Email Newsletters: A Jumping Off Point

by Marya Figueroa on November 7, 2012

Information Services newsletterThere’s a lot to be said about how to create a great email newsletter. However, you don’t have to be an expert to get started. Here are some things to know when you create an email newsletter.


First of all, you don’t have to start from scratch

There are several sites that I happily endorse that provide templates that you can use as-is or modify to your heart’s content. I recommend (in order) MailChimp, Campaign Monitor, and Constant Contact. Mail Chimp is the web community’s darling, but the others work just as well. You can publish and send through all of these companies, plus they’ll help test your email, provide opt-in/opt-out options, gather stats, and archive your mailings and lists.

Keep in mind

Email does not play well with advanced CSS (email is years behind the normal web world). Emails are still formatted with tables (I know, I know) and you’ll want to choose a narrow layout rather than wide.

My favorite email templates are from Campaign Monitor: a ton to choose from and most give you multiple layout options.

campaign monitor examples

Go easy on the content

This is a great time to brush up on your web content guidelines. If you haven’t tattooed “Less Is More” on the back of your hands yet (handy reminder as you type), please go and do so now. Right now. I’ll wait here until you’re done.

Email newsletters are more billboard than handout, so get to the point quickly. If you need to provide more information, create a web page and link to it from your newsletter.

Also, headlines

If you write a lot (or any) web content, then headers and subheads should be your BFF. When should you use subheads? As often as possible. Perhaps more often than that.

No, I’m not kidding

See what I did there?

Test, test, test, and then test some more

When you create a web site, you need to test it on all the browsers and platforms to make sure it works and looks right for all your readers. This means you test on both MacOS and Windows in IE, Firefox, Chrome, Opera, Safari (as you are able). This is cumbersome but important. With email, however, there are many more applications and browsers to test (remember Lotus Notes? People still use that.). MailChimp has a great tool that will test your formatted email in over 80 browsers. This saves you a lot of time and helps you pinpoint what you need to fix or modify before you hit the send button.

Provide options

It’s polite to let people opt-out of receiving your email. It’s also nice to provide a text-only version. And it’s legally required that you follow the same accessibility standards that you would for any web site (so don’t forget alt tags on your images).


Need to know more?

Check out MailChimp’s Resources page; it provides both beginner and advanced guidelines. Still don’t know where to start? Begin with their Getting Started with MailChimp guide. They’ll walk you through all the steps, getting you off and running toward making a smart newsletter that your readers will want to read.

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