Best practices for email footer design

Email footer design is often an afterthought, but it’s a critical piece to your overall email design. Footers contain important information and get plenty of action. It’s often where your subscribers look for details about your brand, where they can find you online or in-store, how to contact you, and to manage their subscription preferences. The email footer is a place for transparency, clarity, and, yes, good design, all of which can say a lot about you and your brand.

Let’s review what to include in the footer, how to organize all the information you want to include, and how to design it well.

What to include in your email footer

Most email service providers will require you to include certain information in your footer, such as a physical address for your business and a link to unsubscribe to comply with anti-spam laws. In addition to this, there’s actually much more information you can decide to include in an email footer. Here are some common footer elements:

An easy way to unsubscribe

While no one wants to lose subscribers, it’s paramount to include a clear, easy-to-find link to opt out. It’s good business, and it prevents spam complaints. If you’ve ever decided to unsubscribe and have been unable to find the link to do it, you understand the frustration (and why spam complaints go up when the unsubscribe link is hard to find). Build transparency and trust with readers by giving them a simple way to opt out if they choose to. It’s also required by international consumer privacy laws.

Contact Information

This could include:

  • A link back to your site. This could be a linked logo or a shortlist of a few other areas of your site, like your blog, homepage, or even jobs listings. Give readers a way to get more information in a single tap, should they want it.
  • Your mailing address. We live in a digital age, but it’s nice to know where in the world messages are coming from.
  • Contact email address. This information can be required along with the mailing address. It’s a way for readers to “reply” to the message or get in touch if they have questions or concerns.

If you are sending commercial emails (i.e. messages that sell or promote a product or a service), these pieces of information are typically required by anti-spam laws such as the CAN-SPAM Act of the USA, Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL), and many others.

Social media buttons

As secondary calls to action, social media buttons often find a home in the footer where they aren’t interruptive to the body of your message and your main CTA. Focus on which platforms are most important to your brand and selectively include the valuable ones. Read our post on How to use social media buttons in email for best practices and inspiration.

Additional links

  • Forward to a friend. Sometimes you’re beautifully designed email doesn’t render correctly when forwarded, so many brands include a “Forward” link at the email’s close. It also prevents subscribers getting unsubscribed by friends they forward the email to. On the marketing end, it can encourage readers to forward and improve tracking of those forwarded messages.
  • Update your profile. If your email service provider offers a preference center where subscribers can update their profile and change things like messaging frequency, the footer is the perfect place to add a link to it.
  • Sign up. If your message does get forwarded, it’s useful to provide a way for friends-of-subscribers to subscribe, too, directly from your email.
  • View in browser. This link is usually at the top of an email but sometimes can be found in the bottom, too. It’s seems unlikely, though, that readers will get all the way to the bottom of your message, then choose to view it in another way.

Fine print

  • Why you’re receiving this email. Many readers are subscribed to dozens and dozens of mailing lists. A permission reminder is a nice way to tell them exactly why they’re receiving this message. It’s also a deliverability best practice because it further reduces spam complaints and helps you maintain a high sender reputation. You could keep a standard message, like, “You’re receiving this message because you are subscribed to the Email Design Workshop” or make it campaign-specific, such as: “You received this email because we thought you’d be interested in this webinar event.” (see more best practices on permission reminders).
  • Copyright. It doesn’t have to stand out boldly, but it’s a good best practice to include the copyright mark (©), the year, and the copyright owner (your business name).
  • Privacy policy. Some companies link directly to their privacy policy so you can get information about how they store your information. Probably most relevant for e-commerce businesses.
  • Details or restrictions on an offer. Retailers often need to include plenty of fine print about the discounts and deals presented in an email, and the footer ends up being the place where these details get placed.

What else do you include in your email footer? Tell us in the comments!

How to design a great email footer

Make it simple

Footers can quickly become crowded with buttons, icons, links, and fine print. Before stuffing your footer with information, first evaluate what makes the most sense to include, and try to stick to the bare minimum. Overwhelming readers with too much information can lead them to skip over the footer altogether, not knowing what to click or where to begin. A best practice of email design is to keep your message focused (like by using the inverted pyramid method), and likewise, the simpler the footer, the more likely it is to be useful to readers.

Here’s a super busy footer from an email from Shiseido, the cosmetics company:

email-footer-design-example

While it’s well-organized, it’s certainly an overload of information. There are lots of icons, messages in other languages (but if you speak Spanish and Japanese, are you really going to “read” all the way to the bottom of that email to find your language?), and plenty of fine print. The horizontal and vertical line separators further crowd the layers of detail. Looking at it from a distance, no single element stands out. Most of the content is also made up of images, so there’s no guarantee it will render in all inboxes.

