Design vs Content… How About Design + Content?

Article written by Gabriel
Community manager at PadiCode
Google+ profile

This is a guest post from our friends over from Active Campaign.


Imagine you have just finished going through the process of setting up your Padiact subscription form.

There is 100% confidence you can boost your contact list dramatically by having the tools in place to capture data at exactly the right moment.

This is great! But what now?

What do you do after you get the email address, name, etc? Design + Content is not only apart the forms you use to gain new contacts, but also in the ways you engage them once you have an email address.

I would like to provide two simple tips for helping your email marketing be successful from the first time you ever email someone. This is done by using both intentional design and intentional content together.

I personally view it as mission critical to make a good first impression with your email marketing.


Because if you send out your first email, and the content is weak, what are the odds your new contact will strongly desire to open the next email?

How about the one after that? Obviously I am playing the devils advocate here, but email marketing is all about taking a proactive approach to engage your contacts.

Non-engaged contacts hold zero value for your brand.

1. The power of a smile (Figuratively)

One of the best things I have ever read in regards to email marketing was about the power of a great welcome email (read the “Rebels Guide to Email Marketing” by DJ Waldo).

e.g. Somebody provides their email address via Padiact, the address is then passed into ActiveCampaign, which sends an automated welcome message.

Below is a default message ActiveCampaign sends when contacts subscribes via one of our subscription forms.


The design is simple.

Primarily because all am trying to do (in this case) is get the contact to confirm their subscription.

You might notice some of the odd looking “%LISTNAME%” text in this email. These are called personalization tags which dynamically change for every reader based on the data you have available.

Personalization tags are great ways to make a new contact feel welcome and introduce yourself. They are one of the content tools within email marketing which make marketers successful.

I use personalization tags, a few lines of text explaining the email and a clear call to action (CTA) button with the hope of achieving the goal of gaining a confirmation. Using design (a very basic layout) + content (text & CTA) together, I have moved one step closer to victory.

If you are designing your own welcome email, here are a few things to consider as you plan the design and content.

  1. Thank you – Let the contact know you are happy they joined your list

  2. What they will get – Inform the contact of what types of content, frequency of emails, etc.

  3. Value – Inform the contact as to why the emails they will be receiving are value adding

Now, this list is certainly not all inclusive, and you can read a great article by David Moth in which he gives “11 useful tips for designing welcome emails”.

The point is simple though.

People like to feel that you care. That is why greeters are placed at the front of stores to smile; it is a symbol of welcoming you to the store.

Even if the service inside the store is terrible, more than likely, if the person welcoming you smiled, it made you feel special…it made your first impression positive.

2. Provide opportunity for engagement

No matter if it is the first welcome email you send, or the ten thousandth email, there is a delicate balance of providing the right content within your design, but there is an element which must be thought of from both angles.

Some refer to this as a CTA (call to action), others would simply label it as an engagement opportunity. Either way, when sending emails, be intentional with how the design amplifies the content. What I mean is, engagement with contacts might be done through a portion of text, a link to click on, or any number of other things.

No matter what it is though, there needs to be conscious effort through the design to pull the reader into the call to action.

I remember reading a blog post once that was pointing out the errors on a website in regards with their CTA’s.

In this case, the fatal flaw was there were more than five CTA’s without a clear direction for the viewer as to what the next steps should be. This left many of the page visitors feeling confused as to how they should proceed and weakened the effectiveness of the content available.

As subscription form guru Gabriel Nechita from Padiact mentioned in his blog “3 Lessons we learned from our customers about design vs content” if you have any doubts at all about the content vs design, TEST!

Testing is often overlooked for things that are really simple or things we feel might not matter. It can sometimes be as simple as a single word (content) or the location (design) of a CTA button.

The reason to strongly argue the case of testing is this. It gives you data. Data then paints a beautiful pictures which can be used to improve your current marketing efforts.

“It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data.” — Sherlock Holmes (A Study in Scarlet)

Never assume you know exactly how your contacts will react when you send them an email.

If you are trying to provide an opportunity for engagement, take the time to sit down and come up with a couple of options and test them out.

Don’t be afraid to include elements of both design and content differences within your analysis.Without a doubt, they need to be used together and can tell you a story. In email marketing, most ESP’s (email service provider) call this A/B testing or Split testing. You can see on the image below an example of this. I have have a taken a template and changed both the content and design in a split test.

email design

In this example, I changed some of the pictures to different locations, and on the first layout provided two CTA’s with links.

On the second, I only gave one CTA, which was a video linked back to my site. I also made the text urging the contacts to interact different to experiment with my wording.

You can see here that variations of design and content are present between both examples.

My goal is to start learning about my contacts and how they react to various types of messages so I can tailor future emails what appeals to my contacts taste.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully this blog post has helped to give you some inspiration as you continue to use both contact forms and email marketing to build your business.

If you take anything away from this blog, please let it be this: No matter if it is a subscription form, a welcome email, or a continuing engagement piece, consider both the aspects of design and content.

The two must become a harmonious symphony in order to optimize the success of your digital marketing.

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