What Leonardo da Vinci knew about your email campaigns

How knowing about the eye's Foveal viewport may change the way you look at your next campaign.

At Emma, we're always thinking about audiences and the important role design plays in communicating your message. We also do a lot of thinking about the concepts behind the why. Why is one campaign more effective than another? Why do some links get clicked more?

We often talk about reasons like headlines and timeliness, but here's another concept you might want to be consider: the Foveal viewport. The fovea is the part of the eye that makes it possible for us to have 100-percent visual acuity. So what the heck does that mean? Well, when we look at something, we see only a small area of it in complete focus. We may think we see the whole picture clearly, but we don't. Leonardo da Vinci was actually the first person to discover this issue with sight lines. Elements that fall outside this area get blurry – they get blurry quite fast, actually. As our eyes move, or to use a fancier term saccade, this area of complete focus moves as well. This area of complete focus is called the Foveal viewport.

For example, when we look at this web page, we may think we see the whole page in focus:

You think you see it, right?

But here's our reality, with only the Foveal viewport in complete focus:

What you actually see, through the Foveal viewport.

Another way to see the size of this is to hold your thumbs up next to each other — the area of your two thumbnails is roughly the same size as the Foveal viewport.

So how can you apply this to email design?
+ You can place your most important content where your audience is most likely to see it when they first open your campaign.
+ You can place pieces of related content in close proximity to each other.
+ Since the Foveal viewport moves as a person looks at something (and our eyes look for things that stand out), you can place any calls to action as close as you can to the related content.

Let's say you're creating a campaign with an announcement about your new deli lunch menu.

How's the lunch promo look?

Not bad. Appealing photo along with hunger- and thirst-inducing copy. (Excuse me while I go grab a pop.) Ah. Now, let's take a look at the Foveal viewport.

Lunch, as your fovea sees it.

Your first thought might be that the viewport will move, so no worries (that's what I thought too). But it's been shown that people often don't even see items that fall outside the viewport. So what if you shortened the copy a bit to get that button closer?

Proximity … yum.

Much better. Besides the copy being easier to scan, the button you want people to click on now falls within the same Foveal viewport. Pretty cool.

It's also worth noting that too much focusing between saccades can cause fatigue. This refocusing happens hundreds of times every minute without us even knowing it, but the effort adds up, so you might want to avoid making your audience work so hard when they're reading. Because let's face it – do you really want your audience to feel tired after they read your emails?

Here's what you can do:
+ You can minimize the amount of content you're asking people to look at.
+ You can minimize the amount of content you're asking people to decide between.
+ You can be sure your email templates aren't too wide.

Knowing what Leonardo da Vinci knew about how eyeballs work just might change the way you look at your next campaign. With a few tweaks to your designs, you can help your audience see things the way you want them to see them.


Editor's note: This post launches a new series from Emma's UX team – they'll be sharing ideas, tips and expertise about email usability (and perhaps occasionally mentioning medieval geniuses).

The Brainiac Guide to Welcome Email Automation

A fresh approach to custom design

Emma's new Studio Design gives you stylish options in a hands-on format.

Announcing a faster (and super fun) stationery design option.

As you're dreaming up new ways to showcase your organization's style in your email campaigns, we're proud to unveil Studio Design, a faster, more hands-on way for you to request the custom brand stationery that frames your newsletters, surveys and promotions.

New! Studio Design :: $99

With our latest design offering, you'll walk step-by-step through an interactive form to design a custom header, selecting from our ever-changing menu of hand-designed textures and elements. You'll choose from styles such as vintage, retro, elegant, edgy, modern and classic to find a look that suits you.

You'll have more creative control than ever, with easy options to set your logo, colors, shapes and more before you send your selections to a designer who'll artfully assemble them into one-of-a-kind brand stationery.

Best of all, your stationery is ready in two working days, about half the time of our current stationery design process.

Fresh summer designs for your seasonal campaigns.

And just in time for your summertime promotions and events, we're featuring a suite of limited edition summer design elements to help you add a little seasonal — and possibly beachy — fun to your next stationery design.

Take your pick from sea shells, waves, nautical elements, beach balls, palm trees, ice cream, sunglasses and more. Then choose the colors you want and create a summer campaign to share what's new with your audience.

Go ahead … if you're a current customer, check out Studio Design today! Otherwise, please take a few seconds to get in touch so we can get to know you and tell you more about it.

We hope this additional design option and quicker turnaround time helps your organization make the most of whatever flavor of custom design you'd like in your email campaigns. (If that flavor happens to be rocky road, would it be weird if we show up sometime next week with a spoon?)

As always, we're here to answer any questions you may have, so don't hesitate to send us an email, give us a call at 800.595.4401 or visit our help guide, where you can even chat online with us.

May design showcase: tasty creations

In this month's showcase, we're highlighting stationery designs that are especially, shall we say, appetizing. Flavorful? OK, we'll just say it: These designs are downright delicious. They're also extremely flexible. (Didn't see that one coming, now did you?) Our restaurant, catering and food retail clients often need to send out last-minute campaigns for spur-of-the-moment promotions, so their stationery designs must be usable for nearly any kind of campaign. Fortunately, our designers are experts at uniting existing brand standards with the unique attributes of email design. And they also really, really like food. At their desks. Preferably sent via (ahem) priority overnight service. You know, to prevent staleness. Just sayin'.

