An email signature is something that can appear at the bottom of every email you send out. It doesn't have to literally be your handwritten signature, but rather it can be your name, title and other pieces of information that represent you, as your handwritten signature does.
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 a more developed 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 Desktop Publishing 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!
Saved As a Single Image
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 biggest advantage is consistency, when it does appear the signaure will always appear consistently and not be changed by the email program sending it out. But 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. Include your last name too, as it is much more professional.
What's your job? What do you do? 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 understand you are a part of a larger organization and trust you more.
While email is a great form of communication, sometimes we need to hear each other to clearly communicate. Giving 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 a company logo in your email signature is important if you can! Humans are visual beings and logos are memorable for their shapes, colors and simplicity. Adding a logo will effectively "brand" your email and allow it to become a part of your companies marketing efforts.
Photos of yourself are also an amazing way to personalize email communication, which can often be stale and without a human touch. Your photo will be remembered because we are trained to recognize faces! It sets the tone of the email in a friendlier way.
Social Media Profiles
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. Read more about image sizing.
Too long of disclaimers
Long disclaimers are annoying. I understand that some companies require these statements and sometimes they are necessary, but try to keep them as short as possible and to the point. Speak like a human and not a lawyer if you can.
Other Important Email Signature Tips:
Keep it Up to Date!
Companies often let their email signatures grow stale and outdated. If your contact information is not up to date, or you still have the old logo and brand colors at the bottom of your email that will reflect poorly on you and your company. Plan to tweak the email signatue every year at least and make sure all of the information included is still relevant, or if more important information should be added.
Consistency Across Your Organization
Keeping the email signature consistent across a whole company can be challenging. People tend to make up their own or copy the signature from one person to the next which can make for a mess of a signature after awhile. I would always recommend that you have a single source of truth of what the company signature should be. At the very least save a page on your website or intranet with an example of it. Tools like signature.email can help with this challenge.
Remember Mobile is Important!
According to 99firms, in 2019 the number of emails opened on mobile devices was 41.9%, while desktop opens accounted for just 18.2%. Mobile is huge with email as we find ourselves more on the go than ever before. You need to make sure that your email signature is compatible with mobile devices and looks great. It's easy to forget to apply your professional email signature to your mobile device and stick with the "Sent from my phone" kind of signature, but you are missing out on a lot of opportunity there!
How to Make Your Email Signature More Professional:
Don't Overload it With Information
Too many people tend to throw in the kitchen sink when putting together their email signature. It should be a careful balancing act of figuring out what information is the most important, and what doesn't need to be included.
Stick with 2-3 colors and keep them consistent with your brand
Using too many colors (or fonts) makes you lose your credibility quickly. Sometimes a more simple signature can appear to be more professional. Overusing colors and fonts is a quick tell that you are trying to impress your viewers and that you aren't a professional designer.
Use white space and visual hierarchy to show what is important
Your email signature should flow. It should be obvious at a glance what the most important information is (Your name, title, and company name most likely!) It shouldn't look too crowded or hard to read. Space things out a bit and make less important information a ligher color to achieve this.
Keep the text the right size, not too big and not too small
It can be tempting to increase the font size a few more points. As you are designing it try putting your signature into the context at the end of an email. Look critically at it and decide if it feels natural or like it is too large.
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
- How to add a signature in Thunderbird
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: