Why Fancy Email Templates Aren’t The Answer

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On average, the United States Postal Service processes 512.8 million pieces of mail every single day. Since that’s a huge number to wrap your brain around, that means that 5,935 pieces of mail are processed every single second. Still a lot.

Now think about your inbox (shudder, I know). How many emails do you get every day? 15? 80? 200? More?

At ConvertKit, we delivered 1,064,986 emails just yesterday. Did you get one from one of our customers?

Whether it’s snail mail delivered by one of the 7,000 USPS on-foot mail carriers or email delivered by your favorite email marketing platform, the actual delivery and opening of the mail is what matters. After all, if no one opens and reads the mail, is it even worth sending?

At ConvertKit, we take a pretty solid stance on why emails should be written as simply as possible and include as few extra elements as possible. In fact, despite an article Nathan wrote on his blog in 2013 and our detailed walk throughs of our system in our weekly free workshops, it’s still one of the top questions we get asked on a daily basis. Text-based emails are now, and always will be, our top priority in the world of emails. Here’s why:

  1. Emailing your list should feel like emailing a friend. Ya know, the emails you actually read. Looking through my own inbox I have a few sales emails from big box stores, a reminder about my student loan payment (ugh), and an email from my sister with the subject: pie recipe. Guess which one I’m gonna read?

    Use your snail mail inbox as a gauge too. If I have a card or letter from a friend (rare), it's opened much faster than a hyped-up flyer for store opening, a bill, or a circular full of coupons.
  2. We want your emails to get to where they’re going. Think of email like a water balloon you want to fit through a tube. If there's not a lot of water in the balloon, it's pretty malleable and can get through easily. If you keep filling it up though, it's going to get stuck or even pop.

    Email is like that too. The more stuff you try and cram in with formatting, tables, and even a lot of images, the more likely it isn't' going to make it through to the inbox, or arrive the way you want it to. It's like a water balloon; the more you put in there, the more likely it is to burst in transit. email-balloon
  3. The world is full of distractions; your emails shouldn’t be. Big header images, a sidebar, and auto-play videos are all distracting from your main message. In the case of email marketing, your message typically is some form of “I have this thing to tell you about. Here it is. Now please respond.” With a text-based email, you can accomplish all of that with ease – completely distraction free.
  4. Mobile = life. We live an incredibly full lifestyle and industry reports show anywhere from 45% to 66% of emails are opened on mobile devices. On mobile, imagery is hard to see and tables and columns in emails don’t translate reliably. The only true way to get the same rendering of your email from device to device is to keep it text-based.
  5. Your website is where you want them to go anyways. Use your emails to get your potential customers to your website. Once they’re there you can wow them with your images, engage them with your videos, and make them LOL with your GIFs. After all, it’s your website (or sales platform) that actually makes you money – why wouldn’t you want them to end up there anyways?

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. And that’s why we’re happy to say that ConvertKit is not the right choice for everyone. But if your goal is high deliverability, engagement with you list like they are your friends, and traffic straight to your blog or sales platform, text-based emails could be the difference that helps you avoid the spam folder and head straight to the bank instead.

What do you think? Can you see a measurable difference between the emails you like receiving? I’d love to hear your thoughts on text-based emails and what you like in your own inbox.

Val Geisler

Val is a yogi, mom, military wife, and avid podcast fan. She is ridiculously obsessed with sharing and creating content that actually makes a difference in the world, connecting with her fellow bloggers, and doing more with less effort. Val is based on Columbus, Ohio (O-H!) and can often be found oversharing on Instagram at @lovevalgeisler.


    Good article about a solid point, thanks!

    Personally, I’m using ConvertKit because it’s not like mailchimp or Aweber. ConvertKit has a “friend” feeling to the company and product, so I personally hope that ConvertKit never grows up to be like the others, but rather, just continues to be itself. Btw, I like the honesty in your blog and real-world examples… getting a reminder about a student loan makes this whole article seem more legit and real. Please keep it up!

  • This was something I struggled with before I switched to ConvertKit, it was about the only reason I hung on to MailChimp. Being a designer I love to design everything and I felt my newsletters should be too. But now I’m realizing the distractions. Just looking at my own email reading behaviors, I’ve noticed I mostly read the text only emails and just “scroll” through the well-designed branded versions. At the end of the day what you have to say and share is more important than how it looks with your email marketing.

    • I love that last line, Monica. Thanks for sharing your thoughts as a designer!

      • Of course! Love all the amazing and valuable content you guys provide here for ConvertKit.

  • Twitopoly

    I can’t agree more, I am very grateful to have found you from a recommendation to date I have used the following systems, none of which was as simple and powerful as your system.

    I’ve used,


    than I tried something new, I asked around what other’s we’re using and I found you. I logged on and I got it…Thank you for making convertkit easy, simple, and functional, not to mention your price is pretty awesome.

  • I live in NYC and like to use my commute time to catch up on emails, I personally dislike when I have to link-out to read the rest of an email. NYC subways don’t have system-wide wifi – 🙂 – and that means I have to return to the email when I am above ground. Because of my pet peeve, I only include links to my website when I am promoting a webinar. Do you have research that compares response to emails when it is delivered as email only vs email with link to finish reading on your website? Many thanks!

    • Елена

      @sterlingchoices:disqus I’d like to know that also 🙂 I don’t read emails in subway but also prefer to read the whole email.

      I realised how my interaction with emails changed when one lady we both know like and trust switched from full content emails to link to the post emails.

      So before I carefully read her long emails from A to Z and ended up on her blog any way because there were usually some call to actions by the end of the email and other helpful past articles linked. I used to read a lot from her.

      And now even if I open and begin to read rarely go to the blog and usually switch to the next email instead of the long interaction with a content like it was before.

