How to design email newsletters your subscribers will actually want to read

As email marketers, we have a lot of objectives to focus on. There’s compiling the best list of receivers to send emails to, and of course persuading them to open the email once it lands in their inbox.

However, there’s also another important thing to consider. Are your receivers actually reading your emails? Let’s take the classic newsletter. Sure, it may be designed to appeal to your target segment and have the spirit of your brand engrained within it. However, you may want even more.

In order to maximize the impact of your email marketing and get the most out of every newsletter, you need to design your emails for maximum readability. Even as a seasoned email marketer who has been in the game for years, you may seek design tips to help increase the chance your readers will digest every word.

In this post, we’ll go over some design tips to help you not only improve readability in your email newsletters, but also increase the likelihood your reader will be interested enough to stick around to the end.

Why readability is sometimes missed in email newsletters.

At a glance, the quest to improve readability may seem a little redundant to some. After all, any email marketer wants receivers to hear what they have to say.

The difference lies in how readability is thought of. We aren’t just talking about design tips for making your newsletter look better or say more with less—although that’s a big part of it.
Instead, we’re talking about a design strategy that makes your reader want to check out every word. 

The reason this metric is often glanced over isn’t just because people overlook it. Seasoned email marketers know they have plenty of email marketing metrics to keep track of. 

Open, click-thru, conversion, and bounce rates are just some of the important data points you’re focused on. There’s a distinction between these and readability, in the sense of design that makes your audience curious to read on. 

The difference lies mainly in how those metrics are perceived and quantified. Many email marketing metrics are ratios, and are thus trackable with the proper email marketing platform.

There’s no way to accurately track whether your receivers are reading every word you send.
The best way to figure that out is to see if the call-to-action you place in that email is followed, and whether the objective you set out to accomplish with it is being fulfilled. 

Your job as an email marketer is tough, with so much to track. So don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t feel your emails are being read completely by each receiver. Try these tips to create designs that will keep your readers’ eyes glued to the screen.

Diversify the aesthetics of your newsletter design.

As an email marketer, you’ve probably done a lot of research into the aesthetic appeal of design. One of the cool things about newsletters as a marketing tool is the ability that they give you to be creative.

The colors, the layout, and every other aspect of their design contribute to their overall presentation. You’ve probably heard all about how the way an email looks can increase the likelihood the receiver will read all the way through.

What you may not have heard is how important it is to diversify your designs. If your readers keep seeing the same thing, with minor changes, over and over again, they’ll catch on quick. This could lead to them getting disinterested and skimming.

Source: Campaign Monitor 

Consider how diversity in design helped the New York Times. They didn’t achieve a 70 percent open rate by sending the same basic style of newsletter time after time. They used 30 different designs to achieve this metric. While we aren’t talking about open rates here, you can bet those emails were opened to be read, largely because the readers wanted to see what was coming next.

Takeaway: Everyone likes variety. Mixing things up keeps your readers alert and invested. However, it isn’t just the design and aesthetics that matter to your reader. The content is the meat of the email. More specifically, the copy is the main aspect to consider.

The way you craft your copy can have a major impact on how your readers will feel about investing their time taking in what you have to say.

Master copywriting best practices with an emphasis on email etiquette. 

The way you write your email impacts how your company voice sounds to readers. Obviously, a more inviting voice will be more likely to keep readers hooked.
The trick lies in understanding that when it comes to best practices, it doesn’t matter what your

brand voice is. You could be working for an administrative company that speaks like a professor, or a trendy organization that uses all types of slang. There are still some best practices you can use to make your emails read a little better. They include:

Use short, punchy sentences.

As a general rule, shorter sentences are better. Copywriters know readers like punchy statements they can digest easily. It helps the point of the statement remain clear, and ensures the reader isn’t overwhelmed. Luckily, this formula translates perfectly to email. Your space is limited and much of what you say is written in graphics, so shorter is superior.

Focus on the benefit for your readers.

If you want readers to keep reading, you need to give them a reason. Even if your product or service has a dozen great features, your reader may not be as interested as you wished. Instead, focus on how your product or service benefits the reader. If they see they have something to gain, they’re likely to keep reading. 

Use actionable, relevant specifics.

Another copywriting rule of thumb is that fluff is bad. Each word should be impactful, and each part of your copy should give the reader valuable information. If you’re looking to improve readability even more, open up with relevant facts that let your reader know they should continue on. Check out this example from Warby Parker.

As we can see, readers like it when you cut to the chase. Open up by reestablishing who you are, how you are connected to the reader, and how your newsletter will help them. Are you offering a deal, valuable information, or both?

Takeaway: Copy is everything. Yes, graphic design plays a big part in how your email looks at a glance. But if you want to convince readers to read all the way through, make sure you have the copywriting best practices for email down to a science.

Write for the screen, not the page.

We all know that skimming isn’t the same as reading thoroughly. However, it’s inevitable that some of your readers will be tempted to do the former. We live in an age where tons of information is put out every minute, and thus readers must be able to digest it quickly.

In the event your readers do feel the urge to scan the newsletter, make sure you have things in the right place, so they get the important points. The benefit of this is they’re more likely to see those juicy points of information that make them stop and take a closer look. That’s what you want, and there’s a simple way to do it.

Write your emails for a screen rather than a page. 

Source: Nielsen Norman Group 

The above graphic shows how our eyes are drawn to a page in a book (though represented in web form) versus the typical page we’d read on our computers or phones. When you have your information in the right places, you’re more likely to catch your readers’ attention.

Takeaway: Even if you know some readers may be tempted to skim, you can convince them to back up and take a closer look at every line by putting the best bits where they’re most likely to find them.

Wrap up

Knowing how to design email newsletters your audience actually wants to read is crucial. It’s not just crucial for getting the most out of your email marketing, but it’s crucial for making sure your reputation as a sender stays strong.

If you’re the type of creator who puts out content readers love, the appeal of your email list will spread via word of mouth. It makes it easier to gain subscribers, encourage readers to engage, and accomplish organizational objectives via your email platform.

Readability can also impact those other metrics we discussed at the beginning. Your ability to convince people to open emails and click-thru is largely dependent on their previous experience with you. If you’re putting actionable emails with valuable information in their inbox, they’ll keep looking forward to hearing from you again.

To make your emails tempting to read for your audience, you can do the following:

  • Diversify the aesthetics of your email design.
  • Master copywriting best practices such as writing straight-to-the-point, actionable sentences.
  • Make emails skimmable on reader’s screens.

Write content your readers will love, mix up your designs, and keep your platform in mind—with these tips, it’s easy to create emails your audience will read from top to bottom. 

Looking to learn more about email design? We’ve got you covered with plenty of tips you can use to improve your readability today. 

About the Author

Emma Email

Emma is an email marketing platform that gives you all the tools you need to send campaigns that really connect with your subscribers. Unlike other email providers, Emma puts their customers first. It's email marketing that works for you.

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