Psychological Design Principles For Emails that get Read 

Designers…We’re a weird bunch. 

There’s something about the creative process that just seems to attract some pretty strange personalities.

For example, have you ever met a designer who is absolutely obsessed with fonts? They’re the ones who can tell you the difference between Arial and Helvetica in an instant, and they have strong opinions on which is better.

Or what about the designers who are always experimenting with new color schemes? They’re the ones whose walls are covered in paint swatches, and they’re always changing the colors of their website and business cards.

And then there are the designers who are always tinkering with the layout of their website. They’re the ones who are constantly moving things around, trying to find the perfect balance of whitespace and content.

All of these quirks make us unique, and they’re also the things that make us good at our jobs. After all, design is all about solving problems, and our quirks help us to see problems in new and innovative ways.

But there’s one quirk that all designers share, and it’s the fact that we’re constantly trying to figure out how to get people to do what we want them to do.

You see, as designers, our ultimate goal is to create websites, apps, and emails that convert. And according to web growth analysts, this is certainly becoming a harder task when you consider that by 2040, it’s predicted that 95% of purchases will be facilitated online. We want people to take action when they visit our site, whether it’s signing up for a newsletter, buying a product, or filling out a form.

When it comes to eCommerce web design, conversion is the name of the game, and we’re always looking for new ways to improve our conversion rates.

That’s why we’re always on the lookout for psychological design principles that we can use to influence people’s behavior.

These are the principles that take advantage of the way our brains work in order to get us to take the desired action. And while there are dozens of psychological design principles that we could use, there are 8 that are particularly effective when it comes to creating emails that converts.

So if you’re looking for ways to increase your conversion rate, then read on!

1. The law of past experience

When it comes to making purchasing decisions, humans are creatures of habit. We are more likely to buy from a website that is familiar to us – whether we’ve visited it before or not. This is because our brains like to conserve energy, and using familiar websites requires less effort than exploring new ones.

If you want to increase the chances of conversion,make sure your email and landing page are familiar and easy to use. This could be doing something as simple as using the same color scheme on your emails as you would in your brick-and-mortar store and on your website – or making sure that your website UX is logical.

For example, if you run an eCommerce store that sells clothes, you would want to make sure it visually corresponds with other popular clothes sites: think a grid pattern, and categories along the top. This is not the place to get experimental.

The ASOS website has a familiar grid pattern for displaying clothes, the main categories along the top and a sale given pride of place at the top. 10/10. 

Similarly, even simple things like the placement of logos on the top left or center of the email are more familiar and easy to access, as opposed to on the top right which can be confusing or foreign. This is even more imperative in more traditional industries (Image Source: Accountancy Experts)

2. Law of pithiness

The Law of Prägnanz (which translates as ‘the law of pithiness’ in German) states that people like clear and orderly designs, as opposed to abstract or complex ones. So when it comes to UX, it’s important to make sure your designs are easy to understand and don’t contain any unnecessary elements.

The designers behind Maxfit Plumbing keep it simple with a monotonal colour palette and basic iconography to help users digest information quicker.

Here’s an eye-opening conversion statistic: Imagescape saw a whopping 160% increase in their form submissions, when they decreased their form fields from 11 to just 4. (Source: LinkedIn). So what’s the lesson here? Keep things as simple as possible, and your chances of making a sale/subscription more than double.

It also applies to your services. Easy postage and returns policies, for example, are more likely to result in a purchase than complicated ones.

3. The principle of social proof

Social proof is another psychological principle that can be used to increase email conversions. This principle states that people are more likely to do something if they see other people doing it.

This is why user reviews and testimonials are so effective – they provide social proof that your product or service is worth buying. 

So add social proof to your marketing emails, your website…anywhere you can.

If you don’t have any user reviews or testimonials yet, now is the time to start collecting them. You can also use other forms of social proof, such as customer logos or media mentions.

Incorporate social proofing into your emails. Web design Brisbane agency Chromatix have added social proofing to their homepage and their contact us form as a reminder. 

4. The law of mental availability

we are more likely to buy from a business that is top of mind, or easily recalled. This is because our brains like to conserve energy, and it takes less effort to buy from a familiar brand.

If you want to increase the chances of conversion, make sure your emails are easy to remember.

There are a few ways to do this, such as using a simple and memorable subject line, using recognizable colors and branding, and having a clear and concise value proposition.

5. The law of reciprocity

The law of reciprocity states that we are more likely to do something if we have already been given something – whether that’s a like on social media, or buying something because you’ve been given a freebie.

This psychological principle can be used to increase conversions on your website. “Free e-books, a discount code, or even just a helpful blog resource is a great technique in applying the science of reciprocity”, says Lead Conversion Copywriting Specialist, Alice Khau at Neon Bright. “However, if overused can also negate the effect. The key is to make sure that whatever you’re giving away is relevant to your target audience and will help deliver value in some way”, she adds.

6. The law of scarcity

We are more likely to buy from a business that offers us something that is scarce, or in limited supply. This is because our brains perceive scarce items as being more valuable, and we don’t want to miss out on a good deal.

If you want to increase the chances of conversion, make sure you highlight any scarcity in your emails.

For example, if you’re running a sale, make sure the expiration date is prominently displayed on your site and on your email via a countdown timer

7. The law of authority

The law of authority states that we are more likely to buy from a brand that is seen as an authority figure in our eyes. This is because we trust authority figures to make good decisions, and we want to be like them. 

There are a few ways to make your brand seem like an authority figure via your email. 

One way is to use endorsements from well-known brands or influencers. Another way is to display any awards or accolades your business has received, or show the logos of brands you’ve worked with. And finally, you can make sure your email and website is packed with high-quality content that showcases your expertise in your industry.

We use this ourselves on the homepage

8. Fitt’s Law

Fitt’s Law is a psychological principle that states that the time it takes to complete a task is a function of the distance to and size of the target. In other words, the closer and larger the target, the less time it will take to reach it.

So how do you apply that to your website and marketing emails?

You can make buttons and links larger and easy to click on, you can use clear and concise copy, and reduce the steps needed to complete a task. You can also use email builder templates to ensure your creations are tried-and-tested designs that work.

Want more email marketing inspiration? is your go-to source for creating the best email templates for your business!

Author: Irwin Hau

Irwin Hau is a private digital strategist consultant / business coach and Founder of Chromatix, a multi award-winning web design and conversion agency based in Australia. Since opening shop in 2009, he has gone on to amass over 80+ awards and mentions for work in web design and digital solutions. As of 2022, he has also recently opened up a copywriting agency in Melbourne called Neon Bright and will be launching his book Stop Losing Leads.

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