How to use email templates successfully

7 Tips for Email Template Success


Email templates. They’re a lifesaver, right? They can save you loads of time while also keeping your branding familiar and consistent.

But, as many of us have learned along the way, email templates aren’t fool-proof. There are loads of things that can throw off a once-beautiful template: New images or GIFs, content flow, and videos, to name a few.

Testing your template before every send can help find rending problems that may pop up after you’ve customized the design. But we wanted to know more. So, we sat down with a few of our in-house experts and the template pros at MailNinja to learn how email marketers and developers can use templates effectively.

“There’s a lot of education involved around what can and cannot be done within a template, and how to avoid breaking it,” says Doug Dennison, CEO and founder of MailNinja. “A template is essentially a layout or framework – there are still restrictions to what you can do.”

1. Edit Your Images

It’s important to understand the limitations of your template and resize images where necessary, Dennison says. Avoid copying and pasting an image without adjusting and try to crop the image or resize it before adding it to the template. Dropping in an image that’s 3000 pixels wide will likely break your template and derail your whole design.

“A template is essentially a layout or framework – there are still restrictions to what you can do.”

Keep in mind that some email clients will also block your images, so it’s important to make sure you include descriptive alt text. Alt text is also important for users who may be using screen readers to interpret your email.

2. Watch Your Content Flow

Will the length of your copy flow into the template? If it’s too long, it could throw off the design. It’s also important to pay attention to whether the template has a column design. If you only have a few lines of text, a two-column section may look a little strange.

Email template with column text
Look at how the content is arranged in the template – will your content flow in nicely? This template from MailNinja has three individual columns for text.


3. Take out the Default Content

Don’t forget! Plenty of templates come loaded with some placeholder content (like “lorem ipsum”) or buttons that say, “add your CTA here.” Make sure you’re scanning through the template and replacing all default content with your own or removing any default content you don’t need.

Email template placeholder content
In this template created by MailNinja, they use default content to fill out the text box. Don’t forget to change this!


Checking default content also applies to images. Avoid re-using the default image that came with the template and try not to re-use the same image across multiple campaigns. A subscriber will be more likely to engage if he/she notices something different about your latest email.

4. Check Your Personalization Tags

When testing your template, double-check your personalization tags, Dennison says. Be sure the tags are pulling the right information and not showing your subscribers the default code, like “{contact: firstname}.”

5. Build out Modules for the Future

“We try to create templates that are reusable and flexible, and we try to cater for most scenarios that people want to use,” Dennison says. “We’ll create something that’s seven-plus modules long, so it gives the client scope, but in the end, they’ll probably only use two or three modules.”

Whether you’re creating a template yourself or hiring an agency to create it for you, be sure to build out a variety of modules that may be useful in the future. Sure, you may not use all seven or eight modules at once, but it will be nice to have that two-column text module when you need it. Having the right module ready can save you time and headaches from trying to fit content into the wrong layout.

6. A Template Is a Template Is a Template…

“Look at a template as a template, not as a finished campaign,” Dennison says.

When you download or receive a template from an agency, it’s not ready for prime time. Your team will still need to customize the layout and content before it’s ready to send. Those customizations are why it’s crucial to test the template before you send it to the masses – content changes, images, and branding elements all have the potential to break the layout and cause rendering problems.

Dennison also advises email marketers to treat each email individually regardless of whether it’s an existing or re-used template.

7. Remember to Test

Above all, Dennison says, it’s crucial to test every template, every time. Sure, templates are a great starting point, but any change to the content in the template could throw off rendering.

Email on Acid email previews
Test your template, even if it’s one you’ve used before! We do it with our newsletter every month.


“Testing is often secondary to the importance of getting the email out the door, but it’s so important to take that step in-between and test to make sure it looks right,” Dennison says. “To not test your templates is just crazy.”

Avoid Making These Mistakes

At 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. Email on Acid helps you test your email across the most popular clients and devices. Try us for free for seven days – make sure your email gets delivered and look good doing it!

Start Testing Today

Author: Melanie Graham

Born and raised in New England, Melanie has a background as a writer, editor and journalist. After roaming the U.S. as an expert vagabond, she’s landed in Denver as Email on Acid’s content manager. She’s a music nerd at heart who loves spending time at the piano.

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