28 Apr Email Signatures and Individual Branding
The other day, I had a little chat with our web developer-designer duo, Cole and Erin, about email signatures. These informative digital tags are essential for professionals to have, serving as online business cards. Having recently revamped one, here’s what my colleagues had to say about the importance of having signatures.
Alex: Hi, guys! So, I understand that you recently redid someone’s online signature. Wanna talk about it?
Cole: So, we had a request from a client to do a custom email signature. It’s one of those things where we got to see how hard it is for technology from the 90s – the XHTML standard of 1999, for emails – to stay compatible with Outlook and modern systems. It’s also tough to stay compatible across the board while making a custom-designed signature for each client. So, that’s where we got Erin started on a path to custom-code using frameworks that make it a lot easier.
Alex: Anything you’d like to say about that, Erin?
Erin: Sure. Since we’re thinking of it as a digital business card, we have to make sure all of the person’s contact information is at the bottom and it’s laid out nicely so people can read it. You also have to keep the images as simple as possible because emails don’t always load them right away. So, when you have to get the message across just with text space and no images, that’s a challenge.
Cole: It’s also paramount to use the proper meta-tags to make sure that, even if the image doesn’t display, your business’ name is there. Compatibility with aria tags – for screen readers, and that sort of thing – is important.
Alex: With that said, do you find that clients still tend to focus on visual appeal more than functionality?
Cole: I think people like to set themselves apart in their emails. However, it’s hard to do that when there’s no real standard…so efficiently meeting both creative and performance needs is valuable to us.
Alex: Is your approach to creating custom signatures new?
Cole: I’d like to think it is. There are a lot of email signature generators online that people can pay for, just for a few dollars a month. That’s all fine and dandy, but when it comes down to it, they’re not as custom as some might like. Maybe they only include one business address where you might need two or three. That’s why customizing it yourself will be better in the long run.
Sometimes it amazes me just how old the current system is.
Alex: I know! You’re talking about things that were developed in the 90s. What’s up with that?
Cole: We’re actually using a web framework that was built for emails and newsletters. We played with it a little bit to work really well on signatures and recompiled the code to make sure it’s as optimized as possible. This way, your email isn’t megabytes long.
Alex: Yes, that’s important.
Cole: That’s another thing people don’t think about: the size of your email signature, where your images are hosted, and if they appear as attachments or embedded in the document.
Alex: What would you say to people who are just starting to create their email signatures?
Cole: You would probably want something that’s very on-brand. Having one that reflects your brand throughout your website is very important. I think the importance of emails is often overlooked and as a result, you end up with a stale signature. This is bad because, 99 per cent of the time, that’s the front face of your business because communication between companies mainly occurs between email interactions.
Alex: Would you say a business or individual should update their signatures every so often, and if so, how often?
Erin: You can use it as a way to give information about your company. For example, if you have special holiday hours, or if you’re moving to a new location, you should probably update it. But, unless you’re redoing your entire brand, it doesn’t make sense to update it too often. It’s just that when other things change, it should as well.
Cole: If you’re running a special promotion [having info about it in your signature] is a great way to inform clients about it. Remarketing through Mailchimp and using Facebook re-advertising, as examples, are wonderful, but they might not be what people see every day. Signatures are. So, if you’re able to put promotions in your email signature it’s just another way to remarket critical information to your target clients.
Alex: Isn’t that fascinating? I never considered putting an actual advertisement in an email signature.
Cole: It standardizes it so you don’t have to worry about copy-pasting a block of text.
Alex: What would you say to freelancers who want to establish their brand?
Cole: There are no roadblocks stopping you from purchasing a domain and hosting a small site or email server. The purchase of a domain is only about $9 or $10 and there are a lot of host email solutions out there, such as G Suite.
Alex: Anything else you’d like to discuss, in terms of small businesses?
Cole: If we’re talking about the basic tools for small businesses, you’ve got to have business cards and the like. So, they need to have a branded signature. Working on this should be standard across the board.
Alex: Could you go on a bit more about how much room there is for creativity?
Erin: Sure. You have to keep it simple, but there are small details you can add, whether it’s a hover animation or working with colour to break up space. It turns what you’re working with – which is really just text on a page – to something more eye-catching.
Alex: And how can you tactfully distinguish your own image from that of the company, while also being a representative of the brand when appropriate?
Cole: You want to make sure people are aware you’re speaking on behalf of the company; but at the same time, you’re represented as an individual who adds personality to the communication flow. We all have our favourite person at a business. It might not be one person, it might be many, but knowing you have that connection with someone makes your business interactions more valuable.
Alex: Is there anything else you want to add about signatures, business interactions, or something else we might not have touched on?
Cole: The stages throughout development are interesting. It’s always great when you make a hilarious mistake or change and can laugh at the situation for a moment. Like changing a font size and having one letter-per-page –
Erin: – Sometimes I make a drastic change to make sure my BrowserSync is reloading my changes correctly. I’m sure it’s not common practice but I use it to ensure things are connecting properly. Cole just happened to look over and see it in that moment.
Cole: – [Laughs] But yeah, we’re becoming more efficient. And the faster we can complete a job, the quicker we can deliver it to our clients and the happier they are.
Alex: Brilliant. Well, I suppose that wraps things up.