Emma presents The Brainiac Guide to Images in Email

1Put an image above the fold.toggle

Reality check: of the people opening your email, about 80% are only scanning, not reading. (Gasp!) That means you need to show the big idea of your email without scrolling. Create a clear visual path to the big idea in the "above the fold" real estate, typically the top 250-400 pixels. Start with a bold image, add a strong headline and always include a clear call to action.

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Add alt text to your images so readers understand the big idea even if their email program turns off images by default.

2Use images of people.toggle

Images in email are good. Images of people in email are even better. They create an emotional connection with your content and brand. Try using images of people looking at the camera — eye contact draws readers in. Or consider the emotion you want your subscribers to feel, and look for images with expressions, filters, lighting and mood that evoke it. You can store images in Emma or connect with Bigstock, Facebook and Flickr for more options.

BigStock | Facebook | Flickr | Library

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Eye tracking research shows that our attention mostly goes to the eyes when we look at an image of a person, so use close-ups that clearly show your subject's face.

3Create a consistent look.toggle

Thoughtfully curated images create instant trust before a subscriber ever reads a word, creating a cohesive flow that draws readers' eyes down the page. For professional continuity, unify your images with a similar filter, size or frame. Crop out anything that distracts from one focal element, unless it's a puppy. Please don't ever crop out a puppy.

Drag the handle to see the before and after.

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People's eyes naturally drift down when they see an image, so add a clickable caption underneath your images. Eye-tracking studies show that captions get nearly as much attention as headlines.

4Design buttons for mobile.toggle

Make it easy for recipients to interact with your emails with large, easy-to-spot buttons. Don't forget that 40% of all emails are viewed on a mobile device, so size those buttons for even the burliest fingertips to tap — 45 pixels does the trick.

Try to select buttons on each deviceblock.


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You don't need to be (or hire) a designer to create buttons. Search stock image services for common calls to action, or find free or low-priced button generators online to customize your own.

5Explore stock image services.toggle

If you can't find a compelling image, search stock images services like Bigstock, which you can access right from Emma. You'll find more than the standard headset-wearing lady, including illustrations, graphics and buttons. It's a budget-friendly way to ensure professional design, editing and composition in your images and guarantee your emails are never without a compelling visual.

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Whether you use an illustration, an image or a button, make sure it's clickable. Our brains process visuals 60,000 times faster than text, so it's an instinctive place to click.