About half of advertising emails and 80% of B2B (business-to-business) emails are viewed on email clients that display in preview panes. MS Outlook, Lotus, Eudora, and, increasingly, webmail such as Yahoo! only show readers a horizontal or vertical slice of the email before the user chooses to open the full version.
Designing for the preview pane means thinking about how your customer interacts with her email software. When she opens your email, you want her to see more than a bit of graphic and no text. Design for the top and left to increase your open, click-through, and conversion rates.
Beat the Preview Pane
The vertical preview pane shows a narrow column of the left side of the email, and the horizontal preview pane shows a short row of the top of the email. You must use the space readers see first to entice them to open the full email.
Things to prioritize in the top 2 inches of the email are:
- One-sentence pitch
- Why your product or service solves a problem or offers a solution
- Link to the landing page
- Call to action
- Link to the web version of the email
Include an abbreviated, enticing version of your pitch in the preview pane because many people read all their email in the preview pane and never expand to the full email. For most text-based correspondence, that’s enough, so they get into the habit of never opening graphic, advertising email. After all, many people don’t want to bother reading commercial email. (Some users may not realize they can switch to the full version of the email). That’s why it’s so important to include a link to the web version of the email above the header.
Don’t use a large image header, because email users who are reading in the preview pane will only see a section of an image and no content. If they have images turned off, they will only see a white box (they will see your alt text so they know the images are important and may chose to turn them on).
While the entire email should be 550-600 pixels, use the top 500 pixels of the email to front-load your most important information.
Always draft a plain text version of your email, which your ESP will bundle and send with the HTML version and display for users who have HTML email turned off.