The 17 DOs and DON’Ts of email signatures

email signature dos and donts

As an email signature management provider, we know a thing or two about signature templates. We know what many companies get right and what they get wrong. So here’s our expert checklist of the most important email signature best practices, that even the savviest of users get wrong. 

1. Do make it social 

Social media plays an integral part in the marketing mix. This is why you should use customized email signature management with designs that connect social media and your 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 your TikTok, Instagram and other social media icons to the email footer so users can follow or share with a click. Unilever added a LinkedIn “Follow” link to its corporate email signature, going from 40,000 Followers to 235,000 in just ten 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 is in charge of their own design for email signatures. One might have a logo from 2019; another might be using different email signature dimensions; another might be 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’s not a word document, web page, or image. 

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. The wrong program will format your design wrongly, interpret the layout differently and display it incorrectly. 

4. Do use a sensible email signature size 

Whether 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 a signature design should be a little thinner at 600px. This ensures nothing gets lopped off the edge of a message. 

If you 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 email 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 an email signature design 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. 

If you can test how it will look in many different email clients (Outlook, Apple Mail, Gmail), then be our guest. However, be sure to create a well-presented signature in all circumstances. 

Also, treat your email signature the same as your business cards. This means including complete 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. 

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

8. Don’t animate it unless you’re sure it'll 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 email signatures mobile-friendly 

An average of 63 percent of all emails are now opened on a mobile device. Making sure your business email signature is optimized for mobile should be a top priority for your organization. 

When designing a mobile email signature, consider 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. Many email platforms won’t recognize the shortcuts you’re used to. 

For non-developers, 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. 

11. Do use email signature images 

Using an HTML email signature image is commonplace now. Most email clients display these images without any significant issues. You need to decide how you want to insert them into a template. 

You can either embed the image, so 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 email signature image dimensions 

Don’t just rely on the size of the image being correct. You must hardcode precisely how wide and high it will be in HTML. Email clients like Outlook will render the image incorrectly if you don’t. 

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

13. Do find the correct 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 precisely 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. 

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 promoting your latest marketing efforts in a way that can be seen by a recipient but discreetly. 

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 market you’ve entered might take you into new legal territory. 

17. Don’t worry about email signature design 

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

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

Learn more about Exclaimer or get yourself a free trial to see the power of email signature software for yourself.   

Jump in to Exclaimer’s email signature management solution

And find out how to ignite your email’s full potential

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