How to Design Email Newsletter – A Beginner’s Guide
Email newsletter design can prove tedious if you’re a newbie. But at the end of this article, you’ll be among those who think newsletter design is as easy as a stroll in the park.
In this article, we’ll show you:
- The benefits and drawbacks of a newsletter
- Essential components of a newsletter design
- Tips for acing newsletter design with newsletter examples
What is an email newsletter?
An email newsletter is a periodically-sent email that keeps the audience informed about news, tips, guides, and updates about your industry, product, business, or non-profit.
Typically, receivers of newsletters are potential and existing customers who have given their consent to receive online communication from your brand.
Newsletters are an indispensable part of email marketing strategy. You may use email newsletters to send ebooks, product information, updates on new features, company news, discount offers, and new arrivals to your list, depending on your business needs.
If you own a blog, you may also use email newsletters to increase readership and loyalty by sending excerpts of blog posts and links to your subscribers.
Essentially, email is the most favored channel by marketers. This is because of its ability to create intimacy with customers and its proven high ROI.
Why do you need an email newsletter?
Fun fact: For every $1 you spend on email marketing, you can expect an average ROI of $36.
Astonishingly, an average of 76% of your customers want you to communicate with them through email during pre-purchase and post-purchase, as well as for customer service and updates on additional benefits. So, email marketing is a marketing goldmine for small businesses.
A troubling fact: 95% of your website visitors will not return. That’s not because you have poor content. It’s just because the internet is a sea of many fishes – there’s so much catchy content out there.
An email newsletter will help you convert visitors into subscribers, allowing you to stay in touch with them and bring them back to your website.
Now, you may want to think social media accounts can suffice. You can just tell people to follow you on social media to get updates, right? Yes, right. But you don’t own social media.
While it is also essential to own a working social media page, you should remember that your content is often at the mercy of algorithms. Therefore, not all your followers will get to see them. Moreover, not all of your audience will check their feeds often or see your banner ads if they use ad blockers. So, an email provides you an assurance that your audience will see your message provided you have an eye-catching subject line and a recognized name.
Also, emails have a wider reach and are much better for the environment than analog advertising media and can be easily tracked.
However, while emails are easily accessible, they are also quickly deleted. That may be due to reasons ranging from full inbox, unappealing subject lines, boring or irrelevant content, overwhelming frequency, etc.
Also, despite the ease of tracking the performance of email campaigns, it has a shorter lifespan. Your flyers, brochures, and magazines may stay with your prospects for a long time, even if they do not key into your message immediately. On the other hand, once your subscriber opens your email and doesn’t find it immediately arresting or relevant, they’re less likely to go back and read it.
Altogether, the benefits of email newsletters far outweigh the drawbacks.
Pros vs. cons of an email newsletter
Note: you can only enjoy these benefits if your newsletter is well-designed and contains premium content that gets your audience to click on the CTAs.
Beyond the aforementioned benefits, a newsletter is an effective way to concretize your brand’s image, build credibility, and also build a thriving community. Your audience feels more connected to you when they receive personalized messages and your email is a great way to do that.
Now, let’s understand the essential components of an effective email newsletter.
Essential Components of an email newsletter design
Subject line & Preheader Text
The subject line and the preheader text are the first things the subscribers see before they open your email. So, it plays a crucial role in the number of people who open your email.
In a sea of several emails cluttering your recipient’s inbox, your subject line needs to capture a reader’s attention by conveying urgency, personalization, or curiosity. To optimize for mobile devices, keep your subject line at a maximum of 30 characters or less.
The email subject line goes hand in hand with the preheader text, which is a sneak peek (or summary if you like) of your email’s content. This would be around 40 and 130 characters long to optimize for different devices.
The combination of your subject line and preheader text can make or break your newsletter campaign. Studies have shown that 33% of email recipients are moved to open an email solely because of its subject lines. So, you want to ensure that the first component of your email newsletters is attention-grabbing, not spammy, to avoid getting complaints or unsubscribes instead of shares and new subscribers.
The email header is located at the topmost part of the email. It is the first thing your subscribers notice. Usually, the email header is an HTML code containing information about the sender, recipient, and other essential information that authenticates the email. However, this bit isn’t visible to readers.
Your audience will only see your logo, company name, and menu bar. Here is an example from The New Yorker:
Here’s another from MVMT:
This is what lies behind your email. It could be a custom background image, design, or plain color. You might as well decide to leave the background blank (white). All you need is something that blends well with the rest of your email.
