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If you like a good design challenge, HTML is an interesting design problem to solve. The main design constraint with email is the window size you use to view an email. Typically, there's not much room to see anything in your email. And think about when your email first arrives in your reader's inbox--that's part of your design problem as well. Email design is not simply creating pretty stuff; email design also includes the copy, the From name, the subject line-- it's all of these details, and more. For example, if you start your subject line with the same text, your readers will find it easy to sort by subject line and find your emails in their inbox.
There are other issues to design around as well. For example, an email with a dark background has to be sure the fonts stayed lighter colored no matter what software is used to view the email. And what happens if images are turned off? In this email, for example, we cannot see all of the images. If we click here, however, our email displays perfectly. In addition to these practical problems that have to do with the email software, there are also three basic HTML design layouts you'll work with.
There is a single-column design, which is typically for announcements. There is a two-column design, which typically is used for newsletters, and there's a multicolumn, three columns, sometimes four columns, that's used for products, typically a 3x3 or 3x5 grid. What layout design you work with depends on your goals, the same as your web page design or print ad or brochure design. But email design is limited by number of factors, for example, how the email is first viewed as a list when it is received in someone's inbox.
That determines if readers will open your email and if your email is opened, what it looks like in the viewport.
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