What is the purpose of an email signature?
An email signature is like a business card. It serves many of the same purposes, like providing contact information for the recipient that may need it the next time they need to call you or drive to your office. But your email signature also is a representation of your brand (personal or company wide). A recipient can quickly scan the colors, fonts, images and messages in an email signature and convey more about you in a second than what would take minutes of conversation to tell someone. It represents you, so you want to make sure you put in the effort to a good first impression with it.
While some may prefer the simplicity of just their name at the end of an email, there is something about an email signature that shows professionalism and asks for respect. If you have a company email signature it shows that you are a representative of a larger organization and allows the organization to back you up in some respects. If you are an individual it shows that you are serious about yourself or your cause and that the recipient can expect that in their interactions with you.
Four Ways to Create an Email Signature:
Use an Online Signature Generator:
I may be biased, but my recommendation is to use an email signature generator, like signature.email. Online tools like these are the quickest and easiest way to make something professional without taking too much time. They are generally easy to use, add your personal information into, and export your signature to your email client. They don’t require too much technical knowledge and will guide you through the process of making the signature. Many of them have templates you can start off with to give you an idea of what should be included.
Use a Tool like Word:
Some people prefer to use a tool they already know, like Word, Google Docs or Excel, or some other kind of desktop editor. This may partially work for some simple formatting like bold and choosing colors, but can cause unforeseen issues if you aren’t careful. The first thing to watch out for is images. Images need to be uploaded to a web server for viewers of your signature to download. Often these tools break images because they are publicly accessible. The other thing is that these tools don’t export their code in a signature friendly way. I have put dozens of hours into trying to figure out the best combination of HTML attributes and CSS tags to make things appear in the most consistent way across email clients, those tools aren’t trying to do that!
Other people don’t want the limitations of email clients put on them and opt to design their email signature as one complete image. This solves some problems while creating others. The first problem is that some email client don’t download images until the recipient chooses to show them. This is true of all email signatures, but ones that have some text content in them will at least show up partially. The other problem is that you lose the ability to link to things like your website, social media channels, phone numbers, addresses, and other promotions. You lose the ability to make your signature useful!
Code Your Own
If you know HTML and CSS, it can be tempting to choose to make your own signature. But beware, because email clients will rip your nice little signature to shreds if you aren’t careful. Leave behind everything you know about the modern web and be ready to jump back into coding the way they did in 1998. If this is your plan, it might be useful to read my article about coding your own HTML signature.
What to include in an email signature:
This one is a bit obvious, but its worth saying as the most important thing. It’s expected to see the sender’s name at the bottom of an email. If you can, include your last name too, as it is much more professional.
It’s important to let your recipient know who they are in contact with so that they can better understand the structure of your organization and how the people they are in contact with make up a team.
Don’t just assume someone will get the name of your company from the end of your email address or your website url. Include a logo or a company name somewhere in the signature. This allows people to trust you more.
While email is a great form of communication, sometimes we need to hear each other to clearly communicate. Sending someone your phone number is a way for them to trust you. They know that they can contact you directly if something important comes up. Don’t assume they already have you in their contact book, make it convenient for them to find it in your signature.
Like the phone number, having your address in your signature shows that you have a physical presence, and conveys trust. It can also be helpful when someone is running late for that in person meeting and just needs your address quick to find you!
Your website is the first place people will go if they want to learn more about you or your company. This is where their research begins, make it easy for them to start! Getting clicks from your email signature is an easy way to promote your website.
Other Important Elements:
Including one or both of these in your email signature is huge if you can! Humans are visual beings. Logos are often memorable for their shapes, colors and simplicity. Photos of yourself are also an amazing way to personalize email communication, which can often be stale and without a human touch.
Your recipients may want to know more about your company, and while your website is where they will go to learn about what you do professionally, social media is where they go to see what you are like “behind the curtain”.
Banners or Promotions
Don’t forget that you can use your email signature as a marketing channel! If a whole company is using an email signature with a promotional message or banner, just think about how many people receive that communication every day! Point your customers right to where they can go to learn what they should know about.
What not to include in an email signature:
In my opinion its duplicative to add your email address to your email signature. While it's not the worst thing, it just feels unnecessary. Your recipient can easily hit the reply button and get back to you. In addition email addresses can tend to be long chains of text that look unsightly in an email signature.
Large or Too Many Images
Keep images small and to a minimum. Your recipients will get annoyed if they have to download a bunch of images every time they get a message from you. Plus, if they take up too much space the viewer can get annoyed at the additional clutter it can seem to add to their inbox. Being respectful and thinking about it from their point of view can go a long way.
Too long of disclaimers
I understand that some companies require these statements and sometimes they are necessary, but try to keep them a short as possible and to the point. Speak like a human and not a lawyer if you can.
If you have a signature ready to be used, then you’ll need to know how to use it. I have written step by step tutorials about how to use signatures in all of the major email clients that are useful to my customers as well as others on the web:
- How to add a signature in Gmail
- How to add a signature in Apple (Mac) Mail
- How to add a signature in Outlook (Desktop)
- How to add a signature in Yahoo Mail
- How to add a signature on an iPhone
If you want to delve into the specifics of creating email signatures we have a number of other guides to help you out when it comes to making decisions about your email signature: