Three Email Templates

How to Create Your Own Email Marketing Templates

For those tasked with designing and coding email marketing templates without prior experience, the challenge can seem daunting. In today's digital landscape where email remains a crucial tool for customer engagement, mastering this skill is essential for the efficient creation of email communication.

This article aims to provide practical guidance and insights to individuals new to email development. Whether you're a marketer seeking to expand your skill set or a beginner in email coding, our goal is to equip you with the knowledge needed to create effective templates.

Throughout this guide, we'll explore the fundamental principles of designing and coding email templates, offering actionable tips to overcome common challenges. By the end, you'll have the skills and confidence to create engaging email templates that drive results and streamline your future email production process.

5 benefits of using email templates

Email templates serve as a foundational tool for email development. They provide structure and consistency to your communication efforts. Email templates are pre-designed layouts that help streamline the process of creating emails and offer some important benefits:

1. Efficiency

By providing a pre-designed framework, email templates streamline the email creation process, saving valuable time and resources. Marketers can focus on crafting compelling content rather than starting from scratch with each email campaign.

2. Consistency

Email templates ensure brand consistency across all communications, maintaining a cohesive look and feel that reinforces brand identity. Consistent branding builds trust and familiarity with recipients.

3. Speed

With ready-made templates at their disposal, marketers can quickly deploy email campaigns, responding promptly to time-sensitive promotions or events.

4. Error avoidance

Templates help mitigate the risk of errors in email campaigns by providing standardized layouts and formatting. This reduces the likelihood of typos, broken links, or design inconsistencies that could undermine the effectiveness of the message.

5. Reusable customization

Email templates can be customized and reused for various campaigns, enabling marketing team members or clients to leverage your coded templates for their specific needs. This empowers senders to maintain brand consistency while tailoring content to suit different audience segments or campaign objectives.

7 tips for developing email marketing templates

Mailjet email template gallery

For those new to email development, navigating the intricacies of coding email marketing templates can be daunting. Unlike web development, email template coding faces limitations due to varying HTML and CSS support across email clients. This often leads to inconsistent rendering, especially when viewed on different devices. Factor such as dark mode emails and accessibility add even more complexity.

Despite these challenges, mastering email coding is essential for creating templates that deliver a consistent and engaging experience for recipients across all platforms. As you start coding and designing your templates, here are some key considerations:

1.   Plan ahead

When it comes to creating email templates, it’s much like creating any other email, the major difference is that we know our template is going to be reused and repurposed for multiple different emails.

Whenever I’m coding a new email template I’m always asking myself “how will this template be used?” by making a point to think about this ahead of creation it lets me plan out all the use-cases for my template and informs every other decision around a template.

Start by making a list of all the different types of emails you send. For example you may need a newsletter template, a product announcement template, transactional email templates, and more.

2.   Choose your code approach

Once we have our template planned out and our use-cases mapped out, it’s time to dive into the nitty-gritty of creating the template.

When it comes to email development, there are several methods and options to consider, each with its own advantages and considerations. Two primary decisions that email developers often face are whether to use divs or tables for layout, and whether to use a framework like MJML or stick with traditional HTML and CSS.

Divs vs. Tables for email template layouts

Historically, the <table> has been a go-to choice for HTML email layouts due to better support across email clients. They provide more consistent rendering, especially in older clients like certain desktop versions of Outlook. However, table-based layouts can be cumbersome to work with and less flexible in terms of design.

Layouts using <div>s offer more flexibility and are preferred by many web developers due to their cleaner code structure. However, div-based layouts may face compatibility issues in certain email clients. Once again, coding emails for Outlook is one of the primary reasons email developers use tables over divs. However, email geek Mark Robbins told us about a future of email in which we no longer have to code emails like it’s 1999.

Ultimately, your decision around divs vs tables comes down to a personal choice, which should be based on your subscriber base and your own skill level and comfort with different techniques.

Want to learn more about divs vs tables in email development? Watch our own Megan Boshuyzen as she joins Anne Tomlin to explain these two approaches in an email geek showdown.


MJML is a markup language designed specifically for email development. It offers a simplified syntax and pre-built components that streamline the email creation process. MJML templates are inherently responsive, ensuring consistent rendering across devices and email clients. However, there may be a learning curve for developers transitioning to MJML, and customization options may be limited compared to traditional HTML and CSS.

Traditional HTML and CSS remains the popular choice for email development, offering full control over the design and layout of email templates. While HTML and CSS provide maximum flexibility and customization options, you must be mindful of email client limitations and compatibility issues.

For more on using MJML for email development, check out this episode of Notes from the Dev, featuring tips from Nicole Hickman.

3.   Code you need in every email

In every email, regardless if it’s a one-off email or a template like we’re creating, there are essential pieces of code you’ll want to include that ensure proper rendering and functionality across various email clients and devices. Here's a summary of the key elements:

HTML Boilerplate:

The HTML email boilerplate provides a foundation for your template and includes essential elements such as the <!DOCTYPE> declaration, <html> and <head> tags, and character encoding declaration (<meta charset="utf-8">). It also includes the <body> tag where the email content resides.

Media Queries for Responsive Design:

Media queries allow you to create responsive email designs that adapt to different screen sizes and devices. By applying specific styles based on the viewport width, you can ensure your email templates look great on both desktop and mobile devices.

