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Email Standards

Boise State University’s email design standards are based on our existing brand standards and webguide. Any nuances specific to email are noted below – for all other design standards, please see the specific guidelines on the brand standards pages.

Email Templates

The Office of Communications and Marketing has provided three basic templates within the Shared Content Library for your use in Salesforce Marketing Cloud, including:

  • Event invitation
  • Letter
  • Newsletter

The Shared Library also includes the following creative assets:

  • Logos
  • Headers and footers
  • Buttons
  • Text blocks

Accessibility in Email Marketing

What does it mean?

Accessibility means a person with a disability is afforded the opportunity to acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions and enjoy the same services as a person without a disability in an equally effective and equally inclusive manner with substantially equivalent ease of use.

Accessibility guidelines as they relate to email marketing can be found throughout each section of this page, but it is best to first review Boise State’s web accessibility resources here. You can also watch a helpful video providing Tools for Digital Accessibility. If you have questions about accessibility on the web or in email, contact the OIT Web Accessibility Team at

Fonts and Typography

Use Arial or Arial Black as sans serif font alternatives and Georgia as a serif font alternative for email communications. These most closely align with our brand and are designated as “web-safe,” meaning they will appear as-is when received by most, if not all, email clients, including Outlook.

Boise State’s official fonts – Gotham and Garamond – are not web safe and will not consistently load across all email clients. Using Arial and Georgia as alternative, web safe fonts ensures consistency and removes the risk of email marketing communications loading incorrectly.

Do not use images of text when you can use plain text to convey the same information. Images of text are not accessible and do not meet WCAG 2.x Level AA Conformance. Adding alternative text is not enough.

Headers and Footers

  • Brand-compliant headers are included in the Shared Library. Boise State’s signature mark must always be used in headers.
Standard email headers with university signature mark
  • Headers for department-specific emails can include business unit/department names. Business unit or department-specific logos (companion marks) are not permitted in email marketing communications.
Department Email Header
  • A brand-compliant footer is also available in the Shared Library complete with social media icons that can be customized with links to either Boise State’s enterprise-level social media accounts or college/business unit accounts. This footer also includes information required by the CAN-SPAM Act.
Email footer example


  • When possible, copy should be left-aligned and no less than 16 px, to aid in accessibility.
  • Use proper headings structure. Headings should act as an outline for the content of the email. Your readers will scan the headings to find out what the email is about. It is critical to keep headings in order and not skip heading levels.
  • Use descriptive, distinct text for buttons and hyperlinks. Never use link text that says things like “read more” or “click here.” Text on buttons and hyperlinks needs to be descriptive enough to signal to the user what they are going to find when they select the link.
  • PDFs as attachments are not accessible and should not be used. 


Buttons should be reserved for important calls to action and align with the Boise State WordPress theme. There are three buttons of different sizes in the Marketing Cloud Shared Library that can be easily accessed by all business units:

Large orange email button

Custom buttons may also be built within Marketing Cloud as needed. Button colors and fonts should align with Boise State brand standards and border colors should always be set to match a button’s background. Custom buttons should always have a corner radius set to 0px.

Template Background Color and Contrast

*This section refers to approved colors for template backgrounds (the color that populates around the main content of your email). Content block/layout background colors should always be selected with your template background in mind.

The background color of any template created in Salesforce Marketing Cloud should reflect Boise State’s brand and use only one of these approved colors:

Light gray, blue and white email background colors

Lightest gray = #F6F7F9      Blue = #0033AO     White = FFFFFF

It should be noted that the three approved templates in the Shared library use Boise State’s lightest gray as the template background color.

Using Boise State’s official color palette in all email communications is the best way to ensure you are avoiding any issues with color contrast. Otherwise, it is always good practice to be cognizant of using accessible colors in your email communications. Here are a few tools OIT recommends to determine if your colors have enough contrast:

Image Accessibility

  • Images of text are not accessible and do not meet WCAG 2.x Level AA Conformance. Do not use images of text when you can use plain text to convey the same information. Adding alternative text is not enough.
  • Images require descriptive alternative text. Alternative text describes images for users who cannot see them and is read by screen readers or displayed on the screen when the image is not available to users. Alternative text does not need to describe every element in an image, but rather provide a short, concise, description of either the content, or the function.
  • Inserting alt text can be done by simply inserting a brief image description in the “Alt Text” field while you are editing or uploading content to an image block (see example below). Be sure to do this before hitting “Done Editing”.
Alternative text box within Salesforce Marketing Cloud

Boise State’s Campus Map provides a text alternative for map locations. For all campus locations, you should include a map view from the Campus Map to display maps.

