Email newsletters 101: Design

Written on 14 April, 2014 by Karen Lim Sam
Categories Email MarketingTags email marketingweb design

Quick, easy and offering a good ROI, email newsletters are a great way to get in touch with customers. Follow some top design tips to make sure your newsletter hits the right inboxes, tempts readers and gets the clicks you're looking for.

Diving into design

A snappy subject line and some quality content is only half the battle. Your newsletter has to look the part too. A badly designed email is more likely to be moved to the junk folder than read, so it's essential you take the time to present your news clearly, concisely and in an attractive design.

The easiest way to do this is to make use of an email template. Formatted to look good in an email, this template can be thought of as similar to a very simple webpage. And by using it in conjunction with your online marketing software you can create a simple and slick interface in a few easy steps.

Important template features

Build the template yourself or hire a design company to do it for you. Even if you hire an outside company, you'll want to be able to make small tweaks yourself and Adobe Dreamweaver and Komodo Edit offer good HTML editing software. Many email marketing services also include email templates as part of the package, so you can pick one off the shelf.

Important issues to consider when choosing or designing your template

1.     Branding: How prominently will you be able to display your business logo? Will you be able to easily place it in the header, where it will catch the eye immediately? 

2.     Link to web version: Users with mail clients that tend to block pictures or make image-heavy emails difficult to read need a link above the header that will let them visit the web version.

3.     Full business information: You should include your full contact details in the body of the email. Not only is this handy for customers, but it is required by the Australian Electronic Transactions Act.

4.     Unsubscribe link: The same Act says you must also have an unsubscribe link. This is also a common courtesy and people are more likely to think well of your company if they can opt out when the email content is no longer useful to them.

The three main templates

There are three main categories of template to choose from: the single image, the custom HTML template and the premade template. Each has its own plus points and drawbacks.

  • Single image: This allows you to create a single JPEG or GIF that houses all of the information your email needs. This is very easy to put together but you'll only be able to add links in the header and footer and there's also a fairly high chance that an image-only email will be blocked by spam filters.
  • Custom HTML: Balancing images with text, a custom HTML template is a safer bet and also allows you more control over your clickthroughs and calls to action. The biggest challenge is creating a template that will look and behave the same way over a range of different email clients.
  • Ready-made templates: These are particularly good for small businesses that don't have the resources to take a long time perfecting their templates. Services such as MailChimp provide a variety of templates to choose from and you get a good amount of freedom to customise. However, the downside is that these templates may be branded by the designer or recognisable to the customer.

While perfecting your design is integral to creating a successful newsletter, don’t allow your template to become too fussy or overloaded. Remember that simpler designs are more effective and that ultimately it’s the content that will keep your customer coming back for more.