How to Improve Email Marketing Using Principles of UX Design

Email marketing and UX design are two sensitive topics for the E-Commerce industry. Being an online store without email outreach or user-friendly design is never a successful strategy. However, even those who are already doing it face challenges when it comes to engagement and conversion. To make your email campaigns work, you have to understand that it’s just a part of the entire user experience you want to create for reaching your customers.

Before we begin, give this article a quick view if you are not familiar with how email drives huge amounts of traffic and ROI (return on investment) when properly utilized as a marketing method.

Ready? Good. Let’s see how to turn these numbers to our advantage.

We will talk about email once more, but from a different perspective.

Besides the fact that spending for email marketing is expected to increase by a billion dollars until 2019 (Forrester Research 2014), here are a few other stunning statistics from our previous post that you should bear in mind while creating your campaigns:

  • Create short subject lines as they tend to outperform longer ones. Subject lines with fewer than ten characters have 49.73% open rates.
  • 48% of emails are opened on a mobile device.
  • Email conversion rates are three times higher than social media, with a 17% higher value in the conversion.

With this blog post, we want to switch the focus from the numbers and explain how email marketing success can be significantly enhanced by using principles that define UX design.

UX (user experience) design cannot be easily explained. You cannot presume that an email template designed to be visually appealing will automatically mean your mission is accomplished. This is still a part of it, but doesn’t work that easily.

UX Principles

There are 7 foundational principles that make up UX as a discipline, otherwise known as Peter Morville’s user experience honeycomb - Valuable, Useful, Usable, Desirable, Accessible, Credible, Findable.

If you are a marketer with experience in preparing email marketing campaigns, you probably find these principles fitting perfectly into the ideal strategy.

Question: How do we combine all of those concepts into an email template?

Answer: Start with a new mindset.

It’s true that email marketing campaigns are tough to execute. Even if everyone has an email address, people cannot pay attention to everything that comes pouring into their inbox. Especially marketing emails.

Integrating UX Principles into Email Marketing

Businesses create email marketing campaigns for various purposes, ultimately revolving around a single goal - more business.

Whether this happens by reaching out to more people to generate traffic, increase conversions with promotions and discounts, or build a more personal relationship with customers, email marketing is supposed to help the business.

Do you get where we are going?

What we meant by “Start with a new mindset”, was to start creating marketing emails with a new purpose - to help the people.


Emails that are designed to be primarily useful and valuable are guaranteed to give a positive user experience. At least because the user will be happy they spent their time opening and reading something helpful instead of getting bombarded by another sales pitch.

Let’s see how we can pair UX principles with email marketing.

Show you are valuable by starting with an excellent first impression

A user is more likely to open an email that has a clear subject that hides a solution to a specific problem. The more common the problem - the better.

An email subject that is both valuable and useful is very likely to be opened, but making the knowledge inside desirable guarantees it.

Let’s take this email from Neil Patel for an example:

You clearly see the pain point - not enough social shares, and the solution - 4 qualities for our next blog post. Bloggers who are not getting enough engagement and sharing for their content are very likely to open this email and check if they can fix that.

If you cannot capture the attention of recipients with your subject line, all of your efforts for the email design are in vain. You really have to spend a lot of time on tailoring the subject of your email because users only open the emails that spark the most interest. Everything else fades away.

There are a few rules for email subject lines:

  • Don’t use caps - emails with capital letters immediately come off spammy to the viewer, and usually find themselves into the Spam or trash folders. If you absolutely must use caps, save them for just a few words within the subject line.
  • Keep it short and clear - users who are scrolling and scanning through emails only notice those that are the most clear and can be comprehended immediately.
  • Keep spam words to a minimum - spam words such as “buy”, “order”, or “best price” generate spam points, and exceeding their maximum will send your nicely designed email to the Spam folder.
  • Ask a question - the conversation between you and your recipients starts from the subject line. What better conversation starters than a question that users are often asking themselves?
  • Experiment with emojis - appealing to a younger generation with emojis can also help you in saving space (making the subject shorter) and convey the message quicker. Experian reported a 45% increase in open rates when using emojis.

Another example we have comes from Copyblogger:

The subject is clear and informative. It instantly lets you know what is in the email. Curiosity doesn’t always play it’s role when your subject is mysterious and looks like click-bait. It also works if you let readers what’s in your email and make it so interesting that they want to see.