Deluxe Foods

Client: Deluxe Foods
Emma designer: Leigh Bernstein
Design level: Concierge Design

This specialty food retail shop from Seattle, Washington, needed a stationery design informed by its current website branding, which balances the refined look of 19th-century English fine china with a thoroughly non-snobby attitude.

Leigh took the header directly from the website in order to replicate the look exactly, since the fonts used for the logo and navigation bar are not standard, web-safe fonts. For the footer, however, she created a beautiful Nouveau design that is consistent with Deluxe's existing aesthetic: organic but not overtly floral, dainty but not froufrou. And because image-based borders cannot stretch to accommodate longer campaigns, Leigh designed the footer to just barely creep up the sides of the frame. That way, the swooping lines serve to draw the eye back up to the content without sacrificing the stationery's flexibility.

Cactus Restaurants

Client: Cactus Restaurants
Emma designer: Elizabeth Williams
Design level: Concierge Design

Before we began designing, Marc at Cactus Restaurants sent multiple logos and several other files for Elizabeth's reference, including photographs and Lotería cards. And although most of those images did not end up in the stationery itself, they were still important to the initial design process because they helped her understand the design aesthetic at Cactus – whether that be the design of the menus, the website or even the décor on the walls.

The end result highlights their most-used design elements (logo, font-specific slogan and the lithograph-style image of four men) while incorporating new design ideas that take advantage of email's particular capabilities. Elizabeth completely customized the standard "send to a friend" link in the top right corner, and she built a permanent sidebar with an editable text box, which will collapse and disappear if Marc chooses not to input text.

Jailhouse Brewing

Client: Jailhouse Brewing
Emma designer: Jimmy Thorn
Design level: Concierge Design

The folks at Jailhouse Brewing wanted an edgy design incorporating multiple elements in a rowdy, unstructured way. "I don't want it to be too clean," read the design request … and right away, we knew this would be fun. Oh, and did we mention it was for beer?

Jimmy started with the logo, which fortunately was available as an EPS file, meaning that the image quality was perfect and the background was transparent. Jailhouse provided the scratchy gray background texture, so Jimmy digitally "tore" the edges and added just a bit of a drop shadow to the header. From there, he found a few key images to add to the design, including a photograph of the brewery from Jailhouse's Facebook page that he antiqued and framed with an old-fashioned border. The slogan (and its distinct typeface) are also integral to the identity of the Jailhouse brand, so Jimmy made sure to highlight it in the footer and support it visually with the ball and chain.

Sweets Truck

Client: The Sweets Truck
Emma designer: Leigh Bernstein
Design level: Concierge Design

Anyone who speaks with Molly at the Sweets Truck – be it Sam in sales or Kelley in design – can't help but note how sweet she is! It's fitting then, that she runs a mobile bakeshop with to-die-for cupcakes. And even fittinger that her custom stationery express that same charm and friendliness.

And since Molly already had established brand standards for font styles and color, Leigh was able to draw directly from provided elements to begin the basic design. The circular icons are images that Molly uses consistently on the web and on the truck itself, so Leigh knew to spotlight those without putting them in the background of the content area, which would have caused rendering problems in certain email programs. She also used the approved Sweets Truck font for all image-based text in the sidebar, while sticking with a web-safe font for the live type at the bottom. With those little tricks of the trade, Leigh was able to protect and promote Molly's brand identity and still ensure that all readers will see the *exact* design that she does on her own machine.

Until next time … hugs, brand extension and stomach growls from your entire Emma design team!

Where in the World is Emma in 2010? June Edition

Steve and Frank representing Emma at our booth during the NRA Show in Chicago last month.

As you make your travel plans for some summer good times, we thought we'd let you know about some exciting places where we'll be in June.

When you look at our list, you're probably going to say to yourself, "Jeepers, these guys love Denver & Portland!" and you'll be right. Denver & Portland are home to two of our Emma offices, and we're looking forward to spending time with our Colorado & Oregon colleagues. If you're nearby and want to meet with us, give us a shout and we'll set something up.

Open Source Bridge Conference
June 1 – 4 :: Portland, OR

This is our second year in a row sponsoring the Open Source Bridge Conference. This is a newer conference organized for developers who work with open source technologies or are interested in learning more about open source. Not only is this a great opportunity for our Portland developers to connect and share experiences with other developers in Portland, but we also can show some local support to such an important group in one of our Emma cities. If you're planning on attending, please say hello to Michelle, Mark and Jay, our Emma developers who will be attending. If you're a developer and want to know more about our job opportunities, be sure to let them know. (You can learn more here.)

Creative Freelancer Conference
June 5 – 6 :: Denver, CO

This event kicks off HOW's week of design conferences — it's for designers, illustrators, photographers, copywriters and other creative professionals. We're supplying some fun tote bag inserts here, so if you're attending, you'll receive some Emma love.

