Someone just recently asked me about this blog I originally wrote back in March 2011, so here it is:
After receiving several emails last week, I was reminded how more often thant not, email signatures are done poorly.
Many people want their signature to reflect their personality, provide pertinent information and more, but they can easily go overboard.
Others have none, just their first name at the bottom of the email. If you want to call them or go to their website....you'll have to dig.
Why are email signatures important? They may be boring and the last item on your list of things to get right, but they affect the tone of every email you write.
Email signatures contain alternative contact details, pertinent job titles and company names, which help the recipient get in touch when emails are not responded to. Sometimes, they give the recipient an idea of who wrote the email in case it has been a while since they have been in touch.
Here are some tips on how to create an email signature that works.
Start by adding your website link to your signature. In many cases, more than half the traffic a website gets, comes from emails....talking about easily improving your SEO by simply adding your website link!!
An email signature shouldnít double the emailís length, so make it as short as possible (3-4 lines is usually enough). Donít get into your life story here. The purpose of a signature is to let them see who you are and how to get in touch with you.
Make Sure to IncludeÖ
- Your Name,
- Your Title,
- How to get in touch with you. (Phone, Email)
- Your website
No need to include...10 different ways to get in touch with you. The rule should be, less is more; and then theyíll know which way you prefer to be contacted. Go to 3 or 4 lines, with a maximum of 72 character per line (many email applications have a maximum width of 80 characters, so limit the length to avoid unsightly wrapping). An optional fourth line could be your company address, but use caution if you work from home.
- Personal Twitter,
- IM or Skype details;
- Your home phone number or address (unless you want to be called by international clients early in the morning);
- The URL of your personal website unless its relevant to your business like a blog;
- Random quotes at the bottom;
- Your entire skill set, CV and lifetime achievements in point form.
Random quotes are fun for friends, but you risk offending business associates with whom you donít have a personal relationship. Unless you want clients contacting you while youíre watching Lost, donít share your home details far and wide.
Also, donít share your personal contact information with your corporate partners. They certainly wonít be interested in it, and you may not want them to know certain details about you. However, mentioning your corporate Twitter account or alternative means of contact in your signature might be useful, in case your correspondent is not able to get in touch with you by regular email.
Images And Logos
Letís get this out of the way now: your entire signature shouldnít be an image. Sure, it will look exactly how you want, but it is completely impractical. Not only does an image increase the emailís file size, but it will likely be blocked before being opened. And how does someone copy information from an image?
Any images should be used with care and attention. If you do use one, make it small in both dimensions and size, and make it fit in aesthetically with the rest of the signature. 50 x 50 pixels should be plenty big for any logo. If you want to be taken seriously as a business person, do not make it an animated picture, dancing dog or shooting rainbow!
Most email clients store images as attachments or block them by default. So, if you present your signature as an image, your correspondents will have a hard time guessing when youíve sent a genuine attachment.
Donít Be A Fancy Pants or Cutesy
While vCards are a great, convenient way to share contact information, in emails they add bytes and appear as attachments. It is often said that you shouldnít use a vCard for your email signature, because as helpful as it might be the first time you correspond with someone, receiving it every time after that gets annoying. Besides, the average email user wonít know what it is.
If you do want to provide a vCard, just include a link to a remote copy.
Cutesy images or colors, heart shape, etc can be counter productive if the recipient finds it annoying, keep this for your private email account.
What About Confidentiality Clauses?
If your emails include confidential information, you may need to include a non-disclosure agreement to prevent information leaks. However, good practice is never to send sensitive information as plain text in emails because the information could be extracted by third parties or forwarded by recipients to other people. Thus, including a non-disclosure agreement doesnít make much sense if you do not send sensitive information anyway.
Keep in mind, too, that the longer a confidentiality clause is, the more unlikely someone will actually read it. Again, check your stateís privacy laws. Some big companies require a disclosure with every email, but if youíre at a small company or are a freelancer and donít really require it, then donít put it in. The length of such clauses can be annoying, especially in short emails.
If you can, stay away from HTML formatting. Every Web designer knows the pain of HTML newsletters, and while HTML is supported for email signatures, youíll likely have problems with images and divider lines in different email clients. Some nice ASCII formatting may work in some cases.
Of course, if youíre really keen to use HTML, keep it simple:
- Make sure it still looks good in plain text.
- Use black and standard-sized fonts, and stay away from big, tiny and rainbow-colored fonts.
- Donít use CSS. Inline HTML formatting is universally accepted.
- Use common Web fonts.
- Including a logo? Make sure the signature looks nice even when the logo doesnít load or is blocked.
- Check how it looks when forwarded.
- Do all the lines wrap correctly?