These days, most email marketers rely heavily on the use of templates for their email newsletters. Email newsletter templates make the email design process easier; they provide you with a consistent foundation you can customize to your liking with each iteration of your regular newsletter.
But how are you supposed to find the perfect email newsletter template for your next email blast?
Well, it’s easy to Google “email newsletter templates” and find huge lists of them. But how do you know which you should choose?
In this guide, I’ll walk you through the necessary things to consider.
Table of Contents
- Email Newsletter Design
- 15 Email Design Best Practices
- 1. Consider your subject and preheader.
- 2. Grab attention.
- 3. Use white space to be easy on the eyes.
- 4. Be concise.
- 5. Evoke the feeling of your brand.
- 6. Offer multiple priority levels in your layout.
- 7. Include room for personalization.
- 8. Think carefully about colors.
- 9. Choose a unique, but readable font.
- 10. Incorporate more visuals.
- 11. Consider using emojis.
- 12. Design around your calls to action (CTAs).
- 13. Include easy ways to unsubscribe.
- 14. Always test your design for functionality.
- 15. Use AB testing to improve.
- What Are Responsive Email Templates?
- The Pros and Cons of Using Email Newsletter Templates
- Where to Find Email Newsletter Templates
- Tips for Choosing the Right Email Newsletter Templates
Email Newsletter Design
When choosing an email template, you’ll be figuratively outsourcing much of the burden of email design onto someone else. However, you’ll still need to keep the tenets of email newsletter design in mind. It’s your responsibility to choose a template that adheres to email design best practices, and beyond that, you’ll need to tweak and customize the email newsletter template to ensure it’s capable of helping you achieve your goals.
Accordingly, before you can choose an email newsletter template, you should familiarize yourself with email design best practices.
15 Email Design Best Practices
Whatever email newsletter template you choose should help you achieve the following email design best practices, regardless of your specific email marketing goals:
1. Consider your subject and preheader.
Your subject line isn’t necessarily part of the email design, but it’s one of the most important aspects of effective emailing—so it needs to be your top priority. Without a great subject line, nobody will open your email. You’ll also want to consider the preheader of your email, which will appear next to the subject line in most email clients.
2. Grab attention.
Assuming you have a subject line compelling enough to drive an email open, your email design next needs to grab a reader’s attention. There should be something at the top of the email, such as an interesting headline or a striking visual, that instantly connects with the reader and invites them to read more.
3. Use white space to be easy on the eyes.
Too many email designers try to cram as much information into an email as possible. Instead, it’s often better to include more white space; it’s much easier on the eyes, giving your readers the opportunity to conveniently review your content.
4. Be concise.
It’s your job to convey as much information as possible in the smallest amount of space possible. Ask yourself; can you say more with fewer words? Can you include more information in fewer boxes? Eliminate fluff to make a better impression with your audience.
5. Evoke the feeling of your brand.
Your email newsletter template should somehow evoke the “feeling” of your brand. Sometimes, that means providing design elements similar to those in your logo and marketing materials. Sometimes, that means offering a distinctive style in line with your brand’s vibe.
6. Offer multiple priority levels in your layout.
Good emails tend to have multiple sections at different priority levels; for example, you might have a big box at the top that features the most important content, with three smaller boxes at the bottom that feature less important content. The hierarchy should be clear to both you and your readers.
7. Include room for personalization.
Personalized marketing emails always perform better than generic ones, so make sure you include room for personalization—even if it’s just changing the recipient’s name in each message. This has more to do with the email marketing tool you’re using than the template, but it’s worth considering as part of your design.
8. Think carefully about colors.
Using your brand colors as part of the email design is usually a good choice, but not all colors are friendly to an email reader’s experience. Be wary of using bright colors that could make things hard to read, and make sure your colors don’t clash with each other.
9. Choose a unique, but readable font.
Speaking of readability, make sure you choose a highly readable font. The font should be unique (e.g., don’t just use Times New Roman), and related to your brand, but readability is an even higher priority. Here’s a good guide on how to choose the best font for email.
10. Incorporate more visuals.
Most people who open your email will take a couple seconds to read your content, but visual design elements can be perceived and interpreted much faster. Consider including more visual pieces of content, such as photos, graphs, or illustrations. The only caveat here is to avoid stuffing your email full of visuals, or it will take too long to load.
11. Consider using emojis.
Depending on your audience, you might benefit from using emojis in the subject line and copy of your email. A well-placed emoji can help your content stand out, or help you make a unique first impression.
12. Design around your calls to action (CTAs).
One of the most important aspects of your marketing emails will be their calls to action (CTAs). In other words, how are your emails motivating action from your users? Are you directing them to your website? Are you inspiring them to make a purchase? Whatever your CTA goals are, they should be one of your highest priorities—and your email design should revolve around them.
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13. Include easy ways to unsubscribe.
This is an important design element, but it’s also a legal requirement (thanks to the CAN SPAM Act). Make sure all your email newsletter recipients have a clear and easy path to unsubscribe from your email list.
14. Always test your design for functionality.
No matter how good your email template looks in the selection or modification phase, there’s a chance it’s going to break when it gets sent out. Always take the time to test your email design for functionality before making a major release. And just because a template has worked in the past doesn’t mean it will work in the future—test before every issuance.
