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How to Design Your Email Newsletter: A Comprehensive Guide

Julia McCoy
Thursday, 13th Apr 2023
how to design your email newsletter

If you’re looking to improve the readability of your email marketing materials, then learning how to design your email newsletters should be one of your priorities.

In a recent HubSpot report on web design, we learned that:

  • 42% of online visitors will bounce because of poor design.
  • 85% of shoppers say product descriptions and pictures factor into their buying decision.
  • The top features that cause people to leave a website are slow loading (88%), non-responsive (73%), bad navigation (61%), and poor content structure (34%).

All these numbers tell us that, for customer engagement, good design is just as important as quality content.

In this comprehensive guide, you will learn how to design your email newsletter in a way that draws people in and makes them read to the end. We will look at the fundamentals of email newsletter design, from basic elements like the color palette to formatting and branding.

By the end of this post, you’ll have all the tools necessary to create visually appealing newsletters that keep subscribers engaged.

Table of Contents

9 Elements of Good Email Newsletter Design

What makes a good newsletter design? Here are nine features that every email newsletter template should have.

1. Get Your Dimensions Right

When it comes to the size of your email newsletter, the industry standard is 600 pixels wide. This width ensures that your content looks great in most email clients, including mobile devices. If you go too far beyond this number, your content will be difficult to read.

To guarantee an optimal user experience, stick with the industry standard size of 600 pixels or less when designing email newsletter templates.

2. Create a Compelling But Not Overwhelming Header

Email newsletter headers are an important part of any email design. They’re the first thing your readers will see, so it’s essential to make sure they draw attention and stand out from the rest of your newsletter content. When creating a header for your emails, you want to keep it simple but still be eye-catching and informative.

CNN’s newsletter has only two words in its main header.

Tell readers what your newsletter is all about in simple language, without being overwhelming or too wordy. For example, if you’re sending out a roundup newsletter about industry updates, your header could read: “Industry News Roundup: The Best Content This Week.” Doing this will help give readers an idea of what they can expect before even reading further into your message.

3. Highlight Your Brand Colors

One way to keep your brand on top of customers’ minds is to create email marketing materials that show off your brand colors — that includes your newsletter templates. The Virgin website, for example, splashes its red brand color throughout its website and email newsletter. This creates a seamless reading experience and allows visitors to easily remember you.

When choosing colors for CTA buttons or links, it’s best to use complementary colors that will help them stand out from the rest of the content. For instance, if you have blue hyperlink text in your email newsletter templates, it will draw attention more than other elements because of its contrast with other content. Similarly, using a bright color like yellow for CTA buttons helps them stand out from the rest of the design and encourages readers to click through.

The Virgin newsletter highlights its red brand color throughout the page.

Color can also be used to highlight certain sections or topics that are particularly important or time-sensitive such as sales events or new product launches. Using bolder hues can help call attention to these particular areas so subscribers don’t miss out on any offers from you.

Whatever color scheme you choose, it should be consistent across all platforms including social media channels so customers recognize your logo immediately no matter where they see it. By sticking to one cohesive look in all your email marketing materials, you’ll create trust with consumers and turn them into lifelong fans of your brand.

4. Create Plenty of White Space

White space is an important element of email newsletter templates, and it’s especially important if you have a lot of information to include. White space allows the reader to take in all the different elements without feeling overwhelmed or confused. It also helps organize your content and makes it easier for readers to find what they’re looking for.

To make sure your email newsletter has plenty of white space, try using short paragraphs (1-2 sentences) and subheadings that clearly indicate which section comes next. This will help break up large chunks of text into smaller, more manageable sections that are easier on the eyes. You can also use images or other visual elements to add interest and draw attention away from long blocks of text.

Here’s how Digital Ink illustrates the effective use of white space.

When creating your email newsletter templates, be sure to pay attention to how much white space there is between each section as well as within each paragraph itself. Even if you don’t think there’s enough room for more white space, adding just a bit more can make a huge difference in how readable your email newsletters are — making them far less intimidating and much more enjoyable to read.

5. Focus on Content Over Design

Your content shouldn’t have to suffer because you want your newsletter to look pretty. When it comes to email marketing, content should always come first.

While having a great design is important, it’s the content that will make or break your email. You want to ensure that you have a compelling copy and valuable information for your readers.

The structure of your newsletter also matters when it comes to design. For example, if you are including several articles in one email, then you need to decide how they will be laid out on the page and what kind of visual cues can help draw attention from readers.

Finally, remember not all newsletters need images. Many email templates do very well with just text because their focus is solely on providing valuable information without distractions like animations taking away from the message.

That said, adding relevant imagery can enhance engagement with your emails if done correctly. Just make sure it serves a purpose and doesn’t detract from the overall readability of the email.

6. Include a Compelling CTA

Don’t forget about calls-to-action (CTAs). These are essential elements in any email marketing strategy as they encourage readers to take action after reading the email. Make sure that CTAs stand out from other elements by using contrasting colors or bold fonts so they can be easily spotted by recipients.

When done right, they can be the difference between someone just skimming your content and actually clicking through and taking an action you want them to take.

To make sure your CTAs are effective, keep them active and distinct from the rest of your content. Use language that exists in the present like “click here” or “sign up now” rather than passive phrases like “click to learn more.”

Samsung creates a sense of urgency with its CTA and appeals to impulse buyers.

Also, try not to overwhelm readers with too many CTAs in one piece of content as this could cause confusion and decrease click-through rates. Instead, focus on creating targeted CTAs for different segments of your market.

