Last year we sent our techie team on a little excursion, with their packed lunches in hand, to the annual Litmus Email Design Conference in London. The event brought together over 300 email designers and developers, all in the pursuit of coding perfection (one could say akin to those legendary Spartan warriors…but wielding iPhones and armed in a free Litmus t-shirt instead). They returned full of beans and keen to showcase the innovative developments spearheading the next generation of email.
A bit of background…
Here at Sprint Education HQ we code our HTML emails specifically for the UK education sector. Schools on the whole, unlike consumers, don’t always have the budget for the hot new tech blazing onto the scene. And often the task of upgrading a communications platform is quite daunting. You could say that the email clients in use are pretty ‘old school’ and limited in what they are able to render. An email that displays beautifully on an iPhone can end up looking like a magic eye picture in Outlook – if you look at it long enough it might just resemble what you had intended.
Although we are somewhat led by what Outlook is able to support, it doesn’t mean we should ignore all other email clients, and it also doesn’t mean we can’t sneak a wee bit of innovation into our emails for our clients. Give us a hoard of pizzas and put the building on lockdown and we’ll come up with something sensational! At Sprint Education, our emails are always evolving and we want to really wow our clients with what we can do, not just our clients but the teacher who opens that email and clicks through because they’re super impressed with what they have seen. First impressions do count for a lot, after all.
How are we going to take our emails to the next level?
I’ll tell you how: with interactive elements.
What’s it all about?
Well it’s the future of email marketing! It involves taking elements which users can interact with on a website, like an image gallery, and incorporating them into an email with only HTML and CSS. This kind of coding works only in interactive clients like Apple Mail and iOS – basically anything operating on a WebKit rendering engine. Alas! It doesn’t work in Outlook; it simply doesn’t have the support.
Let’s take a glimpse into the future:
- The Big ‘360’ 3D Product View
Developed by Mark Robbins from RebelMail this nifty piece of code allows you to rotate an image on 3 different axes and furthermore lets you zoom in and out whilst doing so. Get your Morse on and hone in on every possible angle! A truly valuable feature which would allow you to showcase the quality and workmanship of the products you offer.
- An email shopping cart…yes really.
This has big implications for ecommerce; imagine being able to choose a product’s size and colour – then place your order – all within an email! No more external order forms clogging up processes, a few clicks and hey presto your order has been placed. What a game changer!
You can take a look at the following HTML elements here.
- Ghost buttons.
These subtle and aesthetically clean buttons have been appearing on all sorts of landing pages. They are essentially text-based buttons with a thin border around them. It’s very possible that we have become over saturated with the same look and feel of email and it becomes white noise for an audience who is used to receiving the same stuff. Why not add in something unexpected? Strip away the flashiness and keep it simple. A flat or minimalist design scheme would be a perfect home for a ghost button.
- Fade out buttons.
These are buttons with a hover effect – like you would find on a webpage. Once you move your cursor over the button the colour will change. This entices the user to click through to the desired landing page. Fade out buttons make the call to action pop and more ‘clickable’, they also confirm to the user that ‘Hey, you’re in the right place – go ahead and click me’. Check out how we used a fade out button in this recent design.
- Bulletproof buttons.
These are built with HTML code instead of images. This means the button will display in all email clients even with images turned off, exactly why they are called ‘bulletproof.’ Yes, it even works in Outlook! The great thing about this type of button is that the entire surface of the button is clickable. You don’t have to click on the text sitting inside. Bulletproof buttons are also optimised for mobile – win!
- Animations are just the thing to encourage engagement.
This element of interactivity is an ongoing trend in email design and it certainly adds that ‘WOW’ factor! Just take a look at the bespoke animation our Head Designer, Sophie, created for a piece of marketing for our new software, Campus. It should be noted that animated GIFs are not fully supported across all email clients; in Outlook particularly this won’t work, it will show a still frame of the animation instead. You’re winning with anything web-based or web-kit engineered though (iPhone, iPad etc).
If you like the look of any of the above elements, and we are designing your email for you, please put in a request with the technical team by emailing Jen at firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 01684 297374.
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