I don’t like being prescriptive, but it is not a good idea to use an email marketing template ‘straight out of the box’. It will have been designed by a professional, and as you’ve had no graphic art experience, you might not feel the need to prove it by messing it up.
There’s only so much a professional designer can do without knowing those on your email marketing lists. That’s where you come in. It’s up to you to add those final little twists to the template which will not only make it just right for you, but just right for your subscribers. There are basic traps to avoid though.
You need to ensure you get the relative proportions of text and images spot on. It will vary according to the product and the subscribers you are sending it to. Some people respond to pictures, other like the details. Always check it on a mobile.
2/ Easy to follow
Don’t bore your readers. Keep line length on the lower end of reasonable. Have short sentences and short paragraphs. Ignore what you were taught at college.
There’s nothing wrong with a one sentence paragraph.
Many advise no more than three typefaces. Others suggest this is extravagant. Vary fonts instead, using bold and italic. Resize the type, but keep one size for one purpose so readers know what the function is.
Limit content to the absolute necessities. White space is an essential, so ensure you have plenty of that. Leading in type, i.e. the space between lines of text, is a difficult balance. Look at others’ email marketing designs that look good and copy.
Colour is a subject in itself. For the moment, view your emails on phones and tablets too see what looks right. Ask others, as colour appreciation can be personal.
Not video, but the way a reader’s eyes move from place to place in the email. Make them go step by step so they see what you want them to.
Even if you like Art Deco, you should not base an email marketing campaign design on it unless you know that the subscribers will like it also, and that’s highly unlikely.
Most importantly, modern design trends, whilst they look modern, are not normally scannable. Fractured text, liquid text, distorted imagery, and other recent trends, are all quite stunning but are all difficult to read for most people. The purpose behind such styles is to impress and not to communicate using words.
8/ Your target
Each design should be targeted towards a particular email marketing list, be it by the colours, the degree of white space, the images or anything else mentioned above. In other words, you can modify or ignore any of the previous points if you have a reason to.
Don’t be dismissive of email marketing templates because they are free. Nor should you take them as perfect just because a professional designer produced them. Treat them as, in fact, templates to be modified to suit your needs.