Layout and Purpose

Your HTML email’s layout should be anywhere from 600-800 pixels in width since many email clients provide a preview window that isn’t very wide. Simplicity is important, too. Don’t design an email as you would a website. Generally, the shorter your email is, the better it will perform. Email is increasingly read on-the-go, by busy people, on different types of devices. Write emails for a distracted audience, make it clear which content is most important, and make it easy to perform calls to action.

Single-Column Vs. Multi-Column

The type and amount of content you plan to send can dictate your email’s layout. Emails break down into two general layout types: single- and multi-column. Here are some pointers to help you decide which is best for your email.


  • Best for focused, succinct messages
  • Tend to be easier to read than multi-column emails
  • Best for emails requiring a call to action


  • Best for emails with wide variety of content
  • Work well for product-based/e-commerce emails
  • Best for emails which include non-crucial content best featured in a sidebar

These layouts can be used in a variety of ways to create interesting, effective email. There are plenty of great-looking examples in the Inspiration Gallery that you can use as a jumping-off point for your ideas.

Purpose-Built Email

Generally speaking, all HTML email newsletter fall into three broad categories: Read Me, Buy Me, and Join Me. Here are some tips for each type of purpose-built email.

Read Me

  • These emails depend on good copywriting.
  • They tend to be lighter in code weight thanks to a low number of images.
  • Copy should be concise, easy to read.
  • Typography is important. Font size and font family make a big difference in readability. (12px Comic Sans = bad. 16px Georgia = good)
  • It’s important to have your “hook” at the top of the email, since mobile email clients may not download the entire message.

Buy Me

  • These emails are dependent on interesting visuals (think: e-commerce product photos, etc.).
  • Clear, well-cropped images are a must.
  • Email images should have descriptive summaries, since clients often block images.
  • Make it easy for a reader to get to your product’s page. Each product you advertise in the email should include a link.
  • Well-written preheaders are important. Aside from the subject line, it’s the first thing people see in their inboxes.

Join Me

  • These emails should be short and to-the-point
  • Information hierarchy is very important. Event details should always be up top, prominent in size.
  • If present, the call-to-action should be clearly-defined and easily discernible at a glance.
  • Information secondary to the email’s main purpose (if it’s an invitation) should always come after event details and call-to-action.