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The 17 DOs and DON’Ts of Email Signatures

Brought to you by Exclaimer

As an email signature management provider, we see a lot of signature templates. We see what a lot of companies get right and what they get wrong. So, in time-honored fashion, here's a checklist of the most important email signature best practices even the smartest users get wrong.
Feedback email signature example

1. Do make it social

Social media plays an important part in the marketing mix. This is why you should use customized email signature designs that connect social with email. Firstly, give recipients a taste of your content: put a recent Tweet or a blog post snippet (the whole post won't fit) under your signature.

Then, add a social media icon so they can follow or share in a click. Unilever added a LinkedIn "Follow" link into its corporate email signature, going from 40,000 Followers to 235,000 in just 10 months – for free.

2. Don't do it yourself

The number one email signature mistake is inconsistency across a company. This is because every employee has made their own signature design. One might have a logo from 2019; another might be using a logo that’s 1,013 pixels wide; another using a misspelled email address.

Use the same email signature template across your entire company. Make sure every signature matches a professional, stylish format that you've approved.

3. Do use the right tools

It sounds strange but keep in mind that this is an email signature. It is not a word document, web page, or an image on its own.

Use HTML as email signature best practice

If you know HTML, code it accordingly. If you don’t know HTML, don’t use Microsoft Word or Outlook to draw and edit your signature. They will format your design their own way. Other programs will also interpret the layout differently and display it incorrectly.

4. Do use a sensible email signature size

Whether it's in Gmail, Outlook or Apple Mail, very wide email signatures will not render well for a recipient. The industry standard for email signature size is about 650 pixels. We'd even say that a signature design should be a little thinner at 600px. This ensures nothing gets lopped off the edge of a message.

If you really want to ensure your signature template renders correctly across all devices, make it even slimmer by going for a design that's 450 pixels in width.

5. Do use tables

For all your layout needs, turn to tables. Remember, you can make the borders transparent if you don't want to see a grid: we're just talking about using them to separate each part of your design.

Using tables means you'll know exactly how wide your signature template will be and that each element will appear in the right place. You don't have to worry about contact details getting squashed or your company logo appearing in the wrong spot.

6. Do make it simple

Keep the layout as robust as possible. Let the images and links make an impact, not the way they're arranged. If you try something over-the-top or ambitious, be prepared to back it up with lots of testing.

Simple email signature example

In fact, if you have a decent way to test how it will look in lots of different email clients (Outlook, Apple Mail, Gmail), then be our guest. However, be sure that you create a signature that stays well presented in all circumstances.

Also, treat your email signature the same as your business cards. This means including full contact information. The minimum elements to include are your full name, job title, company name, phone number, and email address.

7. Don't use bullets

Bullet points tend to render strangely from client to client – what Gmail thinks of as a bullet point differs from Outlook's definition.

To ensure you conform to email signature best practices, avoid bullet points altogether. If needs be, use different rows in your table to get that list look.

8. Don't animate it unless you're sure it will work

Use animation in email signatures with extreme caution. Not all email clients are capable of playing animated GIFs or embedded videos.

For example animated GIFs do not work in all versions of Outlook due to the functionality of the email editor. You can never be sure that your recipients will be able to see the animation you have added. This means the image or video will break.

9. Do make signatures mobile-friendly

An average of 56 percent of all emails are now opened on a mobile device. In fact, iOS is the most popular email client in the world. Making sure your business email signature is optimized for mobile should be a top priority for your organization.

Remember mobiles for email signature design

When designing a mobile email signature, take into consideration the width of a mobile screen. It’s best to separate your contact details onto multiple lines. Doing so will ensure all text fits on the screen and your recipient won’t have to scroll to read the whole signature.

10. Do write full-length HTML

Write out the email signature HTML code longhand. A lot of email platforms won't recognize the shortcuts you’re used to.

For non-developers, this means you shouldn’t just try to use a direct marketing email CMS or Word to build your template. As best practice, use an email signature generator/solution.

11. Do use images

HTML images in email signatures are commonplace now. Most email clients display them without any major issues. You just need to decide how you want to be insert them into a template.

Use images in email signatures

You can either embed the image, so that a recipient doesn't have to download it, or host it on a web server and reference it via a URL. There are benefits to choosing one over the other; choose the method that works best for you.

12. Do restrict image dimensions

Don’t just rely on the size of the image being correct. You need to hardcode exactly how wide and high it will be in HTML. If you don’t, email clients like Outlook will render the image incorrectly.

Again, for the non-coders reading this, this means you shouldn't just use a web CMS or Word to design your signature – it doesn't work like that.

13. Do find the right ratio

Try not to let the images overwhelm the text. Don't lose the email message in the signature. It's hard. Every email is different: what looks right with blocks and blocks of text will look strange under a single sentence.

Change how your signature looks on replies. The first email in a conversation may be longer, so a larger, bolder signature can make a professional first impression. Then, on replies, use a simpler design to remind, not repulse.

14. Don't forget alt text

Remember image alt text – you never know where your email may end up after it’s forwarded. With alt text, anyone who gets your email can hover over an image and get an idea of exactly what it does. We say ‘does’ rather than ‘is’ because each image in your signature tends to perform a function.

A ‘Like Us on Facebook’ alt text on a social media link or a ‘Sign Up for Our Event’ on a banner for your upcoming exhibition explains what an icon offers. It makes your links more inviting.

15. Do use email signatures for marketing purposes

An email signature can add much more value to your company if it’s treated as another marketing channel; not just as a means of showing your contact information.

Use email signatures for marketing

Add your brand elements like your company logo, a display banner with a clear call-to-action to drive traffic to your website, social media icons, and award recognitions to every signature template. You'll then be clearly promoting your latest marketing efforts in a way that can be clearly seen by a recipient but in an unobtrusive manner.

16. Don't break the law

It's not exciting, but email disclaimers are required in many parts of the world.

From the Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act (HIPAA) for U.S. healthcare organizations to the UK Companies Act stating all business emails must include certain business information, look into what laws apply to you and what’s needed to comply with them.

Watch out for these regulations as best practice for your email signature templates; you never know when that new service you offer or that new market you've entered might take you into new legal territory.

17. Don't worry

Email signatures may be a massive asset, but they don't need to be a massive effort. There are a many smart ways to add a personalized signature design to all emails without bothering your IT department or your colleagues.

Using Exclaimer saves countless hours and guarantees that ever user gets a consistent email signature when sending from any web-enabled device.

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