A friend recently asked me (a few times) to articulate what is best practise for eDM (Electronic Direct Marketing) activity. I avoided answering for a while, and successfully ducked and weaved the issue, but in the end, and only because he is such a champ, I have relented.
Well, let’s face it, if you must send commercial email to someone you might as well get it in shape so you don’t annoy them more than necessary.
First, let’s get something straight:
eDMs sent to a bought list = spam.
eNewsletters sent to those signed up = email marketing.
Now that we have that sorted out and you know where I stand, below are some resources that if you must send emails to people, you should have a read of first:
1. Smashing Magazine. If they said it, I am good with it. Smashing is an excellent resource for the web design community and is held in high regard by those in the industry.
Do a search on their site on email marketing and you will find a few articles worth reading including Email Newsletter Design: Guidelines and Examples, Best Practices for Bullet Proof Email Delivery , and the article on Calls to Action is superb.
Much of the thinking applied to pure web design is foundational to email design. The Gutenberg Rule, The Theory of Divine Proportion and Colour Theory are all there on the Smashing Magazine site but if you want the full story, The Smashing Magazine book is a must have on the book shelf.
2. Jakob Neilson is widely regarded as the web usability guru. His book, Prioritising Web Usability is essential reading for any interaction designer. Much of his writing is based on the results of usability testing since the dawn of the web, and so can be a little dry at times.
He has a 544-page report from usability testing of email newsletters specifically focussed on newsletters which I have not got a copy of, but I would bet it is excellent.
A good article on the subject (which points to the sale of his aforementioned report at a few hundred US dollars) is Targeted emails show Continued Strength. Have a hunt around useit.com and devour all he says. It is the ugliest site on the web, but don’t let that deter you. I am pretty sure I recall it has looked like that since last century, but he is Jacob Neilson and for him function leads the way and form is a sorry second.
3. E-consultancy.com has an Email Best Practice Report for sale but if you sign up for a bronze membership which is the only free membership they offer and you get their newsletters and you will slowly feed your brain with some of the best web strategy around.
And here are a few random, relevant links from good UX design, to others that are about email specifically, some technical but essential :
Social Media Integration Drives Major Clicks for Email Marketers
Master User Experience Design
Guide to CSS support in email clients
Campaign Design Guidelines from Campaign Monitor
Web designer Depot – Guide to Creating Email Newsletters
Email Marketing Subject line Comparison
Legal Stuff you should know
You can spend a lifetime working out what is best practice, and in reality it will take a career lifetime to evolve your view in an ever-changing industry, but a few sage words on the subject of email marketing from me to guide you in the right direction if you care to read on.