It’s easy to make a mistake while creating an email signature. Signatures might look nice and easy to create, but once you look closer, they break (both layout and hearts) easily. Read on to explore top email signature mistakes for personal and business use and how to make sure you avoid them.
Let’s start with some basics. A personal email signature is much simpler to compose since it usually doesn’t contain a logo, banner or too many contact details. A personal email signature is also when you design your company signature on your own, but don’t have to worry about all the other employees.
Designing signature in word processors
This is by far the most common email signature mistake known to mankind.
You’d think that MS Word (or any other word processor) lets you create any signature design you want. It supports tables, tabulators, images, fonts. And it’s basically Outlook’s close relative, so whatever you create in this editor should work in Outlook pretty well.
All that sounds like a pretty strong logic. Sorry to say, Outlook will trample it without a moment’s hesitation.
The signature might look fine in Outlook, it usually does. But think of it as a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde situation. The problem is, Word adds invisible formatting information that completely changes the way the signature is displayed in various email clients. You never know what will break and when. In most cases, it doesn’t matter if your recipients open the email in Gmail, Thunderbird, Apple Mail, any Mobile app or even Outlook. The signature will most probably horrify with details like:
- broken layout,
- twice as much whitespace,
- line breaks where you wouldn’t expect them,
- broken images and
- fonts that don’t look remotely similar to what you designed in the first place.
Want an example? I’ve taken one of the simplest layouts directly from a template list linked in Outlook. Really, this template makes you laugh and ask “what could break?”
There are some differences right after I paste the signature in Outlook settings.
And here are a few screenshots of how it turns out after sending:
Remedy? Use the free email signature generator. Pick a design, follow a few easy steps and get a professional email signature that simply works.
Using custom fonts
If you have a favorite font, you might be tempted to use it in your email signature. Like this gothic design, which will work beautifully with your photo. Or a super slick font that lets you fit all your contact details in a compact email signature.
If you want to use a custom font in your email signature, best forget it. It might work for company email where you are forced to use a single email client and can install custom fonts for everyone, but when you send emails out, your custom or non-standard font probably won’t be applied.
There are two great ways to fix this:
- Use only web-safe fonts. Those are the fonts that work across all email clients and devices.
- If you can’t help yourself or really need a font that won’t work everywhere, define fallback fonts. A fallback font is your backup – if an email client doesn’t support the first one, it will use the next font on the list.
An all-image or image-only signature
All-image signatures might seem like a good idea. You’d think that since HTML sets so many traps for an unexpecting user, it’d be safer to just use a screenshot. You know, compose everything in Illustrator, Canvas, or any other app, export to image or print screen and paste it into your settings. It should work well, right?
- It’s impossible to copy any text from the signature.
- Scaling and high-definition displays make the signature blurry.
- Good-quality all-image email signature has much greater size than a standard email signature. Low-quality signature doesn’t look sharp and usually is still heavier than the normal signature.
- Using hyperlinks? All-image signature lets you set up a single one for the whole image. You could assemble the signature out of smaller blocks, but it breaks more easily than almost any HTML you come up with.
- Accessibility? There’s none. Screen readers might read the signature’s alt image tag, but it requires you to set it up first.
- Some email clients support dark mode. It means that if you create your signature the right way, it will look well on both light and dark background. All-image email signature doesn’t support this – you will be stuck with the same background no matter if your recipient uses dark or standard mode.
Here’s how trying to get a phone number from an image-only email signature looks like:
And here’s how beautiful it looks in dark mode:
How to fix it? Well, don’t use all-image/image-only signatures. If you find it hard to design a proper HTML email signature, the free email signature generator will help.
Adding unprofessional elements
There’s a plethora of elements that you shouldn’t use in email signatures if you want to be treated even semi-seriously. This includes:
- Quotes from your favorite movie or book.
- Most animated gifs, even when you think that an email should end with a mic drop.
- Shortened links / links to non-reputable websites.
- “Funny” disclaimers (“sent from a stone tablet”, or “plaese ecxuse tyops”).
Of course, if you’re mailing a friend on a non-professional matter, all those elements might be acceptable if used in non-lethal doses.