The goal of the background is to make your email more aesthetically pleasing and more intriguing for your audience. Also, it could be used to communicate your brand identity using a unique color balance in email campaigns.
The email copy is what your users are here for. It is the onus of your email, containing all the written parts of your email body.
The copy is designed for specific marketing or sales purposes. For instance, an email copy could be crafted to inform subscribers about newly published content or an upcoming sale. Therefore, the message will be conveyed in clear and persuasive language.
Essentially, your email copy has to be concise and catchy since readers are reputed to have a short attention span.
Humans are visual beings, and images speak louder than words. Research has established that humans process images 60,000 times faster than text. As such, visuals make your email more eye-pleasing and captivating.
Visuals also make it easy for readers to grasp your message quickly.
However, you should avoid making your emails largely based on visuals as it may affect the load time. Ensure your make your emails more texts (80%) than visuals (20%).
An email newsletter is designed for a specific action to be taken- sales or marketing. So, your campaign is incomplete if you don’t have a conversion point, that is, a call-to-action.
CTA buttons come in different shapes and for different actions. It could be to:
- shop now
- buy now
- order now
- request an appointment
- watch now
- register now
- get 50% off now
- claim gift now
- take a survey
- read more
- learn more
- get the app
- follow us
Depending on your goals, your CTA will lead your subscriber to a landing page or your website. You can choose to use multiple CTAs in your email newsletter. However, the primary CTA will be placed at the top fold.
Note: Keep your CTA clear and concise, and avoid using too many CTAs.
The footer is the lowermost part of your email. This does not, however, mean it’s useless. On the contrary, the footer contains some essential elements that you cannot afford to ignore.
First, the footer has social buttons that allow subscribers to connect with your brand on your social media accounts. Also, the footer will include the unsubscribe link, which is essential to maintain an engaged list. Moreover, it is vital to give people the option to opt out to avoid violating spam laws.
You may also include a sender’s email signature and a reminder note so people remember why and who is sending the email.
Now that you know the essential components of an email newsletter let’s get into how you can create an email newsletter. Check out some finest newsletter examples.
Tips for email newsletter design
Set your goals and objectives
Before designing your email newsletter, you’ll have to identify the purpose. Consider the following elements to grasp the purpose of your newsletter:
Identify your target audience
Defining your audience is critical to the success of your newsletter campaign. First, you must investigate and clearly understand your potential customers’ needs, fears, and wants. The feedback from your investigation will help guide your design thinking and content in the direction that appeals to your email clients.
Although it might be hard to capture a global audience, you still want to be as specific as possible with your email target audience. You want to identify demographics, psychographics, and behaviors. With a global audience, segmentation would help you send the right message to the right groups in your audience. For example, you can segment based on age, gender, or lifestyle. When designing an email newsletter for a younger age group like the GenZ, you might want to use brighter colors and more humor in your message.
Determine the primary objective
Once you identify your audience, then what’s the overall objective of your email newsletter campaign? Is it to drive traffic to your website? Increase comments on your blog post? Sell a product? Increase sales or invite people to an upcoming event? These objectives will be based on your company’s goals, vision, and values.
Goal-setting gives you a sense of purpose and direction, allowing you to measure your newsletter campaign efforts. So, once you have defined objectives, you must determine the key performance indicators you want to track.
Typically, email metrics include:
- Newsletter subscriptions
- Open rates
- Click-through rates (CTR)
- Spam and block rates
- Newsletter unsubscribe rates
You can track these metrics using Google analytics or inbuilt analytics tools provided by your email tool.
Identify your focus topics
Discovering focus topics is an integral part of your newsletter objectives, but coming up with email topics can be nerve-wracking, especially for first-timers.
However, we’ve got some recommendations on how to get inspired:
Where to find email content ideas
Your Audience: Your audience is your first source of inspiration. Since you’re creating the newsletter for them, you can conduct a survey to identify their needs, aspirations, and their interests. Once you figure this out, you can craft newsletter topics that speak directly to them.
You can also figure out your target audience’s pain points and interests by monitoring how they engage with your brand and other brands on social media. You could also ask them to share their thoughts on your previous content. With this, you can come up with stellar, captivating topics to share with your subscriber.
Your Competitors: Your competitors are most likely already doing email marketing. Since you share the same audience, their works can also inspire you.
Email marketers know the importance of learning about one’s competitors because looking through them can help you understand your audience better and the unique perks you can offer them.
An excellent idea is to group your competitors into three categories:
- Direct competitors: These are the brands you want to pay the most attention to. They include brands in the same category as you. They offer the same product or services you offer, therefore, your dump your brand for theirs.