Show you are credible by personalizing your message through segmentation

When your target audience is able to identify with the content, (the language, phrasing, message, structure, etc), then the user experience is considered successful. Narrowing the gap doesn’t happen if you send a mass email to everyone on your subscriber list, unless you segment users into different target groups.

The point of segmentation is to deliver specific content to the people who will find it interesting and identify with it. Emails sent to 50–100 people have the highest open and click rates. Well targeted emails sent to smaller groups tend to have much higher engagement rates.

This email from Darby Smart is targeted towards DIY and arts & crafts fans. The message is clear and the readers have a few different options for ideas and inspiration to click on.


A targeted email campaign helps you on two major levels, build a more personal relationship with your readers and build credibility because of the fact that you come off as a business that knows their customers.

Show you are accessible by being consistent across platforms

Your branding, logos, primary colors and labels must be be corresponding with the ones in your website, landing page, even social media profiles. Don’t forget that your email is just a part of your multi-channel mission to help people, and they need to easily recognize the content your brand creates.

If you give a link to a page that looks nothing like the template in the email, this will surely confuse and frustrate the user. When users are able to identify you easily, it means the email marketing is credible.

Harry’s have designed their email with the same simplistic touch they use for their website and use the same type of graphics in their social media activity.


Show you are useful with your content and images

Images with quality and relevancy can be used to work together with the content to enhance the user experience of your email. For the images to be relevant, you need to match them with the purpose and message you are trying to convey.

There are a lot of reasons for integrating visuals into your emails. Content with relevant images has 94% more views because it’s easy to comprehend almost instantly. Something that plain text simply cannot do.

When this is put in the context of email, your chances of getting seen without visual content decrease even more, since people usually scan their emails very fast. A good example for that is this email from J.Crew.


The first impression is made by the topic - “Fall colors”, followed by a quick scan of the three colors symbolizing the autumn season - deep orange, dark green and rich red. In a matter of seconds, your brain has analyzed something that would have taken much too long to learn if it was plain text.

This email is very useful for people interested in updating their wardrobe. They immediately get new ideas for their next look and start picturing themselves in the clothes.

Show you are desirable with an emotional spark

One of the most important goals for UX experts is to aim for emotional design. Again, content plays a strategic role here. If you know what concerns your subscribers, what causes discomfort or frustration, you can use that to give your email the emotional hook that appeals to your reader’s emotional side.

Since most email marketing is automated, it will take a bit more effort to infuse your campaign with an emotional message that can reciprocate throughout your audience.

Mill Mercantile have done a great job by offering men to take off the stress from choosing a Mother’s day gift, pairing it with a limited free shipping option. The visual content also clearly suggests ideas that would be great gifts for moms. Notice the irresistible Call-to-Action at the end - Shop for mom.


Adapt your email design for mobile

80% of users delete emails if they don’t fit their mobile device. That does sound scary, but with the right information sources, you can find ways to protect your emails from being erased. This infographic designed by Litmus and Salesforce shows the trends for mobile email design, combined with some very important statistics.

  • An interesting fact is that 16% of mobile-friendly emails lead to a site that is not optimized for mobile devices.
  • It’s become natural to adopt a mobile-friendly design for email campaigns since 48% of them are viewed on mobile devices, according to 1 billion email opens tracked by Litmus’ Analytics.
  • Because of that, 56% of emails are now designed for mobile, which is an increase of 155% since 2013.

Here are a few reliable sources that can help you in designing responsive email marketing campaigns that offer good customer experience:


Litmus tests and tracks email campaigns, so businesses can make sure that they are working with the best-performing design and strategy.

Campaign Monitor

Campaign Monitor aims to simplify the creation, optimization, sending and measuring email marketing campaigns.


MailChimp help people and businesses manage their subscribers, send emails, and track their data. Their service can be integrated with other software.


ConvertKit helps you manage email lists and drip campaigns which increase reader trust. This is vital when launching a product or service.


We hope you understand how important it is to transfer the customer experience your store is building to the personal email communication with your subscribers. Engaging online users and reaching out to people on the web is becoming more difficult. Embracing the core UX principles and understanding their real purpose will show you how effective your email campaign can be when you are of real use.

Finally, here is a universal email example that appeals to all audiences, demographics and target groups:


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