15. Use AB testing to improve.
Finally, invest some time in AB testing. Experiment with different templates, or different modifications of a single email template, and compare their results in similar environments. Compare your “A” version to your “B” version and figure out which elements work best; over the course of multiple experiments and AB tests, you’ll eventually inch your way closer to the perfect template, and you’ll learn a lot about your audience along the way.
What Are Responsive Email Templates?
Many modern email templates are “responsive,” but what does that mean?
The basic idea is that the template automatically “responds” to the type of device accessing the content, and the size of the window accessing it. If a user is accessing the email on a desktop device, it might display the content naturally. But if they change the window size or switch to loading the content on a smartphone or iPad, the email may rearrange certain blocks and snippets of text to look better in this new scenario.
Essentially, responsiveness is the solution to the modern dilemma of designing for multiple devices simultaneously. With the right responsive template, you should be able to create one comprehensive design and ensure it displays properly on any conceivable device.
Always choose responsive templates if you have a choice.
The Pros and Cons of Using Email Newsletter Templates
Email templates can be a great way to increase your ROI, both to improve the effectiveness of your email newsletters and to minimize the time you spend building them. However, there are both pros and cons to consider.
These are some of the most important benefits:
- Guidance and direction. A template can help you decide what to include in your email newsletter. If you’re developing content from scratch, you can refer to your template and build content around it. It’s also helpful if you’re not sure what you want out of your design; rather than creating something entirely from scratch, you can choose from a long list of options that are already available.
- Simplicity. Designing and sending emails can get complicated, which is why things like templates and email automation exist; they’re made to make your life simpler. You can rely on someone else’s handywork to give your newsletter a good start, and spend just a few minutes updating the content with each subsequent email blast.
- Versatility. Email templates are also highly versatile. Just because you’ve chosen a template for your work doesn’t mean you’re locked into it; you can change the template to your liking, or update it in the future. You can rearrange different sections of content, or even switch to a different template.
- Time savings. In many cases, templates can be updated in a matter of minutes. Using a WYSIWYG editor, you can drag and drop different images and chunks of content into place, then preview your template so you ensure it loads as intended into a wide range of different devices.
- Brand consistency. If you want your email subscribers to get a consistent brand experience, your email newsletters need to be consistently on point. Templates help you keep the essence of your design, and allow you to repeat your previous structures indefinitely. You could also consider adding a branded email signature at the bottom of your email.
There are some drawbacks to consider as well:
- Coding issues. WYSIWYG editors are great, but if you want to make more significant changes (or if the editor isn’t working properly), you’ll need to dig into the code—and not all email templates are coded according to best practices. Making changes could introduce complexities that interfere with the supposedly “simple” nature of templates.
- Lack of originality. If you found a free template easily, chances are many brands like yours found the same template in the same way. If your email newsletter looks too similar to another company’s newsletter, it could make you seem unoriginal or uninspired. It’s sometimes difficult to differentiate your brand with a template.
- Decreased motivation. Templates are quick and easy—but this can also be a downside. In some cases, email newsletter templates can make you lazy or unmotivated. If someone else has already finished designing this newsletter, why would you bother brainstorming new ways to improve it?
Where to Find Email Newsletter Templates
Where can you find email newsletter templates?
The best place to start is with an email marketing tool designed to help you manage a campaign.
Most email marketing management tools offer a plethora of free and/or paid templates you can review when building your email. You might even choose an email marketing tool based on the templates it offers.
You can also conduct an online search for email newsletter templates and find thousands of available options—again, both free and paid. You can typically grab a template you like, tweak it to your liking, then use it as you see fit.
Otherwise, you might look for email newsletters and existing templates for inspiration, using them as a springboard to design your own work. And check out these email newsletter ideas for inspiration, too.
Tips for Choosing the Right Email Newsletter Templates
When browsing for new email newsletter templates, follow these best practices to choose the best option:
- Choose the right category. Many email marketing tools offer email templates based on your intentions, or based on your industry. For example, you’ll find different templates for email newsletters than you will for cold sales emails, and you’ll find different templates for industries like manufacturing or healthcare. Choose the right category when browsing.
- …but be sure to explore other options. That said, there’s a possibility that you’ll find a viable option in a category that doesn’t fully align with your situation. For example, you might find a perfect newsletter email template in a non-newsletter category. Poke around in different areas to get a feel for what’s out there.
- Consider premium templates. Many platforms offer both free email templates and premium, paid email templates. Most people gravitate toward free email templates to save money, and make no mistake—there are plenty of good options in “free” sections. However, if you limit yourself to only free templates, you could be missing out on a perfect fit. Most templates are inexpensive, even at the premium tier, so keep yourself open to these options.
- Try to stand out. If you want people to continue subscribing to your email newsletter, you’ll need to stand out. Most people get recurring emails from many different organizations and businesses, and they delete them more often than they keep them. Differentiate yourself with dynamic content.
- Review the finished product. Sometimes, a template looks better in its “template” form than when it’s filled with actual content. Before finalizing your email newsletter template decision, spend some time adding your own content and reviewing the finished product.
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Jayson is a long-time columnist for Forbes, Entrepreneur, BusinessInsider, Inc.com, and various other major media publications, where he has authored over 1,000 articles since 2012, covering technology, marketing, and entrepreneurship. He keynoted the 2013 MarketingProfs University, and won the “Entrepreneur Blogger of the Year” award in 2015 from the Oxford Center for Entrepreneurs. In 2010, he founded a marketing agency that appeared on the Inc. 5000 before selling it in January of 2019, and he is now the CEO of EmailAnalytics.