Image Sizing

  • Refer to the Boise State web guidelines regarding images and media for best practices when using photos and graphics in digital marketing.
  • Ensure images are scaled to the exact size you want them to appear when uploading.
  • Hero images should be no larger than 600 pixels wide.
  • Depending on the number of images you are using side-by-side, divide 600 pixels by the number of images and resize them each accordingly (i.e. using two side-by-side images should be no larger than 300 pixels wide each, using three images across, each image should be no larger than 200 pixels wide).
  • Images must be smaller than 2MB to upload to Marketing Cloud, otherwise, the file upload will error. Help your readers with slower internet speeds by reducing the file size of your images to less than 1MB.
  • Make sure your content can be consumed and understood without images. Images aren’t always on by default, especially for audiences using Outlook.


  • Do not use embedded videos in Marketing Cloud. Videos currently do not render natively in most email clients.
  • A good alternative to embedding a video in an email is to include an image with a play button imposed on top to encourage users to click through the video hosted on an external site.

All videos with audio must be captioned and a transcript provided to meet WCAG AA standards. View the web standards for video accessibility for more information.

Optimizing for Mobile

A large portion of your audience may be accessing your content on a mobile device. Marketing Cloud allows you to test your emails within Content Builder and Email Studio across multiple email clients and on mobile devices before sending to your audience. Be sure to use this functionality to see how your email will appear to recipients using various email clients on desktop and mobile devices.

Writing for Email - Best Practices

Boise State follows Associated Press guidelines in publications and digital marketing efforts except where indicated in the University Writing Style Guide. See below for nuances specific to writing for email marketing efforts.

Always reflect Boise State’s brand

The content of your email should reinforce Boise State’s mission and brand. See Boise State’s brand guidelines for more information.

Keep it brief

Emails should usually be brief and include links to more information or a call to action. People scan email on a variety of devices, so keep paragraphs short and use bullets and headlines to highlight important information and quickly convey points.

Be consistent

Refer to programs, events or actions you wish the recipient to take in the same way within each email. If you create multiple emails within a campaign, you should talk about these concepts in the same way across all emails.

Keep subject lines clear and concise

Readers often decide whether to open an email based on the subject line. Some things to consider when creating your subject line:

  • Keep your subject line straightforward. Avoid ambiguity and word plays.
  • Limit your subject line to about 50 characters.
  • Be transparent about your intentions. Avoid “tricking” recipients into opening your email.
  • Do not use “Blue Turf Thinking” or “This is Blue Turf Thinking” in reference to the content of the email. 

Avoid jargon

Use the same language your readers would use. Explain terms that are familiar to you but that your readers may be seeing for the first time.

Use spelling and grammar-check wisely

While spelling and grammar checks can help you spot mistakes, remember that these do not know what you are trying to say nor do they follow Boise State’s style. Review each suggested correction before you make the change.

Test all emails before sending

Always test your email before a mass mailing. View the email through several different web browsers and clients (Outlook, Gmail, etc.) to make sure there are no formatting errors or unrecognizable characters. Create a test data extension within Marketing Cloud that includes designated Quality Assurance (QA) tests with various email domains and devices. Salesforce recommends using this checklist for email campaigns:

  • The subject line and preheader are correct
  • Email is using the correct header and footer
  • Email is using the correct template
  • No typos or grammatical errors
  • All images render correctly
  • Email uses inclusive marketing principles
  • All links work, have alias tags set and go to the correct location
  • ALT text is set and does not include any spelling/grammatical errors
  • All required legal copy is present
  • Unsubscribe link is correct and present (unless transactional)
  • Text version is correct
  • All dynamic elements are functioning properly (if applicable)