Too many contact details? 10 social media icons? More than 2 other images? Or maybe a fifteen-paragraph-long legal disclaimer? That’s just wrong. If you make your recipients look at a behemoth of a signature each time you send an email, nobody will take you seriously.
And that’s not the worst part. It’s not only the email’s recipient that looks at your signature. All kinds of spam and content filters look at the email as a whole. If you include too many links or graphical elements, you increase the risk of being flagged as a spammer. In the long run, you can even join generally available blacklists, which will make your email delivery rate drop drastically.
Compact designs are the best. And if you want to go with a complex template – use it only for the first email and send a compact version in your subsequent messages. A personal email signature usually doesn’t require a marketing banner, but if you have a blog, an online shop, or anything like this, not linking to it is a horrible waste.
Having seen all the problems with complex email signatures, you might be tempted to limit the signature to your first and last name and be done with it. Maybe in bold, to make it stand out.
Well, many people do that and there’s nothing wrong with it. Beside the fact that your recipient might think you don’t care, you’re lazy, or you’re a bot.
Many people receive hundreds of emails daily. To manage that and not spend the whole day in inbox, they need to quickly filter them. It usually means that when they see a well-composed email with a signature that includes the sender’s photo, it takes priority. Poorly composed emails without a signature are only slightly above newsletters in the urgency pyramid, as they look like automatic email that probably isn’t business-critical.
Top company email signature mistakes
Keep in mind that the mistakes from the personal category still apply here, but there are worse problems when looking from a broader perspective. For a company, each email is an asset. A good email signature can open new marketing opportunities and boost your branding. An unprofessional signature reflects badly on the company.
No control over email signatures
Let’s be honest, if you leave signature setup to individual employees, and don’t provide any guidelines, you’ll see what chaos looks like. Most users won’t set up a signature and those who will, are likely to make one of the mistakes I listed earlier. Even if some people actually manage to design a professional email signature, each of those “good signatures” will look completely different. It means that each time someone interacts with your brand, they will get a very mixed experience. This short video lists a few good reasons why companies should manage their email branding:
Not adding a legal disclaimer
Call them cringy and legally ineffective, but they’re here for a reason. Some anti-spam regulations require you to include an unsubscribe mechanism in your mailing. Other state you need to identify the company you’re sending from. Lack of control over the legal aspect of emails may cause non-compliance and might lead to fines.
Want to learn more about the legal side of email signatures? See this guide
Not using the marketing potential
Digital marketing has changed a lot over the years. Even when you manage to bypass adblockers, there’s no guarantee you reach your target audience, especially when people are not fond of cookies. And with too many ads attacking people everywhere, humanity became resistant to their charms.
That’s why email is and will be a great marketing medium. You use it anyway, usually communicate only with leads or current customers. Company-wide email signatures let you promote your offers within a channel you already own. If you do it right, each email becomes an opportunity.
Forgetting mobile devices
Many companies, even including those which recognize the email signature marketing potential, tend to forget about mobiles. People send and receive emails on their phones all the time. To be one of the top dogs, you need to remember that those phones have separate signature settings and some don’t even support HTML email signatures.
How to deal with this? You can either pretend there’s no issue or use a tool that can add personalized HTML email signatures even to plain text emails, like CodeTwo Email Signatures 365.
Using makeshift solutions
An ambitious IT expert will find some solutions that let you manage email signatures without third-party apps. For example:
- Mail flow rules in Exchange Online & transport rules in Exchange Server provide a way to add personalized email signatures after emails are sent. This can ensure that each email is signed, but suffers from some nasty side effects.
- A PowerShell script can set up Outlook on the web signatures for multiple users. Signatures are added directly in users’ mailbox settings, but currently it’s impossible to set up more than one signature, and the HTML designing part is far from being easy.
- VBScript email signatures can be applied to each user’s local Outlook, provided this Outlook doesn’t have the signature cloud settings (a.k.a. roaming signatures) feature enabled.
Apart from individual limitations of those solutions, they are some difficulties that apply to all makeshift solutions:
- They are difficult to manage – they usually require at least two highly skilled people to pull it off – an HTML expert and someone who understands the setup process and has the necessary access rights.
- Each change requires you to start from the top.
- They lack advanced features, like different signatures for subsequent messages, analytics, meeting scheduling and much more.
To make the most out of your email signatures, use our email signature tools.