- Indirect competitors: These are brands that are related but in a slightly different category. You may share the same industry, but they offer products or services that are different from yours. For instance, a restaurant vs online recipe providers.
- Replacement: These include brands that are in a completely different category but offer an imperfect substitute for your product or service. For instance, Netflix vs Playstation.
Once you figure out where different competitors fall in this group, you can learn from how they write their subject line, how they structure the email body, the colors, how they execute their email campaigns and also get inspired by their newsletter templates.
The aim isn’t to copy but to know what they do and be twice as good when you structure your own email newsletter.
You can also learn about your collaborators, that is people who make your products easier and more effective to use. For example, Google Drive and Slack. Their emails can provide insights into what your audience wants to read.
Here are some examples of newsletter topics
Email Newsletter Content Ideas
- Weekly round-up of popular blog posts or recent articles or video content
- New job openings at your company
- New case studies or product launches
- Personal stories featured on other websites
- Industry expert interview
- New best practices or weekly tips
- Company news
- Summary of industry events
- Recent survey results related to your industry
- Internal employee news, including anniversaries, promotions, and birthdays
- A team spotlight with pictures and bios
- Social media posts
- Customers’ testimonials
- Upcoming events or webinars
- Behind the scenes at your company
- Showcase new sections of your website
- Latest industry news
Now that you have a grasp of the purpose of your email newsletter and the topics before you go on to design a template, you should identify the email marketing service that allows you to create, send, and analyze email campaigns.
There are several email marketing solutions out there to choose from, for instance:
Each of these solutions has its strengths and weaknesses and how they can help your business needs.
How do you know which email marketing software to choose?
A quick Google search can help you decide which fits your own business perfectly. Also, look out for the following features when choosing your email marketing service:
- Drag-and-drop editor
- Newsletter template gallery
- Email personalization and email segmentation features
- Contact management options
- A/B testing
- Detailed statistics
- Collaboration options
- Integration with other apps
- Optimal deliverability
- GDPR complaints to ensure maximum data security.
Now that you have the perfect resources – audience interest, goal, content, and software, it’s time to design your email newsletter.
Start with the right newsletter template
You may already feel overwhelmed by all the details you need to put in your newsletter and how to structure the. That’s where pre-made templates come in. A newsletter template is a lifesaver and a launch pad for effective newsletter design, especially if you’re a beginner without graphics design or coding skills.
Email templates give you a headstart with a stellar newsletter layout and basic design elements. All you need to do from there is to customize the content to suit your brand.
You can choose to customize a template on your chosen email marketing software or import a template created by a professional designer into your email marketing tool.
When using a template, there are some considerations to keep in mind:
- Ensure that the email template format aligns with your goals. For example, an e-commerce newsletter template won’t fit an email that encourages subscribers to sign up for an upcoming event.
- Be free to customize the original template. While the structure of the template isn’t worth changing, other design elements such as the color palette, background image design, and white space should be changed to bring your brand to life.
Maintain Brand consistency
While using an email newsletter template or designing from scratch, you want to make sure your customers recognize you. Since emails are often an extension of customer relationships, your customers already have an idea of your brand’s personality. So, sticking to a familiar newsletter design is important.
Consistency helps you build trust, makes it easier for readers to navigate through your newsletter, and also reduces spam complaints. Using varying color schemes and layouts on every new email can hurt your email campaign, send you to the spam folder, reduce your open rates and increase unsubscribe rates.
To nail consistency, add your company logo and tagline to strategic places in the email newsletter design. Also, use the same header and footer in all your newsletters. This will help your email subscribers recognize who sent an email solely from the design.
Example: Workona Branded Newsletter
In this newsletter example, Workona’s brand personality shines through perfectly. The use of branded colors, graphics, and drawing help readers to immediately tell who the email is from.
Have a clean & simple layout
It’s tempting to want to fix a lot of details in your newsletter in the name of wanting to grab attention. On the contrary, a clean, simple, and organized layout captures the reader’s attention better than an overwhelming design. It makes your newsletter easy to navigate, reducing distractions and highlighting what matters most.
If you’re designing a content-heavy newsletter, the best way to make your newsletter clean and easy on the eyes is to break your content into sections, each section highlighting the key points first. Also, make sure the sections are well-defined in a single-column design to achieve symmetry and also make it easy to view on mobile devices.
Example: E-commerce Newsletter Design
Usually, e-commerce platforms tend to be overwhelming in their newsletters. In attempting to sell multiple products, they use many images and multiple CTAs that distract the audience.
This newsletter example by Mejuri is a deviation from such practice. The brand used a clean, minimalist layout with a big, bold heading that calls attention and induces a sense of urgency. It also used a single, unmissable CTA. The use of white space and a simple layout makes it more eye-catching and effective.
Choose legible, web-safe fonts
Typography is an indispensable part of email newsletter design. Just like in every other marketing material, the fonts you use in your newsletter affect the way readers perceive it.
However, while some fonts look great on graphic design copies or in logos, they may not be fit for writing email body copy. So, you should opt for a clear, legible, web-safe font to ensure that your emails will be readable across different devices and lighting conditions.
Note that brand fonts may not provide the best reading experience. A good idea is to use a similar font to the one you use on your website, You can check this list for the best web fonts to use.
Furthermore, ensure you also pick text colors that contrast with the background. You don’t want your texts to be illegible due to the background color or getting missing in dark mode. You can use the Adobe Color tool to check out color schemes that work together.
Example: Canva Valentine’s Day Newsletter
Despite being a graphics design tool, Canva avoids using fancy fonts to keep its readers engaged. The brand used Helvetica, a san serif font ideal for conveying professional-looking messages.
Use high-quality images
As we’ve mentioned earlier, humans are visual beings. So, images make your newsletter design more eye-catching and engaging by offering a beautiful break from blocks of text.
Using images in your newsletter doesn’t only make your emails more intriguing, but they also make them more approachable, increasing your open rates.
A word of caution: using your own images is better than stock images for brand awareness. The latter is often easily overlooked.
If product images or personal photos aren’t applicable to your brand, you can use infographics and charts to convey complex information as well as engage readers.
However, some email marketers favor plain-text newsletter designs because of their simplicity and organic feel. Such marketers argue that although images can be aesthetically pleasing, they can result in visual clutter if they’re too many. Truthfully, using too many images and links in your newsletter can automatically land you in the spam folder.
Finally, while plain texts may ideal for certain brands, topics, or audiences, it’s up to you to decide whether you want to use images in your newsletter. If you’re unsure what’s best for your readers, you can A/B test different designs.
Example: Unruh Newsletter
Before A/B testing, you can do a quick check if images will add value to your newsletter. For example, an email for spotlighting an employee, explaining a case study, or launching a product will definitely need images to make it more beautiful and effective.
In this newsletter example by Unruh, you’ll see how the photos add value to the email newsletter. The company’s products and streamlined online ordering process make it fantastic.
Use colors to elicit emotions
In addition to images, colors also enhance the effectiveness of your newsletter. Colors carry specific meanings and emotions. Research establishes that colors play important role in purchasing decisions as 85% of consumers assert that colors are the primary reason for burning a product.
Furthermore, the study established that some colors have an impact on specific types of buyers. For example, red, orange, and royal blue have an impact on impulse shoppers; pink, rose, and sky blue for traditional buyers; and navy blue and teal for shoppers on a budget.
Also, these colors have traditional meanings in color psychology. To choose the right colors in your emails, you must understand their meanings and how best to combine them.
- White – purity, cleanliness, and independence
- Black – authority, luxury, and elegance
- Yellow & Orange – happiness and savings.
- Purple – luxury and creativity.
- Green – tranquility, peace, and growth.
- Blue – security, reliability, and stability.
- Red – urgency, determination, and power.
Tips for combining colors in your email
Combine contrasting colors
Weird, right? Contrary to popular thought, combining directly opposite colors can produce great results. Play with different colors but ensure to keep them at the same level of saturation and brightness.
Combine shades of the same color
Combine lighter and darker shades of the same colors to create appealing email layouts. You can also add a third color s neutral accent or contrast.
Check out for established color combinations
Combining naturally occurring combinations is an easier route to achieve familiarity in your email marketing since these colors already exist in real life. This will also be ideal if you’re a fashion or food brand.
Keep your message short and engaging
Marketing emails perform best when they are concise and straight to the point. The reason for that isn’t far-fetched.
An average email client receives over 100 emails daily, even excluding spam. Given these numbers, you need to send relevant content in concise, engaging language, avoiding discouraging blocks of text.
An ideal strategy is to craft a strong headline that highlights the essence of your email. Then, create a short and engaging body copy, and avoid being overly salesy. Keeping your copy short helps you increase your click-through rates.
Also, you need to be consistent across all your marketing campaigns. If long-form content is the standard for your brand, find creative ways to keep your audience hooked. You can use infographics to tell a visual story or break down long, complex concepts. You can also use short paragraphs to avoid overwhelming the audience.
