Email Newsletter Design 101 (with 13 Tips for More Conversions)

Is your email newsletter design helping or hurting your business?

The design of your email campaigns communicates the tone of your brand, and it can determine whether your subscribers convert into customers.

In this article, we share our best tips to show you how to design an email newsletter. When you follow these tips, you be designing newsletters that get your customers to engage and click in no time. Not only will this help you build a better relationship with your customers, but you’ll also be able to make more sales.

Use the table of contents below to easily navigate to each tip for good newsletter design.

    1. Write a Great Subject Line
    2. Choose the Best Sender Name
    3. Use the Right Email Template
    4. Brand Your Emails
    5. Use Web-Safe Fonts
    6. Pay Attention to Images
    7. Set the Mood with Color
    8. Keep Text Short
    9. Make It Scannable
    10. Make Your Emails Accessible
    11. Create Text-Based Emails
    12. Nail the CTA Button Design
    13. Test Your Email

Elements of Email Newsletter Design

Email newsletter design includes everything that goes into creating an email newsletter or promotional email. This generally includes:

  • Subject lines and sender names
  • Branded header
  • Headings and subheadings
  • Branding and colors
  • Fonts and images
  • Formatting
  • Calls-to-Action
  • Email footer

These are all aspects of building an engaging newsletter design template, but that’s not where it ends. Your newsletter design also includes things that you can’t see, like the goal of the newsletter.

That’s right, your newsletter design depends on the goal you’re trying to accomplish. For example, if you’re putting together your weekly newsletter your goal may be to educate your readers. This newsletter design might look a lot different from an email with the goal of boosting sales.

The newsletter design tips that follow can be used to create a killer email newsletter, no matter the goal. So, let’s jump in!

Resource: 5 Best WordPress Newsletter Plugins in 2023 for More Engagement

Tips for Designing a Newsletter

Want to learn how to create a newsletter with a design that will impress your subscribers? These tips will help you get started.

1. Write a Great Subject Line

Subject lines have the power to make or break your email marketing campaigns. They help convince subscribers to open your emails in the first place. Only then can you get them to click your links or buy your products.

Here are some things you can do to make sure your subject lines are clickable:

Make subject lines mobile-friendly

Exact numbers vary by study, but about half of all emails are opened on mobile devices. Most mobile email apps display between 50 and 70 characters for the subject line.

Keep subject lines original

Subscribers get bored easily. Use a variety of subject lines to keep their interest.

Use emojis

Using emojis in your subject line can help draw the eye as users are checking their inboxes. However, don’t overdo it. You probably should only include 1 emoji in your subject line. And don’t use them unless they make sense to.

Related Content: Email Subject Line Statistics To Help You Maximize Your Open Rates

2. Choose the Best Sender Name

If you get an email from someone you’ve never heard of, do you open it or just delete it automatically?

42% of users say that the sender name is the first thing they look at when deciding whether to open an email.

If a user has signed up for your email list, then your brand name should make it clear who the email is from.

Or, take the personal approach and include the name of a real person.

For our email newsletter at OptinMonster, the sender name is “Angie at OptinMonster.” Angie is OptinMonster’s General Manager.

Marketing email from OptinMonster that has the sender name "Angie at OptinMonster"

Using a person’s name makes your emails feel more personal and can increase open rates by 50%.

Plus, when you use a real email address rather than a “no-reply” address, subscribers can respond to your email, which is good for sender reputation and future email deliverability.

3. Use the Right Email Template

Most email marketing services, including Constant Contact and Brevo (formerly Sendinblue), offer a wide variety of newsletter templates, which you can customize with a drag-and-drop builder.

Here are some examples of newsletter templates available from Constant Contact:

Examples of email newsletter templates from Constant Contact

These templates are also responsive, meaning that they’ll look great on mobile and desktop.

To create a newsletter, you should find the template that best fits your brand’s visual style and the content you want to include. Keep in mind that you’ll be able to customize all the colors, fonts, and images to suit your brand.

7+ Best Email Service Providers for Small Businesses

4. Brand Your Emails

Ideally, your email newsletter is going to look like it’s part of your brand. In other words, you’ll include your logo, along with other imagery you use on your website and social media. That’ll help recipients recognize you, which boosts trust and engagement.

