Our Best Email Design of 2012 contest saw so many more entries than we had anticipated. Our panel of email expert judges had to square away some serious time and focused attention to properly evaluate them and give them all a fair shake. Submissions we received provided a very insightful look into how you all out there were doing in regard to email marketing best practices. Read our last blog post, Best Practices in Action: A Look at Our Contest Entries, about the great things we saw you email-sending folks out there do.

In this post we’ll be covering some email marketing practices that may have a negative impact on email campaign results.

Typos and Misspellings

It goes without saying that you want to present yourself to your subscribers in the best light possible. Sadly, sloppy content is not the way to go. Proofreading and using that good ole spell check built into…well, most everything these days…sure do go a long way to making your business come off as polished, professional and, above all, trust-worthy. It could mean the difference between you winning some business and your competitor getting it instead. It certainly was relevant in the context of an email design contest, anyway.

One Great Big Image

There were more than a few email designs we got which were just a single large picture. At first blush this doesn’t seem so bad as this often means that it’s almost 100% visual. And visual, itself, is often a good thing. In the case of email marketing, though, completely graphical designs can become completely ineffectual should the recipient have images in their email client turned off (and most do by default). If your message is in the pictures but the pictures won’t show, then your message won’t show either. Consider breaking up your email by making it a blend of well-placed images and live text instead. Save yourself some bandwidth that way, too.

Failure to Include Alt Text

Putting alternative text via the “alt” attribute in an image tag may often be the most overlooked step in the HTML email creation process but it is by no means unnecessary. Unfortunately, we discovered a fair number of entries that went without alt text. Should recipients have a slow connection or a network connection problem while reading your mail, images that comprise your message may fail to load, making for a less than optimal inbox experience. Utilizing descriptive alt text means your message is still communicated even if the graphical content fails to display…like in the case of email clients that don’t automatically load images.

It was tough to choose a winner for this contest but one design clearly outshone the others by observing various best practices and minimizing the many pratfalls common to this sort of communication. Stay tuned as we make our official announcement of the Net Atlantic Best Email Design Of 2012 Contest contest next week.

Want other tips on how to design your next HTML email? Read our previously published blog post on Email Newsletter Design Dos and Don’ts for Publishers, where we describe many common mistakes and how to fix them.