Ideally, you should also send content periodically to void overwhelming your subscribers. If you send long content too often, there’s a likelihood that your readership will decrease.
Example: Grammarly Promotional Email
Grammarly’s email newsletter design excites the readers with just a few lines of the body copy. Maintaining a sleek and simple design, the writing tool brand provides just enough information for subscribers to make an upgrade decision.
The most captivating part of the email is the headline that announces a mouth-watering offer, and a clear CTA that urges subscribers to take action now.
Design Mobile friendly emails
Responsive design isn’t optional at this age. Over 70% of your email contacts will read your email on a mobile device. So, they expect your campaigns to be fully optimized for various devices (mobile, desktop, tablet).
With most email marketing solutions, creating a responsive design is super easy, When you use software, you can edit both mobile and desktop versions, hiding elements that would look chaotic on mobile without compromising the quality of your design.
Furthermore, you have to consider users with visual impairment. To cater to their needs, be sure to add descriptive alt-text to your images.
Add social buttons at the footer
Your email newsletter should be a link to all your marketing assets – website, landing pages, and social media platforms. While the header area is a good place to include your website, the footer is the ideal place to include social media links.
Adding social buttons to your email newsletter doesn’t only improve your design, it also helps you increase engagement, grow your email list and improve brand awareness. You can also customize these buttons to reflect your brand identity.
Example: Moo Newsletter
This beautifully-created newsletter by Moo uses an appealing design to invite subscribers to an upcoming sale. The social buttons at the bottom of the email are customized to fit the brand’s colors, allowing users to get an omnichannel experience with the brand. This also strengthens familiarity with the brand.
Create plain text-looking emails
While Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) is the standardized format used in email newsletter design, it can be sometimes too distracting.
On certain occasions, plain-looking emails can be ideal. Although they have no formatting whatsoever, they help you maintain a clean structure.
However, for better results, you can create a hybrid email which is an HTML email with plain outlook. That way, you can be flexible with design as you combine the best of both worlds. These sorts of emails help to avoid distractions and make your delivery better.
Furthermore, hybrid emails help to inspire trust and reliability. They can also be a great way to initiate conversations since people generally do not perceive them as salesy.
Example: Milatone Welcome email
In this automated thank-you email example, the CEO of Milanote sends a greeting to new subscribers. While it is an HTML email, obvious from the logo and button, it has a plain text layout. The addition of the subscriber’s name also makes it personalized content that helps build intimacy.
Nail Your CTA Design
Although email newsletters are about information and content rather than persuading customers to make a purchase decision, the overall success of your email campaign lies in the number of clicks you get on your CTA button. Typically, your CTAs must be easily noticeable and have actionable words.
While promotional emails would generally include a single call to action, email newsletters would be different. Check out this example by SHRM
Most newsletters will have multiple pieces of information to pass to the audience, yet there would be the primary focus in the form of a single piece of content featured above the fold.
The main piece captures the overall theme of the newsletter. Then, you can supplement the primary CTA below the fold with additional information, external links, downloaded resources, etc.
Also, make sure your CTA button is optimized and linked to the right page. For instance, if your company newsletter is announcing a new environmental project, and you include a CTA button saying “Learn More,” it does not make sense to send them to your new product line.
Include “View In Browser”
Sometimes with email newsletters, things don’t always go as planned. For example, you may have expected that your subscribers will see your email just the way you’ve designed it. But your email clients may not download images by default. So, you need to plan ahead.
Providing users the option to view your newsletter in their browser is a great contingency plan. You need to add the link in the header, above it, or at the footer. This allows for improved accessibility and user experience. Explore some finest newsletter design ideas.
Rayban relies heavily on visuals to persuade and covers subscribers. In this email example, the brand used a sleek GIF with the product at the center. Prepared that the email may not appear as intended and looking to retain its value, they include a bar on the header encouraging subscribers to view the aesthetics properly on their web browser.
In this newsletter design example from Grammarly, although the email isn’t heavily reliant on images, the brand includes a link urging subscribers to view the web version just in case.
Over to You
With the tips above, we hope you’ve gotten a better idea of how to create effective and beautiful newsletter designs.
Whether you’re designing an eCommerce marketing campaign, a school newsletter, or anything in between, incorporating these tips into your email marketing strategy can help boost engagement, raise open and click-through rates, and bring new subscribers to your email list.
You can check out astonishing and inspiring newsletter examples for different industries here.