To Include or Not to Include: Should You Put Images in Your Email Newsletters?
05 Jul 2018

To Include or Not to Include: Should You Put Images in Your Email Newsletters?

Wouldn’t it be great to have a clear scientific formula to follow for email newsletter designs? Some will tell you there is a perfect ratio: 60% text, 40% images. However, effective newsletter design isn’t as consistent as this. There is no universal truth. There are times when images are valuable, and times when they hinder the email newsletter design.


In fact, this is a topic which is discussed with intense fervour. You tend to find people fall into two polarising camps: for and against the use of images. But it needn’t be like that if you understand the pros and cons of using images in your email newsletter, and when and how to use them effectively.


The old school

It can be helpful to remember here that email newsletter design is a completely different breed to old print media. In old printed newsletters, brochures, fliers and the like, you were acutely aware of print costs which became more astronomical the more images there were. You were also acutely aware that your images really needed to ‘wow’ and stand out from the crowd. That was the balancing act you cared about.

You need to throw out this old school preconception with the junk mail that still lands on your doormat. Email newsletter design needs a totally different approach.


A picture tells a thousand words

It’s a cliché but it’s true. You’re going to need a lot of words to do the job of an image. Pictures sell. However, one without the other is simply going to fail. You need the two together, working in harmony.

Whilst the balance between text and words can vary, there’s no doubting that images are important – especially when actively advertising a product. So make sure you factor them in to all email newsletter design, but know how to do so effectively.


Understanding your readership

It’s also important to be aware that a reader or an email undergoes a substantially different reading and scanning process to that of print media. They scan and act quickly, so you don’t have a huge window of opportunity. It’s all about getting them hooked on making that click. Therefore, it’s no good having fabulous enticing images if the subject line hasn’t got the reader wanting to see them.


Consider whether they will be seen

This is a biggie. Not all email service providers show images. Individuals can also sometimes edit their settings. If you’re relying on a reader to download the image it’s less likely to be seen, so your text needs to make perfect sense without the image. This is particularly important if your graphic button is the CTA.

There’s also the issue that images tend to up the chances of an email being automatically dispatched to the spam folder. Don’t shun images altogether because of this, but do realise that overuse in conjunction with other factors will increase the potential.

If you’re discovering that your emails aren’t getting through, reducing images can be one solution.


So how do you use images in email newsletter design effectively?

If you bear in mind the above concerns regarding images, then you are more likely to create effective newsletter design. The aim is to use images judiciously in a way which makes your email compelling to those who do get to see them but don’t detract from those who don’t.

What’s great is that if you choose an email newsletter template software, such as Postman by Paloma, then you’re already getting much of the balancing act right without conscious thought.

Here are some additional factors to bear in mind when you include images:


  1. Factor in scanning: Email readers aren’t those settling down to get lost in a novel.

They scan, lightning fast, and make a snap decision whether to carry on. That scanning could well be happening in the email preview pane, where some email providers won’t even display images. Therefore use that space for super enticing text. Don’t try to use a combo here. That then effectively needs a ‘cliffhanger’ to get the click through.

A good compromise is to use a brand standardised graphic which serves as the header but doesn’t take up the whole of a preview pane.


  1. Avoid a blank screen: Stuffing in one huge image or multiple smaller ones is asking for trouble.

It may well look visually amazing in your design lab but if it transfers as a big blank screen, it’s useless. The images need to load. Therefore, use images carefully and selectively, and limit their size. You may also do some research to see which email platforms are typically being used to access your emails.


  1. Never link images with critical text: Don’t use images and graphics as a part of your CTA.

If the image doesn’t load the reader can’t act. In an email newsletter you should predominantly use formatted text links, or use text links and images alongside each other rather than combined. Do however include alt and title text with the images to back them up for those who won’t see them.


  1. Keep it simple: Email newsletters aren’t the place for snazzy graphics and lots of imagery; they are for clean simple design which is brand-focused.

Keep that at the front of your mind and prioritise simplicity over intricate design. Use an email newsletter template and you can be sure of this. This is particularly important when you consider the volume of emails which are opened on smartphones.

As with other aspects of email marketing strategy, we recommend you complete AB split testing to see what works best for your business and your audience. Testing is possible using Paloma’s Postman email newsletter designs, ensuring you can quickly discover the best image to text ratio for your business.


Try the Postman templates today for free. Here you can send up to 100 emails for free each month and make use of email templates. By using templates, it’s easier to get the balance of text and images right.


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