Wording and designing newsletters via email
In practice, there are two formats from which to choose when designing your newsletters: plain text and HTML format. Plain text guarantees that all recipients and email browsers can read your email messages. On the other hand, it gives you fewer options for designing and, particularly, monitoring and less conversions.
Recipients see your newsletter in different ways
The various email clients process your newsletter in different ways, and it is therefore difficult to know exactly what the graphical design will look like for all recipients. This is where it could be useful to do a so-called client test.
The text is always the safest option; essentially, it looks the same to all email clients. It is worse with pictures. Many email clients are set to block pictures. If your email messages are predominantly pictures, the recipient may be unable to understand what they are about.
On the other hand, if you use mainly text and just the right number of pictures, the recipient will understand the content of your newsletter without having to see the pictures. Recipients can then decide for themselves whether to open the email and then see the pictures. Remember always to have the most important information as text.
Another problem when you have too many pictures in the email is that it easily gets trapped by the spam filter.
Make it clear who is the sender
If the recipient does not recognise who is sending the newsletter, there is a high risk of your email message ending up in the recycle bin. No-one wants to receive emails from an unknown sender.
It is therefore important as far as possible to show who you are. It is important to have your logo displayed in a prominent position in the newsletter. Remember, though, that perhaps not everyone will see the logo as it is an image. You should therefore also specify your company name in the text.
If, despite all this, you still wish to do a lot of work with pictures in your newsletter, there is an ‘alternative text’ function, which places the text where the pictures should be in the event of the pictures being blocked.
Keep your graphical profile consistent
If you have a pronounced graphical profile at your company, it is important to be consistent with it when designing your newsletter.
Ideally there should be a manual for the profile, showing clearly the colour codes and typefaces/fonts for both the Internet and printed material. This makes it possible for your recipients to recognise you quickly, thus building your brand name.
By all means make the newsletter resemble your website to an extent, but the two should not be too similar. The newsletter needs to be a separate channel for reaching your customers, and they need to notice the difference and yet still recognise the graphical expression.
Use a grid when laying out your newsletter. Subscribers feel more secure if news and pictures follow invisible straight lines. If the pictures and text ‘float round’ a little, it creates an anxious, nervous impression.
Fonts on the Internet
There is a more limited choice of fonts for online publishing than for publishing in paper format. Certain fonts are more suitable for reading on screen, such as Arial, Verdana and Calibri. These are so-called ‘sans-serif’ fonts, where the letters are based on straight lines and without any projecting features.
The so-called ‘serif’ fonts, such as Times New Roman, are a little more difficult to read on screen.
The newsletter must entice readers to delve deeper
From a graphics perspective, in a newsletter it is very important to prioritise the content. The recipients may only spend a second deciding whether to discard or read the newsletter.
Your most important news item must always come first. You can strengthen the message by giving this article a little more room, with a larger font in the headline and a slightly bigger picture. But avoid making it too big.
A rule of thumb is always to keep the news brief and concise. If you have a lot to report, you could simply publish the headline and a brief lead in the newsletter and then link this to your website using a ‘Find out more here’ option. This also guides your visitors to your website and increases your number of visits.
Space is often limited
You can never know what size recipients have chosen for previewing their emails. The design of the newsletter should keep to a width of 500–600 pixels in order to be visible in most email clients.
When using pictures in your headline news you must also ensure that they are not too tall. If the picture is too large it will take up all the space where the important information needs to be presented. The result can be that the recipient discards the newsletter before even opening it. A rule of thumb: provide the readers with an overview in the newsletter and entice them into reading more on the website.
Set aside space for certain important details
You must always offer an easy-to-find unsubscribe link for people who no longer wish to subscribe. You must also offer a link to the online version of your newsletter (ideally at the top of the email). Consider the task of setting aside space for these to be part of the layout work.
Links should always be distinguished by being in a different colour to the rest of the text, so that it is clear what can be clicked on.
Keep trying until you get the best results
It is not certain that what you think will work will actually work. Trial and error is often an effective route to success if you have the patience to keep trying.
Test by having few pictures on one occasion and then having many pictures on the other. Check the statistics to determine how many people have opened certain articles, and try to decide what has enticed them in. You could also send out a questionnaire and ask your recipients what enticed them most.
Some examples of how to facilitate clarity in the text
- Paragraph grouping. One thought equals one paragraph. Avoid long explanations or reasoning; keep to the point. If it is important to provide detailed material, include a link to a website.
- Avoid lists in running text. Remember that lists, too, take up space. Do not therefore have too many lists in the same newsletter.
- Bold text. Make use of the fact that there is a higher tolerance level online for bold text than there is on paper. This applies to headlines and key words alike. However, avoid making the newsletter just an enumeration of key words. The content still needs to be readable.
- Less eye-catching than bold text and can be difficult to read. It is often better to change font for quotations, for example.
- Intermediate headlines. Good for anchor links and gives the newsletter a clearer structure.
- A clear graphical signal showing that the paragraph differs from the surrounding text.
- Row length. Avoid long rows as the eye has difficulty following these. The recommendation is for 35–40 characters in a row; test and see what is best.
- For on-screen text, sans-serif fonts such as Arial and Verdana are easier to read than serif fonts such as Times New Roman.
- Try to keep the contrast high. For high readability, black text on a white background can still not be beaten. Experiment by all means, but if you want to keep it simple the easiest way is always to do it simply...
- Always written with underlined text or in a different colour. Keep one look exclusively for links and use it consistently.
Some starting points
- Choose a format for your newsletter. HTML allows for design and usually generates a higher response rate, while pure text and links pass more easily through spam filters.
- Write succinctly: good headlines, brief texts and with important words as links or in bold.
- Show links to an online version of the newsletter.
- Links to tell an acquaintance or colleague and a link to register.
- Link for simple unsubscribe function.
- Links to previous newsletters.
- A reminder that the recipient has given consent to receive the newsletter.
- Clear indication of the sender: give your name or company.