„A picture says more than a 1000 words“ – but what if it delivers the wrong message? In this week’s blog post, I want to share best practices and tips how images can improve your emails instead of distracting from the message.
Email images can be successful, if they line up with the company’s branding and the message. Most people are drawn to visual stimuli and rather click on a message with an image than without one. But there’s hardly any element of an email that is as prone to errors as an image. Whether it doesn’t fit, ruins the layout or takes forever to load, an image can easily spoil the whole customer experience.. In order to make sure that this never happens to your and your customers, let me give you 10 tips for perfect images.
10 tips for images in emails
Don’t forget the alt text
Quite a few email browsers don’t show images by default. The receiver therefore must actively change the default to see any images in an email. Other receivers prefer emails without images, so they can concentrate on the content.
Alt text is the best way to make sure that your message – including the visuals – still gets through. Alt text is provided to give a short description of the image or its message in case it can’t be shown. Instead of the image, the recipient will either see the file name (which is not recommended) or the alt text which you can choose as you like. Especially, when the image adds to the content of the email, an alt text description is crucial, so the content can be fully understood with or without the image.
An additional bonus: blind people or people who have problems with their seeing abilities can use programs that will read out all text in their emails. However, these programs are usually not able to „read“ an image unless it’s being described within the alt text. Alt text therefore is also a great means to break down barriers and widen your audience.
The bigger the picture, the longer it takes to load. Sometimes, big pictures can be the reason why an email doesn’t even reach the inbox. It is fine to want high quality for your images, but since most of us use laptops, smartphones and tablets to read emails and articles, we using gigantic 3000px-sized images is not recommended.
Consider at which size your images have a good quality for any (normal) desktop and try to set a standard for all your emails.
Tip: Some marketing automationtools and/or email editors let you minimize your images. However, the change is only for the emai displayl. Usually, the email browser still has to load the original image. Make sure that the original image is not too big, because otherwise you will cause a slower loading speed, even if your email features only small images (see tip 10 for more on this issue).
Faces trump symbols
Image psychology suggests that faces have more of an impact on us than objects. The human glance not only first looks at faces but also follows the gaze.
If you want to turn attention to a specific place, Call-to-Action (CTA) or information in your email, just use an image of a person who looks to exactly that direction and the recipient’s gaze will follow.
Pictures are not always popular
A couple of years ago, Hubspot tested an interesting thesis: they wanted to see whether customers really prefer emails with images over emails without images. In questionnaires, customers generally stated that they would like images in marketing emails. However, when put to the test, the result surprised the Hubspot team: plain text emails had better click rates than HTML emails with images.
Now, before you throw out all your images and email templates, consider this: email templates with images always give the impression that they are more professional but also targeted at a larger group of recipients. However, if you want to send out emails that feel more personal, plain text is the best way to go. A service or sales email therefore might work better without images whereas a newsletter or a new product offer benefits from the visuals.
Don’t forget to link
To optimize click rates for your emails simply link your images. Whenever a newsletter is sent out, at least a few people would click the images to get to an article or a product page. Make sure that the links fit the image and that you can see how often the image links were clicked (some marketing automation tools let you see exactly where the recipient clicked a link, otherwise you can make use of query strings).
Placement is important
Most emails feature a header image. However, since most recipients quickly scan the email and decide then whether they want to read it or not, a giant header image that obscures the message might not be the best idea. A header image therefore should be clear in its message or contain at least some text to hint at the content of the email.
Additionally, the placement of images should be checked by reading the email before it will be sent out. I’ve seen emails by big brands with enormous images right before a miniscule CTA. Of course, the eye sees the image and ignores the CTA, just as you would ignore the small cookie next to the decorated cake on the buffet.
As I already mentioned in the teaser of this article: images should improve your message, not distract from it.
Change it up
A company look & feel within a certain color set of course helps to identify your brand with one glance. But different emails with different goals should also differ in imagery. Even emails addressed to different buyer personas should have different visuals that speak to the recipient and connect with the content.
Too many images spoil the email
The benchmark for your image/text ratio is 30/70. I would advise against any kind of background images as they could heavily impact the loading rate and the readability of your email depending on different email browsers. The rule of thumb should be: less is more.
An email that delivers its message exclusively via images will not be read by a high number of recipients due to emails browsers that don’t show images by default, longer loading rates or simply display problems. Make sure that the important messages in your email are delivered by text.
Use color – elegantly
Color is an excellent way to draw the eye to a certain message. However, too much color can easily dilute and confuse, which is why a color pallet with no more than 3 colors can help all your email templates to shine.
Especially when using CTA buttons, images and other design elements, it’s important to stick to a certain color code instead of trying out all colors of the rainbow. The more colorful an email and its images, the less focus will be on the text and therefore the message. Especially when you use a strong contrasting color for your CTAs, don’t distract from it with equally contrasting images. Let the color story guide the reader to your most important message and/or the CTA.
By the way: the amount of color is incredibly dependent on your brand and target audience. A candy shop naturally can and should use a lot more colors than a law firm.
Standardize your image sizes and formats
As already mentioned in tip 02., I suggest standardizing your images for all email templates. Apart from long loading times for bigger images, I’ve experienced weird layout malfunctions with email browsers that were not supported by my marketing automation tools and email editors.
To make sure that the email looks at least consistent without any formatting tricks of your email editor, place images and texts beneath and not next to each other before using the editor. This way, any browser who ignores your email edits, will at least show images and text in a way that looks ok (if not perfect).
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