InHOWse Design Conference
June 6 – 8 :: Denver, CO

If you're a manager or lead of an in-house creative team, this event may be right up your alley. This year, HOW is anticipating 400 total attendees from small to large-sized companies. We'll have an exhibit table at this year's event, so please do stop by and say hello to Sam Farkas. FYI, Sam plays guitar for a band that is playing at Bonnaroo this year. Pretty awesome, eh?

HOW Design Conference
June 6 – 9 :: Denver, CO

The HOW Design Conference is one of those signature events that we've really come to love being a part of each year. We put a lot into the design of our customers' brands in email, so participating in these events gives us a chance to share more about Emma and gives us a chance to get to know what other creative professionals are up to.

Emma's Jonathan Gesinger and Taylor Schena will be leading a session, providing helpful tips for creating stylish and effective email campaigns on Tuesday, June 8th from 10:45 AM – 12 PM. You can register for this session here. Not only will we have an exhibit space where you'll find two wonderful folks from our sales crew, Gina LaMar and Theresa McLoughlin, but you may also run into two of Emma's fabulous designers, Jennifer Kasdorf and Jimmy Thorn, who will be attending the overall conference.

Online Marketing Summit's 22-City Regional Tour
June 16th (Portland, OR) & June 23rd (Denver, CO)

This year, OMS will be visiting 23 cities across the United States and Canada as part of their regional tour to bring best practices in online marketing to more than 250 attendees in each city. Each city will receive a single day of online marketing education and peer networking. This month, we'll be speaking and sponsoring in two of our Emma cities, Denver and Portland. Then in July, we'll be at the Austin event on the 21st.

If you're going to be at any of these events or in the area, definitely let us know. Hope you all have a great summer!

Join the social media conversation

Lots of you have been using our new Social Sharing feature in Preview, and we love reading your comments. We've even used your feedback to shape how the feature works. We know you're excited about how this tool can help your organization because you've been telling us in all sorts of ways, such as …

  • "The social sharing is a great new feature! Thank you for continually upgrading your system!" – Jess Goedken, WBG
  • "Worked like a charm and looks great!" – Peggy, Warner Norcross & Judd
  • "Just like Burger King: 'Have it your way!' You guys are simply awesome! I had asked for this, and here it is!" – Suzanne, Documentary Channel

(So you can see why we're blushing even as we're busily working on the feature.)

We're already thinking about how our product will evolve, and a big part of that future depends on how you all use social media. So we thought we'd toss you a question to get your perspective and give us more feedback to share with our product team:

Tell us: Do you use social media primarily for listening or for speaking?

Some of you have already answered us on Twitter:

@boomerangzone says, "We use them for both. For social media to work, you need to engage in conversation. It's also a way to watch/build your brand."

@kenjisan says, "In my personal life, social channels are mainly for listening. Professionally, they're for sharing."

So come on, join the conversation and let us know how you're using social media in the comments below. We look forward to hearing from you.

Meet Design & Image

How a design shop refines brands for their clients and strengthens their own identity, too.
About their newsletter.
Design & Image, a visual branding firm in Denver, sends out monthly and weekly newsletters and event invitations to their clients and fans. They illustrate brand studies, offer tips and classes for streamlining company branding and host a first-Friday happy hour for clients each month. Their penchant for clean designs and smart email marketing makes them a strong contender in the world of brand management – segmenting their audience and testing subject lines are two strategies they use to increase engagement.

Why we like it.
The formatting is attractive and balanced. Design & Image's aesthetic is colorful and punchy without being cluttered. They've chosen relatively subdued colors – light blue and gray – and embellished with bright orange images. They place a visual splash with a focus on their key message up top, strategy questions in the middle and links to learn more at the end.
In short: Use formatting to your advantage without overdoing it to get your message in front your readers.

They focus on their audience. Sometimes we forget that our email newsletters should be less about us and more about our audience members. The Design & Image email poses industry questions that their subscribers can ponder, and then offers a complimentary marketing consultation. It's easy for them to track their most interested audience members by measuring click-throughs and consultation conversions.
In short: Think about new and creative incentives that encourage audience engagement.

The send-off, at a glance.

  • Sent to segmented audience groups in three separate sends (Mar 10, Mar 18, Apr 6); to 172 total members
  • Avg open rate: 39.2% :: Average click-through rate: 24.1%%
  • Subject line: Online Marketing Gameplan from D & I
  • Created using an Upload Your Own HTML template

More details

See the campaign online
See the website

‘Lost’ with Emma? Just this once

If Google's Ms. Pac-man hasn't provided enough Friday diversion for you, we've just launched a special limited edition of our 404 page for "Lost" fans. (That's the webpage you see if the page you try to visit on our site doesn't exist.)

It's up for this weekend only, in honor of the series finale of "Lost" on Sunday night. You can also see it by visiting any non-existent page on the site, like myemma.com/smokemonster.

Thanks to front end web developer and "Lost" devotee Jeff McKeand for, ahem, hatching this little idea.

Post-Finale Update: We've had a little trouble letting go, if you know what we mean. So while our main 404 page is back to its normal, mustache-themed self, we're keeping the smoke monster page alive.