We recently briefly mentioned visual hierarchy in the design of emails and webpages. You might think that, as the creators of your free email marketing templates have taken the matter into consideration, you can safely ignore it and just drag and drop your copy and images. What could go wrong?
There is a slight difficulty with this point of view. When you populate a template, you are altering the basic design in most cases; not by much, but visual hierarchy is rather subtle and can be upset quite easily, to the detriment of its readability. Ensuring you don’t make it worse is straightforward though.
A concise, if not fully accurate, definition of visual hierarchy is ensuring that the reader is aware of what is most important in the email or page in a way that allows the designer to guide them towards certain actions. In our case, clicking on the Click Through. It’s of critical importance.
You are already aware of most of it. For instance, the headline defines content of the email or web page, and the subheading further clarifies what it is. Following the Z design, the reader will move on to a little bit of text maybe, and then an image, unless of course we want them to see the image first.
We want readers to realise what is the most important aspect of the product we want them to buy. There are a number of ways of doing this. Some of the more obvious methods are the use of alignment, colour, contrast, font size, repetition, and whitespace. The list is in alphabetical order to show no particular one is inherently more important than the other. Subtler ways can be alignment and repetition. Then there is the old favourite of bulleting a list with big bold blobs at the start, although this method is one of the most abused in the toolbox.
It highlights the major failure of many marketing emails. The hook is often hidden because other factors are given equal prominence in a bulleted list, meaning the reader will assume all are of equal importance. That’s not what we want.
It is probable that you will split your email marketing list as it will be necessary to emphasise certain features for certain groups. This can focus the mind as to what should be prioritised in the emails. Each particular group has a particular need.
I like to keep things simple. If you put the hook in a large font, your subscribers will know instantly what they should be considering. A dramatic red headline will do the same if the format allows. Take care with the choice of typefaces as many do not translate well to a mobile. If it’s flowery or greyed out, consider what you’re telling your subscriber.
Remember, free email marketing templates have been designed with visual hierarchy in mind. You don’t have to stick to it precisely, but you should be aware that you can destroy the designers’ expertise if you are not aware of its subtlety.