Email Simplicity: Like Marie Kondo, but for Emails

Danny Schaffer, Customer Success Manager

Danny Schaffer, Customer Success Manager About The Author

November 4, 2020

email simplicity-01

In my normal day as I sit in my office, surrounded by books disorganized on shelves, instruments in and out of cases leaning on each other with no real rhyme or reason, and soccer scarves draped over the back of my chair instead of on their proper wall hangings, I often think about decluttering, reorganizing, and just simplifying my space. I know that I am not alone in the need to take the steps to making things more simple in both my work and personal life.

Only my wife, my dog, and I see my office every day (not forgetting the rezora folks when I’m on a video call), but I can promise you that if anybody else were visiting here in person, it would be much tidier than it is now.

I don’t have to tell you how important digital communications are today. As many folks are working from home or going as contact-free as possible, the “office” is having less of a direct effect on how you and your business are perceived. The visual component of your interaction is now done through your email marketing. You are directly displaying both your business and personal brand in how you present that content.

Just like the need to sort my bookshelf, many folks need to do their own decluttering on a digital level. Simplicity itself takes many forms: a literal reduction in the amount of text or image content you are sending, removing “complicated” design within your marketing emails, or even using the good ol’ inverted content pyramid to keep your most important information at the top of your email.

I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say I’ve seen tens of thousands of marketing emails in my time here at rezora (and probably several thousand outside as well), but the pieces that have always grabbed my eye are the ones with simple designs.

Some email services like Gmail will automatically “clip” an email that is above a certain HTML file size. As Gmail is such a commonly used service these days, addressing the “bloat” in your own marketing emails could actually *increase* the amount of folks who see your whole piece.

Tips for Simplifying your piece:

  • My 2004-2008 high school journalism career (The Inverted Pyramid) - All of us have a tendency to get a little wordy, or to be too interested in our own content. Consider that others may lose interest sooner than you. The inverted pyramid is a little rule I picked up in high school journalism that saved me a lot of time when considering structure. Organize your content from most to least important when you are building a marketing email. If your email feels too long, you can start eliminating content from the bottom-up. Sorting your content logically based on which information (listings, events, messages) your contacts definitely need to see is paramount.

  • Why use two when a single row will do? - We’ve established that Gmail clips emails over a certain HTML file size. Usually the best way to keep that down (aside from making the piece shorter) is to simplify the design. Remove or combine areas if possible. In Zephyr, each distinct row brings with it its own code wrapping. Keeping designs together in a single row when possible helps keep your file size low.

  • Is it highly responsible to use only high-res images? - In a word, no. A picture is worth a thousand words, but a high resolution image may be worth 5 million bytes. Consider your contacts that may not have a great internet connection. If your piece is filled with large images your contacts’ internet connection may only load in part of an image or may not be able to display the image at all. Instead of packing your pieces with high resolution images, consider that your marketing piece is likely only 320 to 800 pixels wide and size your root image files accordingly.
    • Let’s get to the numbers: I ran a quick test with an image I had on hand. The original image file was 2445 pixels wide totaling 3.5MB in file size. By resizing the image down to half that width (1200 pixels wide), the file size dropped to 606KB, about 1/5th of the total file size. We’ve all had wifi troubles and had to use our phones for email. By using low file size images, you’ll be making sure that folks with slow connections still see your pieces with no visual difference to anyone.
  • Visually Elaborate or just distracting? - We’ve all received emails that are more akin to an angsty teen’s Xanga page from 2006. Sometimes aspirations for a visually engaging, colorful marketing piece can seem like a visual mess to someone else. Simplicity can be classy. Tone down those overtones, background colors, and background images before your marketing piece ends up looking like the Space Jam website

  • When in doubt, KISS. - If you haven’t heard of this principle before, let me enlighten you with a daily reminder that I (and I’m sure many others) give myself. Keep it simple, stupid. Your contacts only have so much time (and focus) to read emails. Ultimately the job of marketing is to get people interested for more, whether that is a closer look at your listing, a deeper dive into market statistics, or even just a full recipe. Give them a taste then a Call-To-Action, both you and your contacts will benefit.


While at first making these simplifications may seem like more work, consistently considering them when building a piece can save you a lot of time in the long run. That is, after all, what simplification is all about.

Maybe after work this evening I’ll finally reorganize that bookshelf. Sometimes it is just about little steps after all.

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