Single Column or Two Column?

columnsIn email advertising, the basic format options are single or two column. Single column is the versatile, default, go-to: it’s what you get when you don’t do anything to create a second column. It’s the best practice for most advertising emails. However, if you have a lot of disparate topics to cover, or you want to get as much information above the fold as possible, you should consider the risks and benefits of a two column format.

When to Use a Single Column Format?

One column emails are easier for readers to scan vertically, so they work best for short and long emails as long as they are single-topic. They work great on mobile devices and the code has a low chance of breaking.

Use a single column format when:

  • Your email is composed of one image and/or a few text phrases
  • You have a long, text-heavy email, such as a letter or article. Break up the text with headers, images, and inline CSS formatting elements.

When to Use a Two Column Format

A two column email is essentially a nested table, so you can place elements exactly where you want them. Two column emails are effective when you have a lot of points and want to get as much info as possible above the fold.

However, there are some coding and design concerns when undertaking a more complex format:

  • Design choices should be consistent across both columns. Use the same fonts for headers and text and the same color choices. Both columns should present a single, cohesive look.
  • To optimize for mobile, use HTML and nested tables, not CSS.
  • You can tell your table how to behave on a mobile device by usingĀ media queries . This is an inline CSS trick.
  • Write a plain-text version of your newsletter to send along with your HTML version.
  • Remember to test your email across all platforms on different computers or with a web tool, not just in your ESP’s preview.
  • The left column should be your main info column, and the right column the secondary info, table of links, ads, or info panel.

Header and Footer

Always include a header and footer to round out both single and two column formats, even if it’s a short email. It’s okay to have a short email — customers typically devote about twenty seconds scanning a commercial email, so if you can get their attention quickly in a short email, great!

The header in the email content should include your logo and brand, but keep it small, 90-150 pixels high. When preview pane users view your email, you don’t want them to see only a slice of header, but actual content, too.

Put your footer to work: you can add information like links to your Facebook and Twitter page and the unsubscribe information in the footer.

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