For subscribers, consistency is key, so don’t switch email newsletter design templates randomly. That’s because your newsletter design is part of your branding.

Instead, use the same template for the same type of email. That way, your subscribers  know what to expect, can become familiar with it, and even look forward to it.

Here are a couple of examples of branded email newsletter design. Analytics expert Avinash Kaushik keeps it simple with a single column template and a header that includes his name and the name of the newsletter:

avinash email newsletter design

And Missinglettr uses its home page graphic as a header image:

missingletter newsletter design inspiration

5. Use Web-Safe Fonts (and Not Too Many!)

One thing to pay attention to with email newsletter design is typography. The fonts you choose can have a huge impact on how your newsletter’s perceived.

First, since email newsletters display differently on different email clients and web browsers, your best bet for a consistent look is to stick to web-safe fonts. You still have plenty to choose from, and there’s a list here to help you get started.

Second, don’t use too many different fonts: less is more. You need headline and body text fonts, and possibly one more for occasional contrast.

Some people use regular and bold versions of the same fonts for body text and headlines, while others use different fonts. Whatever you choose, keep it simple and opt for readability over trying to make your newsletter look fancy.

At all costs, you want to avoid having your email newsletter look cluttered and uncoordinated. For example, Ideo U uses just two main fonts in its monthly email newsletter:

idea u email example

Third, if you already use certain fonts as part of your branding, keep it consistent and use those same fonts in your email newsletter. This’ll help with brand recognition.

Here’s an example from Trunk Club. Since they’re a Nordstrom company, they use the Nordstrom font in their header.

trunk club email example

6. Pay Attention to Images

Eye-catching photos and graphics are expected for many email newsletters. However, here are a few points to think about:

  • Avoid background images most of the time, as they often make it more difficult to scan text at a glance.
  • Ensure that your email looks good and works without images. Use alt text to describe any images you use so that even with images disabled, it will still make sense.
  • Avoid hiding key information in images. As we’ll see later, that’s an email accessibility no-no.

Here’s a good example from Affinity Designer. At the top of the email, there’s an image with a 25% discount sticker, but that information is repeated in the text so even those who don’t see the image know what’s on offer:

email design tips - affinity

However, images can help readers to connect with the content of your email and can keep their attention focused on the right area. So if you are using images, make sure you choose attractive images that are crisp and clear.

If you need images for your email newsletter, start with the free images sites in our roundup.

7. Set the Mood With Color

Color’s an important aspect of any email newsletter design. That’s because color:

  • Helps with brand recognition
  • Is aesthetically pleasing
  • Draws attention to your calls to action (CTAs)

Though you’ll want to be true to your brand color scheme, you can use other colors to set the mood. So, while your logo will stay the same, you might use seasonal images within the body of your newsletter. This can help your subscribers buy into the emotions associated with particular colors.

To choose the right colors for your newsletter, you can use tools like Coolors to select contrasting or complementary colors that make your email newsletter design pop.

Here are a couple of examples. Digicel keeps it simple by using its brand colors:

newsletter design ideas - digicel

DepositPhotos uses Christmas colors of red and green in photos and text to evoke that holiday feeling:

email newsletter examples - deposit photos

ASOS uses contrasting boxes to highlight items on sale:

email newsletter design templates - asos

8. Keep Text Short

When you’ve got website visitors, your goal is usually to keep them on the site and engaged with your content. With an email newsletter, it’s the opposite. Your ultimate goal is to get them out of their inboxes and onto your site or landing page.

That’s why it pays to keep text short.

How short? Constant Contact says that emails that are about 200 words long have the best click-through rate. Here’s an ultra-short example from Buffer:

buffer short email newsletter design example

But, as we always say, the best way to find out what works for your audience is to test your email with your audience. We’ll talk more about testing in a minute.

Even with shorter text, there are a few tips you can use to make your copy more effective. If you want to make people click through, you have to:

  • Lead with a great headline.
  • Keep your body text in short paragraphs
  • Use your text to direct people to your CTA
  • Share your best content

Here’s an example from Trello, which includes a background matching the brand colors, a short introduction and the call to action:

email newsletter design tips - trello example

9. Make It Scannable

Even with short emails, recipients may not read all of the text. That’s why it’s important to make them scannable.

