Email signatures

Why email signatures?

The goal of an email signature is to answer to 3 questions in the shortest way possible:

  1. Who is sending me this email?
  2. What is the sender's role or activity in his organization?
  3. How can I conctact the sender if necessary?

Prohibition: do not use an image as your email signature

There are 3 reasons for this:

  1. The quality of the image will never be satisfying. The image will always look like cheap and unprofessional. The text in the image will also be blurry. Frankly, this is quite horrible to see.
  2. It's not possible to copy, paste or click on a specific link other than the image itself. In an digital era, preventing a copy/paste to happen is an absolute crime.
  3. Loading an image can be slow, especially if you're trying to have a really nice image with minimum flaws. In an digital era, slow is evil.

When it comes to email signatures, you have 3 options. I recommend using the safest option, which is option 1.

Option 1: create a plain text email signature

Advantages

This solution is the one I prefer and use because it is simple and efficient. There are several advantages for using plain text:

  1. Text is the fastest element to load on the web. With text, loading time is always fully optimized. It cannot get any faster.
  2. It is easy to create and update yourself.
  3. It is always responsive, on any device, in any email app.
  4. You can always copy/paste words and you can always click on links.

My 5-line email signature

For example, this is what my email signature looks like:
First name Last name
Role | Organization | Activity of the organization
Phone number | Email address | Link to my calendar
Physical address of my organization

As you can see, I have adopted a 5-line plain text email signature with the following elements:

1. The email separator. It is a symbol or group of characters that seperates the email signature from the rest of the email. I have opted for 2 hyphens like this: --.

2. The identity of the sender. Your first name, your last name and, if appropiate, your nickname to reveal your artistic alter ego. For example, Chris "The Rock" Johnson.

3. The sender's role, organization and the activity of the organization. For your role, you can put your official job title unless it is not clear. Remember that email signatures do matter for people outside of your organization, so make them easily understand what you do. For your organization, you can put a hyperlink that points to its website. For the activity of your organization, the shorter the better. A slogan can be OK if it's explanatory enough. You can even skip this element if the activity isn't relevant. If necessary, you can split these elements on 2 lines.

4. Phone numbers(s), email address and direct access to the sender's calendar. 2 phone numbers maximum. I don't recommend listing any of your social networks. Phone and email enable almost anyone to contact you. An access to your online calendar is practical if it's possible to directly book an appointment or a call with you.

5. Your physical address. This last line is optional. It can be useful if you have an office in which you can schedule meetings or places open to the public. If your physical address is important, you can switch lines 4 and 5. The best practice for this part is to have a direct link to a page with the address and the opening hours.

Last, I recommend to separate the elements on a same line with a pipeline like this: |.

Examples of 5-line email signatures

Mike Boldin
Founder │ Bidula │ Accounting firm
+33 (0)6.xx.xx.xx.xx │ +33 (0)1.xx.xx.xx.xx │ paul.dupont@bidula.com
18 Henri street, XXXX London

Peter "FinalTouch" Ducola
Freelance designer │ Krealiz
+33 (0)6.xx.xx.xx.xx │ pierre@krealiz.com
28 rue de la charpente dorée, 59300 Valenciennes

Jacques Bolt
Award-winning chef
Hecafo │ Caribbean meals
5490 NW 5th Ave, Miami, FL 33168
jacques.bolodin@hecafo.com

Option 2: create an HTML/CSS email signature

This is especially useful when you want everybody in your organization to have a standardized email signature. The use of the same centralized template makes it easier to maintain a uniform branding.

However, be aware that using HTML/CSS email signatures do come with some classic but tricky challenges:
- The design dilemmas about fonts, colors and images. This is really more complex than it looks like. Just ask your designer's favorite designer.
- The design gymnastics to keep your content responsive for all devices.
- The necessary tests to make sure that your HTML/CSS is OK for all emailing apps, browsers and devices. You can have a good overview of the complexity of this matter by checking Litmus' email clients list.
- The optimization of the loading time. This is mainly about optimizing images and using a Content Delivery Network (CDN).

Fortunately, those challenges can be largely handled by the best email signature apps.

Option 3: use a video email signature

If you're interested in this original option, you can read Wistia's blog about it: Why Every Customer-Facing Employee Needs a Video Email Signature

Author: Dimitri Alamkan
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