      • @eneha – Many thanks for validating my “issue.” It’s a different kind of bounce, but one nonetheless. Can’t wait to hear the response from CK! 🙂

        • Елена

          @sterlingchoices:disqus yes very interesting to validate this idea with a trust worthy data 🙂 We are all so different in our customer behaviour 😉

        • Hey @sterlingchoices:disqus and @elkarina:disqus! We haven’t really dug into research on that particular item but I want to be clear that I’m not suggesting all emails need to be a redirect to a blog or website. It’s just one reason in the list above. Many of our customers put their entire blog post directly inside the email and it works well. Just like @davidcrowther:disqus mentioned, it’s about knowing your audience. If they’re NYC or other big city-based and need to have that option to read it when there isn’t wifi available, putting your entire post inside the email might be best. If you know most of them are on their desktops or connected to wifi when they’re reading your emails, you can make your choice there. Appreciate your thoughts and comments here!

          • Many thanks @ConvertKit:disqus! Because of this conversation, along with the link to @davidcrowther:disqus, I’ll ask how people read my email when I conduct my next survey. 🙂 What a novel idea…ask ’em. Duh! 🙂 Thanks, again.

  • Елена

    A very interesting point I haven’t thought about. Now I know why I don’t read any more the emails from great people I have being following for years and still admire: they switched to the Convert Kit. I didn’t realise that until I read this article.

    As a reader I feel like with plain text the emails from those people lost a part of their personality and all became impersonal. I loved the logos and the headers. And I also remember some pictures from different emails that remind me about the content I read in those emails – like it is easier to understand and memorize what the content was about. I also have a silly feeling – like they don’t respect me any more as a reader switching to plain text.

    Can’t agree that plain text is better delivered. I signed up for Convert Kit email course and had to pick the first emails from spam folder.

    • While you have a valid point Елена, you have to ask yourself if everyone on your list and the world in general shares your point of view.

      There have been a number of studies suggesting that opens and clicks increased when switching to a text based format.

      In one of my own A/B tests, I increased a client’s click through rate by 140% on one of their emails by switching to text. The results were:

      – Original email (http://drop.davidcrowther.com/202425/3899809) – 5% click-through-rate
      – Text based email (http://drop.davidcrowther.com/202425/3899808) – 12% click-through-rate

      • @davidcrowther:disqus makes a good point here: it’s all about speaking to the readers on your list who you truly want engaging with your content. If the majority of readers are like you, @elkarina:disqus, and want those templates and graphics, then ConvertKit might not be the right fit. If, on the other hand, the majority of your readers prefer emails that read like any email you might write to a friend, then ConvertKit is a great fit. We aren’t right for everyone and it’s about knowing your audience and adjusting accordingly.

  • I have to say, this is the main reason I gave up on Convertkit and went back to Mailchimp. Some of my favorite bloggers are switching over to Convertkit and I am so underwhelmed by the new look of their emails.

    I very much understand the push towards simpler emails. I concede that some mailing list templates are way over the top. But I really don’t think allowing a simple header graphic and some basic formatting options would kill anyone.

    Afterall, it’d be optional, right? Customers who believe that simple, plain text is better for their readers could simply not use those options.

  • You know… I got here because I was about to cancel my Convertkit subscription.
    I figured I should check if I could make my emails pretty again, before I left.
    I hated that MC makes everyone sign up to 10 different lists (and before anyone says “GROUPS!”, stop right there, because groups don’t play nice with the majority of plug-ins that I use on my website.
    And I don’t want Infusionsoft right now; I’m not that important yet. 😉

    Anyway, I digress.

    Reading through the comments, I realised the truth of my situation.
    Very humbling, this realisation:

    I was once again acting on the perspective of a service provider and NOT the actual perspective of my clients. Because if I’m being honest… as a CONSUMER of other people’s newsletters, at my most drained and rushed I still make time to read the ones by people who only send text.

    Anyone who sends pictures and links I kind of avoid until “I have some more time”.

    So I guess I’m going to leave Mailchimp… again. 😀

  • Arjen

    Alrighty. Now I understand why the emails I get from those using convertkit are mostly only text.
    While I understand what you are writing, I cannot say I totally agree.
    Even though the business owners of the emails make good sales, I really dislike their emails: lots and lots of plain text, usually in a very bad layout. I do not think that is much fun to read.

    I have read and heard good things about convertkit – using mailchimp now – but this non-makeup was not mentioned t all. Also not in the webinar last night.

    I am in the process of considering to move way from mailchimp, as we’re reaching the point it won’t be free anymore anyway. I have to think this over.
    So far newsletters consisted of an intro plus invitations to take part of workshops, trainings, retreats etc (live events by the way). Brief descriptions with an image with a link to the corresponding webpage for more info + signup.

    In a while the online business should be added to that.



  • http;//templatesection.com/

  • Catherine Pistone-Cooper

    I have heard great things about ConvertKit and I’m seriously considering moving as I change the format of my website, however my hesitation is the text only emails. I totally hear what all of you are saying and I sincerely get it. But as an artist who wants to engage my followers and sell online, how do I share new works without adding a separate boring link, sending them to my site. Yes! I want them to go to my site, don’t get me wrong, but ultimately I’d really prefer to display a new painting in my email,, engage with them, tell a story, and have them click on the image of my painting to go to my site to learn more and to buy it / all in one email message. Thoughts?

  • Translation: “We’re too lazy to create great-looking custom features for our customers to use in their emails.”

    As others have stated, ConvertKit emails are incredibly underwhelming.

  • I don’t see ecommerce sites would benefit from this ‘text’ email theory. I for one, do not read any email that looks like a letter – I don’t have time. I need pictures and buttons to take me where I need to go.. I think for bloggers, this might work, but not if you’re a store selling products and are emailing out specials.

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