The Zig-Zag Email Design: Enhancing Engagement and Conversion

Attention spans are getting shorter. One of the challenges posed by this is ensuring that emails (and their individual elements) get the attention they deserve. Skimming, or quickly glimpsing text to get the gist without deep diving, is a common practice when reading emails. Yet, strategic zig-zag email design can and will play a crucial role in taking advantage of skimming. The design’s role is to ensure that the message is not just seen but also absorbed!

By utilizing the principle of movement and contrast, you can guide the reader's eyes and encourage deeper engagement which will lead to better performance metrics, culminating with enhanced email conversion techniques. One of the main practical results of zig-zag email design is that readers' eyes will not avoid product photos, thus implanting the product deeper into the reader's psyche.

Basics of Zig-Zag Email Design

Understand the Zig-Zag Principle

When we talk about the zig-zag approach, we mean arranging content in a way that creates a zig-zag motion for the eyes. The natural tendency of readers in the Western world is to scan from left to right and then drop down to the next line. By introducing a zig-zag email design, you disrupt this usual motion, causing the reader to slow down and pay more attention.

Harness the Power of Effective Email Imagery

To initiate the zig-zag movement, start your email with a compelling image aligned to the right or left side. Images capture attention and are processed by the brain faster than text. This helps establish the beginning of your zig-zag motion.
zig-zag email design for a shoe brand
zig-zag email design for gift box company

Implementing the Zig-Zag Strategy

Alternate Text and Imagery for Engaging Email Layouts

Once you've captured your reader's attention with an initial image, alternate your blocks of text and images. This way, as the reader's eyes move from an image on the right to the text on the left (or vice versa), you're essentially directing their movement in a zig-zag pattern.

Use Contrasting Colors to Amplify Visual Email Strategies

To make the zig-zag movement more pronounced, employ contrasting colors for your blocks of text and images. This not only highlights the differences between the elements but also keeps the visual experience refreshing, making it less likely for the reader to skip content entirely.

Prioritize Optimized Email Content

When designing your email, place the most crucial information in the initial zig or zag. Readers are more likely to engage deeply with the first few pieces of content they come across, so prioritize accordingly. Instead of the common straight lines or plain spaces, use zig-zag dividers to segment information. This not only makes your email visually appealing but also breaks the monotony, keeping the reader engaged.

Enhancing Reader Engagement with Design

Incorporate White Space for Improved Readability

Overloading your email with content will defeat the zig-zag purpose. To prevent readers' fatigue, you also need to give readers some breathing space. By incorporating white spaces in your design, you allow the eyes to rest and make your content more digestible.

Emphasize Key Points with Bold Text or Boxes

While the zig-zag approach is about breaking the usual reading pattern, consistency in design is still crucial. Ensure that there's a rhythm to your design. Too much randomness can confuse readers and counteract the benefits of the zig-zag approach.

Keep Zig-Zag Designs Consistent

While the zig-zag approach is about breaking the usual reading pattern, consistency in design is still crucial. Ensure that there's a rhythm to your design. Too much randomness can confuse readers and counteract the benefits of the zig-zag approach.
zig-zag email design for pet store

Optimizing Your Email Content

Embrace Brevity in Messaging

Reduce lengthy paragraphs. Short and concise sentences can convey the message more efficiently. Limit the number of ideas in each paragraph to allow for easy scanning.

Bonus Pro-Tip

Given that a significant portion of emails is accessed on mobile devices, ensure that your zig-zag design is mobile-friendly. The design should adapt to smaller screens without losing its zig-zag charm. Place your CTAs at the points where the zig-zags converge. These points naturally draw attention due to the shift in direction. Enhance them with contrasting colors to make them pop.


With the sheer volume of emails most individuals receive daily, standing out and ensuring your message resonates with email recipients is of utmost importance. The zig-zag design principle offers a creative solution to this challenge. The zig-zag email design strategy leverages cognitive science and aesthetic appeal to engage readers. While it's not a one-size-fits-all solution, when implemented correctly, it can significantly enhance the impact of your email communications. By forcing the eye to move in unconventional patterns, you can engage readers more deeply and make the email's content and call to action resonate. Next time you design an email, give the zig-zag approach a try – you might just find your engagement rates improving.

Nikola Milošević
Growth Strategist @ The Better Creative
Updated October 19, 2023

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