Compare this approach with a much simpler one from LiveIntent, an email advertising technology company:

email-footer-design-example

The clutter-free design makes the footer easy to scan. With ample padding around each section of information, readers can zero in on what they’re looking for quickly. And, most of the footer is plain text, so it will always render correctly.

Create a hierarchy

After you’ve established a minimalistic list of what needs to be included in your footer, organize the information in a hierarchy based on the actions you most want readers to take and the information they’re most likely to be seeking. Just like the body of your email, a footer should be organized hierarchically as well, providing subscribers with direction and clarity. Here, Medium, the blog-publishing platform, creates a well-designed footer that’s structured by an order of importance:

email-footer-design-example

First, they direct readers to their website with a clear call-to-action to get more of the content they just read in the email. Then to social media, followed by a promotion for where to find their app. The fine print is kept to a minimum and organized on just two lines.

Compare that with this footer from Well+Good, the wellness site:

email-footer-design-example

By providing readers with links to five different sections of their site (Good Sweat, Good Looks, etc.), the call-to-action is diluted. Medium’s single bulletproof CTA button stands out more clearly and tells readers what to do: Read More. The simple, instructive approach is likelier to encourage action.

Get organized

Formatting your footer into sections, with headers and labels to clearly organize content, is a great approach to improving readability. In this example from DC Shoes, footer content is separated into three main buckets, each clearly labeled with a bold header and each with an easy-to-tap CTA button or group of icons.

email-footer-design-example

The black-white-and-gray color scheme is slick and easy to read. “UNSUBSCRIBE” has been placed on its own line, in all caps, making it quick to find and click. And, the footer is responsive: the three columns shift into one column on mobile, improving legibility. It’s a great example of how smart design can make a lot of content easier to scan.

email-footer-design-example

Use HTML background colors

Footers are often distinguished from the body of an email with a substantially different HTML background color. Using a background color is one of the quickest and most effective ways to let readers know where one email section ends and the next begins. Here’s an example from HubSpot, the inbound marketing company:

email-footer-design-example

The information is short and simple, with line breaks that give the information some breathing room. The body of the email is white, so the dark gray background pops, signaling to readers that these details are separate. Because footer information is typically small, it’s important to think about color and contrast between text and background to enhance legibility. Using colors with high contrast – as HubSpot has done here with white text on a very dark background – makes reading the smaller text a breeze.

Take up space

There’s no rule of thumb for how big or small your footer should be. As you design your email, you’ll want to be cognizant of content size and length to avoid overloading subscribers’ data plans or having your message get clipped. But if there’s room for it, your footer can expand to be a bigger part of your email. Here’s an example from AirBNB, which uses the footer to reinforce their branding by using a tagline and simple graphic elements that highlight important statistics:

email-footer-design-example

The significant padding between each section of their footer allows readers to take in each section of information one at a time. No crowding or clutter here. It’s a cute, clever way to conclude an email without being overbearing.

Keeping the footer light on text and big on blank space also helps create a sense of levity and scannability. Compare AirBNB’s email with this footer from TIME, which is loaded up on text and compresses information to the point of making it uninviting and hard to read:

email-footer-design-example

 

Include a signoff

The footer is a place to have fun, too! Some brands include a sign-off that inspires or adds a sense of playfulness. General Assembly closes their emails with a quote:

email-footer-design-example

The footer is incredibly simple: monochromatic color scheme, two social buttons, high-contrasting HTML background. It’s elegant and to-the-point.

Huckberry, the clothing brand, also includes an inspirational quote in their oversized footer, which seems to combine the design elements of the General Assembly and AirBNB footers:

email-footer-design-example

It’s a smart relationship-building technique to leave readers who make it to the bottom of your email with a non-marketing-related sign-off that reinforces what your company values are.

Wrap Up: Best practices for email footer design

  1. Collect the information you’re required to include in your footer, then consider and evaluate additional items.
  2. Think about what you want readers to do and which details you want to impart them with, and make a short list of what you’ll include.
  3. Err on the side of too little vs too much information.
  4. Arrange your footer information in a hierarchy, starting with the most important information or call-to-action.
  5. Organize. Use headers and colors to create sections. Incorporate CTA buttons. Allow plenty of space around each cluster of information.
  6. Separate the footer from the body of your email with a background color. Use contrasting colors to improve legibility.
  7. If you can afford it, take up space. Allow the information to breathe. Increase padding.
  8. Include a thoughtful sign-off. Make a statement about your brand, your company values, and strengthen your relationship with readers.

Put these tips in action and go Pro!

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