The Best Email Newsletter Design Tips

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Which email newsletter design is the best?  Should you use text or HTML?  And what kind of design gets more clicks?

Before you design anything, of course, you need to have interesting (and relevant) messages.

Constant sales messages, or messages sent too frequently, will annoy  your readers. Keep it mostly helpful, with a dollop of promotion, maybe 60/40.

Choose the best email format

There are, essentially, two options: text or HTML.  Text is well, text.  It looks more like an email you’d send personally.  It doesn’t get stuck in filters or image blockers either.

HTML lets you use colors, graphics, and all sorts of designs. Much more slick.  And, your ESP can only track opens on HTML emails.

Consider your audience

A study done by email marketing company Silverpop several years ago found that text emails worked better for business to business, while postcard formatted emails worked better for email marketing aimed at consumers.

Think about your own audience, and the purpose of your emails.  Are you showcasing products (you’ll probably need HTML),  sending a digest of information/links from multiple sources (that’s probably a job for text), or are you trying to make a sale?

Reduce the friction

Make it easy to sign up and use as few fields in the process as possible.  The more information people need to enter, the lower the subscription rate. Try subscribing to your own newsletter. Check to see how hard it is.

Optimize your newsletter design

Whether you use text or HTML, keep the format consistent, so that  your readers can find what they want.

Make a header

Whether you choose text or HTML, create a header that announces what the newsletter is about, who it’s from, and the title.  Think of it as an electronic masthead (like a newspaper or a magazine would have).

create sections

Divide the content into sections to separate different topics or subcategories (for example weekly tips and weekly sales).  You can use color (if it’s HTML) or just a simple line of asterisks.

Format for online reading

Keep the paragraphs short (4 or 5 lines), so they’re easier to read. Consider whether your readers are more likely to read on a phone or a desktop, and adjust your template accordingly. If you use text, keep the lines under 50-60 characters long so that the sentences don’t run off the screen.

If there’s a call to action, make it stand out.  In text, use special characters (such as number signs or asterisks) to make the call to action more noticeable.  If you use HTML, create a button (and make that button a different color than the rest of the newsletter).

Offer a “read on the web” option.  That gets around the blocked images problem.  In any case, make sure you add alt text to any images so that the message still makes sense.

Create a visual hierarchy

Headings should be larger than subheadings and both should be different than paragraph text.

If you use HTML you can change fonts and sizes. If you stick to text, try bold or italic.

Bonus tip: If you offer a freebie (ebook, product, coupon) in return for a signup, make it relevant. Don’t offer a blusher in return for signing up for a printer ink/computer supplies newsletter (yes, that’s a real example).