The way you structure your email newsletter will help with this:

  • Bold headings, bulleted lists, and white space make it easy for readers to quickly take in your email copy.
  • Since images draw the gaze, place them where you want your subscribers to look
  • Structure your email content in clear sections to prevent any visual confusion.

For example, this Outback Steakhouse email is divided into three sections. The first shows the most important part of the email, which is a new holiday favorites menu:

outback email newsletter design example 1

The second section lets subscribers see past favorites, with another call to action:

outback email newsletter example 2

The last section includes links to important areas of the site, including the full menu.

outback email design example 3

10. Make Your Emails Accessible

As our article on email accessibility says, millions of people worldwide have visual and hearing impairments and other disabilities. It’s a legal requirement in many places, and good practice anyway, to make sure people with disabilities can easily access your communications.

If you’re building accessibility into email design templates, consider:

  • Using accessible fonts at a large size
  • Avoiding walls of text
  • Using alt text for all images, so subscribers with disabilities will know what the image show
  • Paying attention to formatting

The truth is, well-designed emails are accessible emails, so don’t neglect this part of your email newsletter design.

Here’s an example from BookBub. Even with images disabled, you can still get the main information:

bookbub email newsletter accessiblity

11. Consider a Text-Only Email Newsletter Design

While images and stunning formatting make for beautiful newsletters, sometimes simple text does the trick.

In fact, our own email newsletters look like this:

Email newsletter design from OptinMonster. After the the header of the OptinMonster logo, the rest of the email is just text, including a bulleted list with hyperlinked articles

This type of plain text email focuses on message over style. And depending on your industry, you might be surprised at how successful these types of emails can be.

In fact, Litmus did an A/B test that showed their plain text email saw more conversions than a similar email that used images and CTA buttons.

Text-only emails aren’t right for every business. If you’re an eCommerce retailer selling physical products, then you’re going to need to include photos of your products.

But for some businesses, such publisher, SaaS, or agencies, it’s worthwhile to experiment with text emails with hyperlinked text for your CTAs.

12. Nail the CTA Design

In the end, the success of your email newsletter design will come down to whether it wins the clicks. The call to action (CTA) is a critical part of getting subscribers to engage.

A well-designed call to action:

  • Is visible and actionable
  • May appear in different formats, such as a link and a button
  • Will be included multiple times in an email, most likely 3

Here’s an example from DigitalMarketer, where they include the CTA as both a button and a link:

dm email newsletter cta

To learn more about getting your CTA right, read our guide to creating the perfect call to action.

Color’s also important when creating call to action (CTA) buttons. You want your button to really stand out so users know where to click. You’ll have to experiment to see which CTA color works best for your subscribers.

13. Test Your Email

Our last tip is to test your email. There are 2 ways to test your email newsletters:

  • Send a test email to yourself, so you can see exactly how your newsletter looks on desktop and mobile.
  • Use A/B testing to find which subject lines and other email elements see the highest open rates and click rates.

Both test emails and A/B tests are available through most email marketing services.

Make the Most of Your Email Newsletter Design

With these tips, you’re now ready to start designing newsletters that will get your email subscribers reading, clicking, and buying.

Want to learn more about optimizing your emails? Check out these resources:

And if you want a great subscriber list for your email newsletter, OptinMonster is the best software available!

You can use our targeted popups, floating bars, and other onsite campaigns to convert your website visitors into email subscribers.

Try OptinMonster Today!

I'm writer and digital marketer with over 15 years of experience. As a former marketing director for small nonprofits, I understand what it's like to be a one-person marketing department. I'm here to help you generate more leads in less time.

Disclosure: Our content is reader-supported. This means if you click on some of our links, then we may earn a commission. We only recommend products that we believe will add value to our readers.

Add a Comment

We're glad you have chosen to leave a comment. Please keep in mind that all comments are moderated according to our privacy policy, and all links are nofollow. Do NOT use keywords in the name field. Let's have a personal and meaningful conversation.