How to Build a Great Email Template (without a designer)

A great email template is good for your customers (easy to read, visually appealing, uncluttered, quick to the point) and good for you (reflects your brand, builds confidence, saves you time).

When I sat down to make the first Klaviyo email template, I had no idea where to start. I probably wasted an hour dragging, dropping, previewing, deleting, and even at the end of it wasn’t all that happy.

What I didn’t realize at the time is that many of the best looking email templates are actually fairly similar – and mostly importantly, fairly simple.

5 Easy to Build but Good-Looking Email Template Types

The goal of this post is to give you 5 clear examples of email templates types that you can easily create on your own without needing to hire a designer.

For each email we’ll give you an example, talk through why it works and give you tips for how to easily create it.  You should be able to build each template in about 15 minutes using Klaviyo’s free email template creator.

Whether you have an Ecommerce store or a Web app, great templates nearly always share a few common traits:

  • They are simple and don’t distract the reader
  • They look good on all devices and in all email clients
  • They have a clear next step for the reader to take

In short, if you weren’t the sender, your email should be one that you’d want to read and that you would respond to.

Example 1: The Letterhead

Bonobos Example of a Letterhead Email Template

Example Bonobos email in “Letterhead” style

The “letterhead” email template is simple: a white block with a logo in the middle of the top that sites over a gray background. It’s really easy to create and as long as you have a clean and uncluttered logo, it tends to almost always look great with minimal effort.

  • Why it works: Clean, Simple, Great Branding
  • What  it works best for: Newsletters, triggered emails, Notifications – really any thing. At Klaviyo, we use this template for our newsletter and for our follow-ups after sign-up.  We keep our notifications in a different template to really call out the differences between them.
  • Note: Looking the email above, you’ll notice that because the template is so minimal, any color (for example, the picture and the link to schedule an appointment above) draws the eye immediately. You will need a logo with a white or transparent background.
  • How you create it: Add your logo the center of a new template, then add text below. Leave the default shading of the background and use a light foreground.

Example 2: The Inset Logo

Zendesk Email with Inset Logo

Example Zendesk email in “Inset Logo” style

The inset logo template is a close cousin of the “letterhead” style above.  You create it in the very same way, but rather than putting the logo on white, put on a block the same color as the background. While this style downplays the logo and brand a bit, it’s a great way to focus in on a title or statement.

  • Why it works: Clean, Simple, to the point.
  • What it works best for: This is another very versatile template, but it works particularly well for two uses:
    • Blogs: Because it calls direct attention to the article title, it’s a great way to get someone to click and end up on your site.
    • Notifications: Similarly, when the goal of an email is to make the user aware of something (an upcoming deadline, a payment issue, etc), this template gets to the point.
  • Note:  This template often looks really good with more vibrant, colorful logos that stand out against the gray of the email background. You will need a logo image with a transparent background.
  • How you create it: If you’ve already made a letterhead template, start with that.  If not, add your logo at the top, then set the background of that block to be the same color as the overall background. Finally, remove any borders.

Example 3: The Header

Huckberry Email in Header Style

Example Huckberry email in “Header” style

Similar to the letterhead and the inset logo designs above, the header is simple and easy to make look good.

  • Why it works: Very clear call to action and lots of flexibility in type of message.
  • What it works best for: Versatile, but often a great fit for a welcome email series.  The clear call to action in the upper right gets people back to your site, and the block below is good for telling your brands story through text and pictures.
  • Note:  Another great thing about this template is that it works with nearly any logo – you just change the header.
  • How you create it: Add a dark colored bar to the top of your email that looks good behind your logo. Next, add your logo on the right and then your text on white below.

Example 4: The All-White

Everlane Email Template in All White

Example Everlane email in “All-White” style

Another email template we’re excited to see more of is an all-white template. It’s extremely minimal – but it lets you really highlight your product or a call to action with color.

  • Why it works: Simple, clean and makes calls to action very visible because they are the only color.
  • What it works best for: Great for newsletters, promotions, notifications, and triggered emails – really about anything.
  • Note:  This tends to work well especially when your logo is simple but very high quality.
  • How you create it: Set the background to white and remove any borders so that you literally have a completely white email. Then, add your logo at the top, text or a picture, and then ideally a large colorful button as a call to action.

Example 5: The Plain Text Email

Finally, don’t underestimate the short and personalized plain text email. They’re much more likely to get a customer response and they feel much more personal

  • Why it works: Feels authentic and personal.
  • What it works best for: Short and rare messages that are important.
    • For example, we use this to reach out and offer help to our new sign-ups.
    • Similarly, we see many Ecommerce stores use this to effectively send win-back emails to customers who are fading away.
  • Note:  The key to the plain text emails is not overusing it and not faking it. If it doesn’t feel like an email from a real person, your recipients will lose faith in you quickly and not open the next email you send.

Getting Started

The reason these emails are so straightforward to build is that they are very simple at their core.  They make full use of your logo, but otherwise just consist of one or two other elements – either a gray background with a white box on top, or they just keep everything white.

Every one of these should be able to be created in 15 minutes using Klaviyo’s free responsive email template creator for Ecommerce and Web apps. Once you have a great template, you’re well on your way to sending great emails.

 

When Ecommerce Stores Should Use Plain Text Emails

 

 

A Warning about Customer Lifetime Value

 

 

Spam Court: Are you guilty of spamming?

 

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3 comments

  • thanks for the info Ed!

  • Thanks, Ed. This is really helpful!

  • Awesome, thanks, Ed!

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