Apr 26, 2005

“Pane-ful” Email Newsletter Design Issues with Outlook 2003

If you haven’t seen it by now, Outlook 2003 displays your inbox in 3 vertical panes (by default), instead of the old horizontal format.

Here’s a screenshot of what I mean: Outlook 2003 vertical-pane screenshot   

As a user, I really enjoy this change in layout—it just makes it easier to scan all my email.

But as an email marketer, it means I have to design my emails a little differently…

Keep your subject lines short and sweet.
As you can see from the screenshot, you only have about 30-40 characters for your subject line to prove that your email’s worth opening. Keep your subject lines short, compelling, and relevant.

You still need to keep your emails between 500 and 600 pixels wide.
Even though big monitors and video cards are getting cheaper, and standard resolutions are much higher these days, you still need to keep your emails about 500-600 pixels wide. If you don’t, Outlook’s vertical 3-pane layout will force your users to scroll sideways, or maximize each message.

This is why our cute little MailChimp preview monkey is so handy—it’s preset to 500 pixels, so you can check every email design before sending.

On a side note, look at how Outlook virtually grays out the
subject line. Subject lines just aren’t as important as they used to be
(what with all the spammers out there mucking them up so much). The
"sender" is what really counts these days, which is why MailChimp also makes it really easy
for you to specify the "from name" for each campaign you send.