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E-mail / Newsletter design tips

E-MAIL / NEWSLETTER DESIGN TIPS 1 : A good photograph can greatly enhance your newsletter design. But what do you do if the photographs you have to work with are a mixed bag of fuzzy faces and boring buildings? If you can't control the camerawork, you can control the end product — the way you use photos in your newsletter or other publication.

E-MAIL / NEWSLETTER DESIGN TIPS 2 : HTML newsletters are very common on the web, and increasingly are taking the place of plain text newsletters in email. They tend to have a few graphics, hyperlinks, and more complicated layouts than those of plain text newsletters.Plain text newsletters don't have any links, nor any complex layout mechanisms. They rely on good writing and organization to be meaningful.

E-MAIL / NEWSLETTER DESIGN TIPS 3 : Unrelated, or out-of-context, links have no place in Html newsletter. I frequently receive email newsletters that have line after line of links, trying to expose me to everything under the sun. Users have no need for that: a newsletter is not an internet portal. Newsletter authors are better off inserting a context-sensitive link and gently guiding users to a website that incrementally exposes the reader to more and more relevant information.

E-MAIL / NEWSLETTER DESIGN TIPS 4 : HTML newsletters are more effective than plain text newsletters, and than paper newsletters. The interactivity afforded by hypertext is invaluable and lets newsletter authors trim their works and make them scannable. Here are some things to do in HTML newsletters:

  • keep writing simple and to-the-point
  • use links extensively
  • use short human-generated summaries and tables of contents
  • use bulleted lists
  • use hierarchical elements
  • Keep writing simple and to-the-point

E-MAIL / NEWSLETTER DESIGN TIPS 5 : The first thing in a Html newsletter should be a descriptive title, followed by an easy to use, hopefully hyperlinked table of contents. Make sure that the links are either clearly external (will launch a browser), or that they lead to anchors in the newsletter. Use the former if the newsletter doesn't actually contain the articles, and the latter if the newsletter does contain articles.

Make sure that if the newsletter contains a bunch of abstracts of longer articles found elsewhere that the summaries are written by humans rather than generated by a computer (à la search engine summary report) or just appropriated from the first paragraph or sentence of the article. The summary should be as meaningful as possible

E-MAIL / NEWSLETTER DESIGN TIPS 6 : There must be a reason to choose plain text newsletters over html newsletters; don't send a plain text newsletter that has no content other than a bunch of URLs, phone numbers, or mailing addresses. Send a newsletter with content, and don't force users to skip to another medium to get the real content. Plain text might not be perfect, but since you've got the user's attention, take advantage of it. Making the user copy and paste a URL just breaks his flow.

E-MAIL / NEWSLETTER DESIGN TIPS 7 : The most significant finding from our recent usability testing of ten email newsletters is that users have highly emotional reactions to newsletters. This is in strong contrast to studies of website usability, where users are usually much more oriented towards functionality. Even a website that you visit daily will feel like a tool where you want to get in and get out as quickly as possible and not connect with the site.

Newsletters feel personal because they arrive in your inbox; you have an ongoing relationship with them. In contrast, websites are things you glance at when you need to get something done or find the answer to a specific question.

The positive emotional aspect of newsletters is that they can create much more of a bond between user and company than a website can. The negative aspect is that usability problems have much stronger impact on the customer relationship than they normally do.

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