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Designing HTML Email Templates For Transactional Emails

Mailgun Team
5 min read

We’ve added a new template feature to our UI, you can read more about it in this post.

Transactional emails often get neglected.

Styling HTML email templates is painful: Tables, inline CSS, unsupported CSS, desktop clients, web clients, mobile clients, various devices are all things that build and influence your email template. Should any inbox service provider (ISP, that's Google's Gmail) or email service provider (ESP, that's us) struggle to receive/send your emails due to something like a table that isn't optimized for mobile viewing — your email campaigns will fail to attract engagements.

All this to say that it’s no surprise developers don’t want to deal with transactional email templates when there is a backlog of more important priorities outside of email delivery.

We’ve tried to remove some of the pain for you and open-sourced a collection of common HTML email templates for transactional email. Email marketing campaigns will require a different template, especially since the content can vary widely depending on what you're sending. For example, an email newsletter can change daily/weekly/monthly and have a more defined audience depending on the email marketing campaign. So keep in mind that these templates are best suited for transactional emails.

  • Action emails e.g. activate your account, password resets, welcome emails

  • Email alerts e.g. reaching a limit, there was a problem

  • Billing emails e.g. monthly receipts, invoices, order confirmations

These responsive HTML email templates have been tested in all the popular email clients. View on GitHub.

Inline CSS

Before sending HTML emails you should inline your CSS. We recommend using something like Premailer to accomplish this. There are libraries that do this for each of the popular languages (Ruby, Node, PHP, Python, Grunt) or you can manually inline your CSS here. Our email templates include media queries for responsive design. It is important that media queries are not inlined (Premailer handles this for you).

Our repo contains both the original templates with a separate CSS stylesheet, as well as templates with CSS already inlined. See the /inlined folder.

Responsive design with media queries

These responsive email templates are responsive for mobile devices and use media queries to optimize the design for smaller screens.

As of July 2014, ~50% of emails are opened on mobile devices. So it’s important that your emails look good and are usable on small screens.

Be aware that as of writing this, only a handful of major email clients support media queries. This includes iOS Mail, Android 4.X and Windows Phone 7.5 native email apps.

Email client rendering test results

We’ve tested these email templates across all the major desktop, web and mobile clients, using Litmus.

Email design workflow with Grunt

You also might be interested in this Grunt task for compiling and testing html emails. This is what we used to design and test our transactional emails. It’s a good way to manage your email layouts, compile SCSS, inline CSS and send out a preview to your inbox.

Download the email templates

Download templates as a zip or view on GitHub.

These are free and open-sourced, so feel free to use them as you wish. If you do use them, we’d love to know about it. Leave us a link in the comments to your product or service. Discuss on Hacker News

Webinar: Best Practices for Email

Have you updated your email strategy for the new year? We all want better deliverability, but there are a few small things you need in place in order to achieve it. Watch our webinar that covered all of the strategies needed to succeed in 2018 with our host, Nick Schafer -Mailgun’s resident deliverability expert.

You’ll learn: 1) How to track and improve your reputation as a sender, 2) The dos and don’ts of building and maintaining your lists, 3) How to improve your email engagement and more.

Last updated on September 23, 2019

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