Fallback Font Stacks:

Fallback font stacks ensure readability by specifying a list of fonts that should be used if the preferred font is not available on the recipient's device. This helps to maintain consistency in typography across email clients and ensures your content remains accessible.

4.   Consider mobile-first email templates

In today's mobile-centric world, it's imperative to prioritize mobile responsiveness when developing email marketing templates. A survey from Sinch Mailjet found that a staggering 71.5% of global consumers primarily view emails on mobile devices. Adopting a mobile-first approach ensures that your email marketing templates are optimized for the devices most commonly used by your audience.

To implement a mobile-first strategy, start by designing your email templates with the smallest screens in mind. This means creating a layout that is clear, concise, and easy to navigate on mobile devices. Use single-column layouts, larger font sizes, and spacious touch targets to accommodate smaller screens and touch interactions.

Utilizing CSS media queries, you can apply specific styles based on screen width to ensure a seamless transition from mobile to desktop. Min-width and max-width media queries allow you to target specific screen sizes and apply different styles accordingly.

Incorporating these best practices into your email template development process will ensure that your emails are optimized for mobile devices and provide a seamless user experience across all screen sizes.

5.   Prioritize accessibility in template creation

In email marketing accessibility is not just a best practice - it's a fundamental aspect of ensuring that your messages reach and resonate with all recipients, regardless of their abilities or assistive technologies.

Prioritizing accessibility in template creation is crucial, ensuring that your email content is accessible to everyone, including individuals with disabilities such as visual impairments or mobility limitations. By designing with accessibility in mind, you create a more inclusive experience for all recipients, fostering a sense of belonging and engagement with your brand.

Accessibility features, such as descriptive alt text for images and semantic HTML structure not only benefit users with disabilities but also improve the overall user experience for all recipients. Clear and well-organized content makes it easier for everyone to consume and interact with your emails.

6.   Create templates for different layouts

In email marketing, one size rarely fits all. Tailoring your email layouts to suit the specific goals and content of each campaign is essential for maximizing engagement and driving desired actions from your audience.

Different email campaigns serve different purposes, whether it's promoting a new product, sharing educational content, or delivering transactional updates. By crafting layouts that align with the content and objectives of each campaign, you can ensure that your emails are relevant and resonant with recipients' interests and preferences. Personalized layouts that speak directly to the recipient's needs and motivations are more likely to capture attention and drive engagement.

7.   Testing your templates

Testing your email templates is a critical step in the email marketing process, guaranteeing that your messages render correctly, function as intended, and provide an optimal experience for recipients.

Email clients vary widely in their rendering capabilities with differences in HTML and CSS support that can affect how your emails appear to subscribers. Test your templates across multiple clients, including popular ones like Gmail, Outlook, and iOS Mail, to ensure consistent rendering across platforms.

By rigorously testing your email templates across various dimensions you can identify and address any issues before deploying your campaigns, ensuring a seamless and engaging experience for your subscribers. Remember to document your testing process and any findings to inform future template optimizations and improvements.

Working with pre-designed email templates

Creating custom email templates can offer unparalleled flexibility and uniqueness but leveraging pre-designed email templates found online presents an alternative for those seeking convenience.

While using these templates you can find online have benefits like the ability for rapid deployment, utilizing their professional designs, and the fact that there are a wide variety of free templates to choose from, it’s important that we remember the drawbacks:

  • Limited Customization: While pre-designed templates offer convenience, they may have limitations in customization.
  • Compatibility Concerns: Pre-designed templates may not always be optimized for compatibility across different email clients and devices.
  • Risk of Uniqueness: Since pre-designed templates are widely accessible, there's a risk that emails created using these templates may lack uniqueness or fail to stand out amidst competitors' campaigns.

Leveraging pre-designed email templates available online offers a convenient and cost-effective solution for executing email campaigns. While they provide benefits in terms of rapid deployment and professional design, you should be mindful of their limitations and drawbacks.

The next step? An email design system

A design system includes a set of standards used to create a collection of reusable components. These components (or email modules) share a consistent visual style, which typically follows brand guidelines.

It’s helpful to think of a design system like a set of building blocks or Lego bricks. Each component is a block, and you can use those content blocks to build a variety of things. 

Often, designers and developers will start with just one template, reusing components like the header, a certain content module or way of showing a feature and build that out to be a complete email design system.

By adopting an email design system, marketers can elevate the quality, consistency, and effectiveness of their email campaigns while optimizing their workflow and collaboration processes.

Test your email templates before you hit send

User interface of the Email on Acid Email Preview Feature
Email on Acid Email Previews

While it's tempting to assume that templates are flawless after initial testing, the reality is that factors such as evolving email client updates, changes in rendering standards, and shifts in user preferences can impact template performance over time.

Prioritizing continuous testing and previewing of your email templates is not only a smart practice but a necessary one for maintaining the success and relevance of your email marketing efforts in an ever-evolving landscape.

Avoid Making These Mistakes

At Sinch Email on Acid, testing is at the core of our mission. After you’ve finished setting up your email campaign design, make sure the email looks good in every inbox. Sinch Email on Acid helps you test your email across more than 100 popular clients and devices. Try us for free for seven days – make sure your email gets delivered and look good doing it!

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