7. Blend With The Times

When it comes to email design, you don’t have to stick with the same look and feel year-round. Create email campaigns that are tailored for holidays and seasons so that your readers have something new to look forward to.

For example, create eye-catching email templates for Black Friday or Cyber Monday — two of the biggest shopping days of the year.

Forever 21 releases a series of newsletters specially designed for BFCM weekend.

You can go with a minimalist look or you can apply seasonal colors – think bright oranges and yellows for fall or pastels for springtime promotions. You can add seasonal imagery like pumpkins or snowflakes into the mix as well.

Finally, consider using emojis in holiday-themed emails. These small graphics can be used effectively alongside copywriting to communicate a specific emotion or feeling associated with the season. Whether it’s a smiling sun face on a summer sale announcement or some festive decorations around winter content, emojis are always fun additions that can help make readers smile while engaging with your brand’s messaging.

Now that you know the seven elements of a good newsletter design, it’s time to hit the drawing board.

8. Leverage Visuals

Visuals can make or break a newsletter design. In order to engage readers and keep them coming back, it’s important to leverage visuals in your newsletters. GIFs, photos, and videos can all be used to captivate viewers and draw focus to essential elements.

When choosing images for your newsletter, consider the message you’re trying to convey. If you’re writing about a product launch or special event, then include photos of the product or event itself. For more general topics like trends or industry news, use relevant stock photos that capture the essence of what you’re talking about.

Videos are an effective way to demonstrate something visually without taking up too much space as written text would. A video tutorial on how to use a new software feature could be much more engaging than reading through several paragraphs explaining it step by step. Plus, viewers can pause and rewind when needed.

When using videos in email campaigns, do not embed them directly into email clients since they won’t always render properly. Just link out to an external page where they will play correctly.

GIFs can be an effective way to grab someone’s attention in a flash, making them ideal for emphasizing time-sensitive offers or approaching deadlines. To ensure everyone can view your GIF, make sure it is optimized before adding it to emails, and keep the file size small. Doing so will guarantee that your GIF is seen by all recipients regardless of their internet connection speed.

The layout of your email newsletter is also important for readability and engagement. Using short paragraphs with lots of white space will make the content easier to scan through while still providing value for the reader. Also, consider adding interactive elements such as polls or surveys that allow users to engage with your content directly from their inboxes.

Staying informed on the most recent email marketing trends can provide an advantage when you’re creating a new email newsletter design. Look at newsletter examples from industry leaders and find inspiration in email designs that have been recognized as some of the best out there. Keep an eye out for what’s trending in 2023 so you can stay ahead of the curve when it comes to modernizing your email marketing strategy.

Designing an email newsletter? Leverage visuals, optimize for mobile, create interactive elements, and stay up-to-date with best practices to engage readers. #emailnewsletter #contentmarketing Click to Tweet

9. Optimize Your Newsletter Content and Design for Mobile

Mobile devices are becoming increasingly popular for reading email newsletters, and it’s important to optimize your newsletter design for these small screens.

To ensure your newsletter design is optimized for mobile devices, it’s important to use a pre-made template or create one from scratch that takes into account mobile newsletter formatting.

Include bigger typefaces so they are easier to see on small screens. You’ll also want to avoid cramming too much content into one section as this can be difficult to read.

Incorporating visuals into your emails is good for engagement but make sure they don’t overwhelm the layout or impede loading times on mobile devices.

Make sure you test how your emails look across various platforms and operating systems before sending them out. This will ensure that all of your subscribers get the same experience regardless of what type of device they’re using.

Lastly, include social media buttons in your emails to enable readers to quickly share your newsletter with their contacts if they wish.

Test Your Newsletter

Before you send out the latest issue of your email newsletter, make sure to run it through all the necessary tests.

A/B testing can help you:

  • Verify that links are working properly and taking visitors where they need to go.
  • Check how formatting looks on various browsers.
  • Experiment with different versions of subject lines, preheader texts, images, and call-to-action buttons.

Conducting regular testing will give you a wealth of information about what works best when targeting specific audiences. Gaining an understanding of how subscribers interact with your newsletters is vital to make the necessary modifications for a better user experience in the future.

The first step in testing a newsletter is determining what metrics are most important to track. Common metrics include open rate, click-through rate (CTR), bounce rate, unsubscribe rate, and conversion rates. After you have identified these key performance indicators (KPIs), you can begin setting up tests around them to see which elements produce the best results.

A/B testing is an effective way of comparing two versions of a newsletter against each other to determine which performs better on specific KPIs. This involves creating two slightly different versions of a single email and sending one version to half of your list while sending the other version to the remaining half, and then measuring which version produces better KPIs.

Once all tests have been conducted and analyzed, it is time to implement changes. This could mean adjusting layouts, CTA placement, or copywriting styles — depending on their effectiveness during testing phases.

Ultimately, A/B split testing tools enable marketers to create newsletters that deliver high levels of engagement and conversions, leading toward successful long-term campaigns.

Is your newsletter due today? Check out this video to create one fast:


Learning how to design your email newsletter can be intimidating, but by incorporating best design practices, you can ensure that your newsletter will be able to draw the attention of your subscribers and make them read through to the end instead of just skimming and bouncing.

Crafting a captivating email newsletter, filled with content that speaks to the target audience, can be an invaluable asset for any business looking to build a good email marketing strategy.

Written by Julia McCoy

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