Color sets the mood of your email. It can make your links seem more clickable, your business more responsible with customers’ money, and the contrast of your text more readable. The website Colors on the Web emphasizes choosing a high contrast between background and text. They offer a tool to analyze if your format is a strong enough contrast for all monitors and visual abilities.
Pro Tip: The wrong kind of contrast — like green text on red — is too eye straining and difficult to read. The best combination is pale background with dark text. In email marketing, it is not advisable to use pale text on a dark background, as you can on a website; if the recipients’ email provider strips your code or images, the pale text will be unreadable on a white screen.
A Belgium company did an a/b study to find out which worked best: all-blue links, or blue links but a red call to action. They found the red call to action had the highest click-through. Use a color palette picker like this one to chose complimentary colors that contrast well.
You can’t use the head or body tag in email, so you have to set all your design inline. Your font will only show up if the recipient has the font on his or her computer. Websafe fonts are:
- Arial black
- Comic sans MS
- Courier New
- Lucida Console
- Palatino Linotype/Book Antiqua
- Times New Roman
- Trebuchet MS
In terms of design, not all websafe fonts are equal. The most popular, scannable, and modern fonts from this list are Arial, Georgia, Lucida Console, Palatino/Book Antiqua, Tahoma, Trebuchet MS, and Verdana. Courier New looks good in the context of an old-time typewriter look, but looks out of place for most other motifs.
The other fonts on this list aren’t very useful for advertising: Comic Sans doesn’t render well on modern screens, because it was designed for Windows 3.1 and hasn’t been updated in nearly 30 years; Times New Roman isn’t much better in terms of appearance and readability in advertising (Georgia is a more readable version). Impact is meant to be printed on posters and is hard to read if the font is small or your email is read on a mobile screen.
Take care when picking your font — different fonts give a different mood and are appropriate for specific contexts. Search on the web to see how the font has been used in the past year, so you can get a feel for the connotation your customers associate with it. This goes for all design elements: pay attention to how other people use font, color, and layout.
I once happened upon an urban, New York gangster novel series that used the font and similar color scheme previously used for a popular TV comedy series about a cheerleader who kills vampires in sunny California. I laughed. The novel’s marketing landed far off from the visual impact it intended.