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Newsletter Design: Tips to Create an Email Newsletter that Gets Read

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Phil Grossman

27 Dec, 2019

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Email newsletters are the foundation of any successful email marketing campaign. Sure, email marketing techniques have progressed and developed beyond relying solely on major eblasts, but that doesn’t mean that keeping your subscribers up to date with your business’s developments is a thing of the past. Not in the slightest.

If you’re using email to promote your business — and you should be — you need to master email newsletter design. While nailing the perfect email newsletter is an art in itself, there is some science to it, and in this guide, we’re going to give you the lowdown on the key parts of a solid email newsletter, and how to make the most of them. 

What is an email newsletter?

Let’s start off by defining what an email newsletter is. “Newsletter” is one of those words like “breakfast” — you’re so used to hearing it that you probably don’t take the time to break it up into its component words, “news” and “letter”. Instead, newsletter often gets lumped together as a single concept that means any type of regular informational email communication. 

However, the real purpose of a newsletter is to be a letter about news — you should be providing updates to your subscribers so they can connect with your business and stay up to date with what’s going on. 

Well-designed and properly-branded newsletters provide businesses with an opportunity to increase brand awareness among their subscriber list. Nowadays, email newsletters can be designed from scratch by a professional designer or with the help of a tool like Ampjar Fast Emails, which provides professionally-designed newsletter templates that make sending out daily, weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly newsletters a breeze. 

How to create an email newsletter — points to consider

Designing an effective email newsletter isn’t just about how it looks — there are some important technical and practical considerations to take into account as well. Here are a few points you need to think about when you’re making your design. 

Sizing

The email newsletter format is just that: a format. And like any format — be it TV, records, or YouTube — there are certain practical constraints to be aware of: TV shows run for 30 minutes to an hour, records last about an hour, and YouTube videos usually stay under 10 minutes. 

In email newsletters, you need to make sure your design is easily readable on the vast majority of devices your subscribers will be using. To do this, it’s best to make your design fit into a width of 550 to 600 pixels, with the most important information positioned between 300 to 500 pixels in. This is based on what the average email preview pane will display to your readers. If you don’t adhere to these guidelines, you run the risk of having some of your design or information being cut off, which can be incredibly annoying to users who have to keep scrolling to read the rest of your sentences. 

Layout

While the information you’re presenting to your audience is important, it’s equally vital that you display it in a way that is easy to parse and navigate — throwing an unorganized mess of updates with no coherent structure into your subscribers’ inboxes is a surefire way to end up in the spam folder. 

When designing your newsletter, be sure to use a newsletter layout that displays your content in a clear, hierarchical structure so that your subscribers can easily tell what the most pertinent and important information is. Attention spans are short in our digital age, so your readers should be able to glean the main points with a quick glance. 

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Reusability

Being able to recycle your newsletter design isn’t just a matter of convenience, it’s a matter of branding. A consistent email newsletter design will help cement your brand’s identity in your subscribers’ minds. Basically, you’re killing two birds with one stone: you increase brand awareness while simultaneously saving yourself the work of designing a new template for every newsletter. It’s a win-win situation.

For the most part, this means using a template. You can find a large selection of professionally-designed email newsletter templates here.  

Responsiveness

According to a survey by Google, over 70% of people read their emails on a mobile device. That means that if you want your emails to get read, you need to make them easily readable on both desktop and mobile devices.

To do so, you’ll need to have a responsive newsletter design, which will ensure that your newsletter scales and “responds” to the size of your readers’ viewing devices. Without a responsive design, reading your newsletter can quickly become a chore, and all your effort creating an eye-catching design will go to waste. 

The components of a solid email newsletter design

Email newsletters are made of five parts: the subject line, header, layout, content, and the footer. Let’s take an in-depth look at each one of these, set some rules for best practices, and see what makes some great examples tick. 

Subject line

If there’s one thing you need to get right in your newsletter, it’s the subject line. Unfortunately, making a great subject line can frustratingly difficult. You’ll need to catch your subscriber’s attention in just around 41 characters, and without a good subject line, your newsletter is doomed to fall into the void of unopened messages that litter most of our inboxes. 

The key to a great subject line lies in two things: keeping things concise and grabbing your reader’s attention. To do so, you need to frontload the most important words, eliminate any filler, and have a clever hook. 

For example: if you’re sending out a newsletter about a new competitor to the Cybertruck you’re releasing, don’t title it, “we have a new alternative to the Cybertruck” — that’s quite boring and not all that concise. Instead, try something like: “Watch out Elon: Here’s Our New Electric Truck”. That’s 45 characters, creates a bit of interest, and gets right to the point. 

If you really want to keep things short, you may want to consider using emojis in your subject lines. Emojis can replace long words with a single character and add a bit of color to your subject lines, which can make them stand out in a predominantly black-and-white inbox. They can also serve the added benefit of giving your emails a personalized feel, but make sure using emojis will fit your brand identity. Nowadays, using emojis in subject lines has become a big trend, but it’s not right for every business. 

Here’s an example of a subject line for one of Spotify’s newsletters that ticks all the boxes:

This subject line gets straight to the point. It may not be particularly clever, but it tells subscribers what they’ll be getting if they open the email. Considering most Shopify newsletter subscribers are entrepreneurs of some sort, this subject provides a clear value that will draw a good chunk of their reader base right in. 

Header

A good header is all about branding — it doesn’t need to be fancy, but it needs to be instantly recognizable. A lot of the time, people will open your emails without really thinking about who’s sending it. Sure, they may glance at the “from” line, but it’s really only once they open the newsletter and see the header in all its glory that the real connection to your brand is made. 

At its most basic, a successful header should include your brand name and your logo. And to be frank, the most basic header tends to also be the most effective header. You don’t need fancy graphics, you just need something that’s recognizable and connects your email to your brand in the eyes of the reader. 

Take a look at how Just Ray does it:

The logo is front and center, surrounded by a white background to make it stick out. If you’re on their list, it won’t take you more than a second to know who’s sending this email. Within just a few seconds, they’ve cemented their identity, created a touchpoint with the reader, and move the reader right into the content below the logo. 

Is it flashy? No. But that’s fine — you don’t need lots of impressive effects, fades, gradients, etc. to make your header a success. If it’s readable, uncluttered, and stands out, you’re doing it right. 

Layout

Far too many email marketers make the mistake of thinking that more is better. Unfortunately, when it comes to email newsletters, the exact opposite tends to be true. While it’s understandable that you’re excited to share everything that’s happening in your business, your customers likely don’t share that same level of enthusiasm, and you need to prioritize what information gets to them.

Your layout is precisely the tool you use to do so. Let’s start by taking a look at what not to do with your layout:

This…is not good. As far as layout goes, it’s hard to say if there even is one. This is an example of a business that tried to let their readers know about everything they have on sale, but because it’s so difficult to read, their readers likely learn absolutely nothing from it. 

Like a good header, a well-designed newsletter layout is simple and concise. Frills are not necessary here. There should be a clear focal point — the main update, story, or offer in your newsletter— followed by some less important updates below. It can be hard to choose what to put in the spotlight, but making those tough decisions is generally the difference between a successful and unsuccessful newsletter. 

Check out this example from Ginger & Co.:

Ginger & Co. placed their main offer, a.k.a the reason they’re sending the newsletter in the first place, front and center. After that, there’s a bit of text expanding on the offer, followed by some other offers that may be of interest to their readers. 

One thing to note in this design is just how much bigger the main offer is than the other ones. There are a number of design techniques you can use to make your primary offer or story stand out, but simply making it big is one of the most effective ways to do so. 

Content

The most important thing to keep in mind when you’re writing the content of your newsletter is that your goal is to connect with your reader. How you do so will depend on your business, but no matter what space you’re in, if you fail to foster a connection, your newsletter has failed. 

For most businesses, the key to building a strong connection in your emails is to avoid being salesy and instead to focus on offering real value to your readers: make them laugh, teach them something new, or pose an interesting question that will get them thinking. Storytelling can go a long way in this regard, as people easily get drawn into narratives. 

This email from Bake Mixes does a great job of drawing the reader in with an interesting and relevant fact before providing a CTA. The lead-in helps temper the feeling that you’re being sold to even if you end up being hit with a sale offer soon afterward.

Footer

Your newsletter’s footer should typically be the least creative component of your email. Its purpose is largely administrative, so don’t overthink this part. 

Legally, all marketing emails are required to have the sender’s address included in the email. If you don’t include it, you’ll be violating spam laws. Placing your business’s address in the footer is generally the easiest place to fulfill this requirement. You’ll also want to include a link to unsubscribe from the list. 

If you have a social media presence — and you should — this is the place to include it. Typically, you’ll want to simply place your social media icons in the footer along with a link to your site and any other contact info. 

This footer from Providence Melbourne does everything a footer needs to do: it includes all their social and web links, provides an option to unsubscribe, and notes their address. Simple, to the point, and no frills. 

If you take one thing away from this guide, it should be this: the keys to a successful email newsletter are clarity, simplicity, and consistency. It should be clear what information you’re trying to convey, the layout should be simple and easy to navigate, and you should maintain a consistent brand identity throughout all your newsletters. 

The simplest way to achieve all three of these goals is to defer to the experts. Ampjar Fast Emails provides professionally-designed email newsletter templates that are ready to go straight out of the box. To make things even, well, faster, Ampjar Fast Emails pulls photos from your Instagram, so you can have a clearly-branded and concise email ready to go in just seconds. 

Give it a whirl for yourself, no signup required.

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