc.).
  • Content: on average you only have 11 seconds to get your message across before losing the reader’s attention. Write concisely and directly to avoid wasting the time you have available, and minimize the user’s cognitive load (the amount of information you transmit). The core of your email should not exceed 55 words, while the optimal line length is between 50 and 80 characters per line.
  • Information hierarchy: users never read an entire text online, but scan the page for the most important content. If you facilitate this process, people will get to the bottom of your emails. So create an ordered structure: add information in order of importance, differentiate it with headers and subheaders in different fonts, divide the text into blocks with short paragraphs and white spaces, use short bullet lists. Use bold, italics and different size fonts to highlight important information. Avoid walls of text and offer visual aids to guide people through the content – an “S” layout is the most engaging.


  • Design: great design eliminates unnecessary elements. As for colors, the ideal is to have a large contrast between background and text (for example black text on a white background or white text on a blue background). The background and images must not distract the user’s attention from the text and must be meaningful and optimized (be careful not to make the 4 most common mistakes). Make sure your email templates are designed with a mobile-first approach.
  • CTA: there must always be a clear and precise call to action at the end of the path designed for your email recepients. To improve user experience, use bulletproof buttons: they work on all email clients, even if the user has activated image blocking.
  • Accessibility: emails must be visible and readable, even to users with disabilities.


The suggestion to simplify a site’s browsing or make the reading of an email more fluid may seem trite, but it isn’t: there are hundreds of e-commerce sites online with confused structures, which instead of paving the way to checkout complicate it, up to forcing the user to leave the site.

The primary goal of UX design is to make content designed for users more accessible.

In summary, the guidelines to follow to offer an optimal user experience are:

  • study your audience: what they search, which elements engage them, what annoys them;
  • create an intuitive design;
  • focus on simplicity in terms of structure and content;
  • add appeal to your emails to make a good first impression.

Do you need a hand designing your emails? The BEE editor integrated into the MailUp platform offers several ready-made templates and layouts to choose from. Request a free trial or rely on the experience of our consultants for your email campaigns.

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Valentina Pacitti

Copywriter and translator since 2012, in charge of SEMrush Italia's blog since 2015. Words are my means of communicating with people - I read and write plenty of them. I like to know them inside and out, so that I can pick the best ones for every story I'm telling. Simple, clear, precise - this is the writing style I prefer. I'm more offline than online, but you can always find me on my social channels to discuss ideas and projects.

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