Testing Design Principles in Email

Testing doesn’t necessarily have to do with copy – design factors such as graphics, photographs, or color schemes can also be tested for their effect on the audience. Sure, you can structure your templates around “what looks pretty,” but wouldn’t you much rather see which options are getting the greatest results from your list? Tweaks as simple as which color you make a button or where you place banners within an email can make a significant difference in your click-through rate. However, the only way you can discover which layout, graphics, and colors generate more clicks is to try different options.

The key to testing design principles comes down to using two very simple tools: Your program of choice for creating graphics and your program of choice for tracking analytics. You don’t even have to get fancy; you can use Microsoft Paint and Google Analytics, both of which are free programs, to make changes and track the results. Or, merely monitor the click-through rates in your email platform. As long as you’re making a change, no matter how slight, and keeping track of your click-through rates and engagement, you’re testing the design of your email.

As with any experiment, whether it be science or email-related, make sure that you do not change multiple aspects at the same time. For example, if you’re looking to see if recipients respond more to graphics aligned to the left or right of the page, do not change the color scheme at the same time. This will skew your results and will not tell you specifically what is or is not working. With that being said, don’t overhaul your entire template right before you begin testing design variables. The goal is to test how your list responds to slight changes, not an entire branding shift.

An example of a slight stylistic change to test on your email list would be the layout of your newsletter. Here, we’ll take a look at WhatCounts’ weekly newsletter, the Gamechanger. Below is how the top of our newsletter is typically structured:

Design Principles

Now, if we wanted to see if our audience is more likely to respond to our sidebar promotion or social engagement buttons, we could re-structure the newsletter to the following:

Different Design Principles

Although it seems pretty basic, your audience can have a fairly strong reaction to such a minor change. This is why we recommend testing only one variable at a time. Judging by your results, you could make this change to your layout permanent or go back to the way your originally had your template.

The method you use to test design principles is completely up to you: A/B Testing, Taguchi Multivariate Testing, or even trial and error will all work to a certain degree. The only way of knowing what worked, though, is ensuring your results through monitoring. The better you track your data, the more you will know about your email list, their preferences, and how they intuitively interact with your messages.

Sarah Zibanejadrad
Inbound Marketing Coordinator, WhatCounts

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