One Column and Two Column Email Q&A

q_aWhen marketing by email, a single column is a steady and reliable format that reliably renders across all platforms. However, a well-designed two column format may be a good choice if you are concerned about trying to get the most information above the fold.

Below are your questions answered about deciding how to use columns when formatting your emails.

Q: What is ‘above the fold’? What are the dimensions?

‘Above the fold’ refers to the newspaper maxim to always put the most important column on the top half of the front page, so that when the newspaper is folded in half and stacked face-up, anyone walking past will see the headline. In email, ‘above the fold’ is the space readers can see before scrolling. It measures about 2-3 inches on a standard screen or about 500 pixels.

The top left of your email newsletter is the most important section, and should always contain a call to action and a link to the landing page.

Q: I don’t know when to choose a single or two column format.

The purpose of the two column format is: to break up content for clarity, and to spread it out in boxes horizontally so more content is showed above the fold.

Some reasons to use single column:

  • Your email is single-purpose, such as a coupon or transactional email.
  • You’re designing specifically for mobile.
  • You want readers to scan vertically rather than horizontally (you’re sending a long, text-based email).
  • Your HTML skills aren’t exactly stellar; two-column requires working with tables and inline formatting, and email is much less forgiving about errors than website coding is.

Some reasons to choose two-column:

  • You’re including side information, like links, a calendar, sidebars, etc.
  • You have a lot of disparate bits of information to include in one email.
  • You want to include ads.
  • You want to include images, but want control over exactly where they are placed.
  • You’re good at designing nested HTML tables, or good at customizing your ESP’s templates without breaking them.

Q: What’s the best way to lay out a two column email?

Customers are accustomed to email newsletters that are laid out like newspapers, with the most important information on the left and smaller articles on the right and bottom.

Q: What if it breaks?

Nested HTML tables are a sturdy way to build a two column email.

CSS is sometimes stripped by email providers, and images sometimes don’t load. You can’t use the head or body tag in email at all. An effective, affordable ESP like Mission Suite can provide you with templates that are guaranteed not to break when viewed on any machine.

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