One of the keys to rising above the crowd in email creative is innovation. If an email contains a clear message and a unique design, its chances at being effective increase considerably. One such innovation, developed by the Experian CheetahMail Creative Services Team, is the horizontal email, and the results have been overwhelmingly positive and profitable for our clients.
We asked three of our expert designers to share their theories on why horizontal layouts work, and what other best practices and tricks of the trade they incorporate into their creatives to bolster their performance.
Senior Graphic Designer Roald Ansano recounts his inspiration for the unique layout:
“The first time I realized the potential of horizontal designs I was reviewing a retail client’s summer campaign. It was designed like a wide postcard, with products you could scroll left to right to look at. If the same products had been laid out in a normal template, I would’ve just scrolled up and down, out of habit. But I was already doing something different from the norm, so it kept me interested.”
What’s the tactical approach in designing these emails?
“As with traditional vertical emails, you must concentrate on the 420 pixel “above the fold” area. But for horizontals, you stress the total viewable width of 720 pixels. This is the average measurement we use to determine when the user needs to start scrolling horizontally to view more content. The important information must appear there, but there can’t be too much to take in, or it becomes overwhelming. The most important thing is to use cues that get the viewer’s attention and indicate that there’s more to the right. You must encourage interaction with the viewer.”
Graphic Designer Riko Austria explains the process further:
“To entice the viewer to scroll to the right, we incorporate graphical elements that provide a horizontal “visual flow” to the email, such as a long header image, a call-to-action, a product description, or a lifestyle shot that is intentionally cut off until you move right. It’s like a visual ‘teaser.’ That convinces the viewer to scroll to see more.”
Riko enjoys the challenge horizontal emails represent.
“It’s something new to bring to the table; it’s something new to master and test. There are different methods to use when designing. And, it’s the perfect time for this to come out, now that most monitors are wide screen. It’s a perfect technological fit.”
Graphic Designer Kathy Jankovic has been busy redesigning vertical emails into horizontal versions for the last couple of months:
“We like to give the client both options, and we’re doing testing to see what performs better. I’m looking forward to seeing the testing data and working more with horizontal designs.”
“I’m always thinking about ways to make the initial presentation, and user interaction more engaging, such as using a continuous image, and making sure content doesn’t end before the 720 pixel mark. One of the challenges for me, as a designer, is that the horizontal plane can go up to 2000 pixels (standard total width measurement used by several email clients), so I have to know when to end the design. With horizontals, too much right-left movement isn’t good. Viewers lose focus and then interest. It’s very much about using your instincts, while letting the design define the horizontal end.”
Time and testing will tell if the horizontal approach is a surefire hit, but so far, all signs point to yes.