Website newsletters have been a piece of Internet marketing for generations. Webmasters can use e-mail newsletters as a method of communication between their most interested users. It’s a communication channel to share updates and related news to those who are interested.
But where has modern email marketing advanced into now in Q4 2012? In this article I’d like to look over some unique trends in current email newsletters and see what the future may hold. There is no single tell-tale sign, but designers are always looking to be ahead of the curve. Predictive marketing is what keeps the strongest companies moving forward compared with other stagnant domains.
Changing with the Times
Although we now have social networking for direct marketing on Facebook and Twitter, these methods are still not replacements for email. There are lots of people who would rather keep their business within the inbox – and keep their personal lives on networks.
Social media is great for users who genuinely enjoy your updates. The best solution is to offer both so that your visitors may choose which form of communication works best. Lots of people don’t even use Facebook, so that method isn’t 100% infallible. Changing with the times can sometimes mean updating to newer methods and throwing caution to the wind.
One of the biggest issues I hear is that people get annoyed by e-mail newsletters. Then I ask why does anybody sign up? Most newsletters have an “unsubscribe me” link somewhere in the template. People who don’t want to receive any more updates can quickly opt-out and it’s not a problem anymore. I don’t agree that you’ll be annoying more users than you’ll be helping. But it also comes down to your niche and what type of market you are breaking into.
Target an Appealing Audience
Going into the future I have seen more newsletters aimed at more obscure topics. There are newsletters which run weekly, monthly, or even every couple of days without a set schedule. I can see how this would drive some readers up a wall with anticipation or annoyance. But I can also admit there is a market share for nearly every topic of interest.
When you are considering building a simple newsletter first consider who you should be targeting. This demographic will help with nearly every piece of the puzzle to designing, creating content, and building a usable registration form. You want to know who you’re looking to capture so this laser-targeted focus isn’t gone to waste.
Ask Plenty of Questions
For example, let’s say we create a gaming newsletter which is put out on a weekly basis. This topic obviously has a division of interest within the whole group of video game players because not everybody is interested in the latest gaming news. So how do you know who will be interested? It’s a tough question and won’t be solved overnight.
The best step you can take for market research is to look into other newsletters related to your topic. Are there any other big name gaming websites which are updating frequently? Why do people signup for those websites? Often it comes down to 1) great design and 2) frequent, high-quality content. Consider going through and actually signing up to various newsletters so you can get an inside scoop on some of your competition.
These ideologies are valued similarly within mostly all topics from interior design to fly fishing. This is why modern day newsletters need to be managed by a person or group who genuinely cares about the information. Readers can tell when you’re faking and it doesn’t promote confidence in your website.
Acknowledge Content as #1
You could argue this rule was always true when building newsletters but nowadays it is more transparent. The amount of startups and social communities which release newsletters is simply astounding. People can get so many of these per week that it just becomes annoying. And unfortunately there isn’t much you can do except remove as many annoyances from your own newsletter layout.
In general readers do truly care about your content and that’s why they’ve subscribed. Whether that would be shopping deals, website news, blog posts, free downloads, or anything else of vested interest. Your newsletter design should focus solely on what’s new and keep it all short yet sweet.
Don’t overload too much text for your readers. You should be able to skim over your own newsletter and pick out the most important details quickly. Also try to limit the length of your document so it doesn’t seem like endless scrolling. Even readers who truly care about your website don’t want to go through 20 or 30 different news updates.
Design for Minimalism
A little while ago I wrote an article similarly related to creating elegant email newsletter layouts. Many of these techniques should still apply and will be relevant as design trends progress in the future. People have less time to spend reading their inbox and just want to get the daily information at a glance.
Thumbnails and big text are a huge component to this design style. I know that whenever I open a newsletter I love seeing big fonts in the headings and paragraphs. It shows I can read all the content or quickly skim for the important tidbits. But images are also great to break up the page flow. They give you a solid implication of what each topic headline is all about before reading or clicking anything.
Some people are even checking their inboxes from smartphones or tablets on a daily basis. If possible you want to optimize any newsletter layout to fit smoothly on a mobile device. I find that people will take more time reading e-mails on their phone rather than on the computer. It may have to do with being out running errands and so there’s more time to kill reading e-mails. But this is a newer target demographic that you really want to capture.
Ultimately I would say the best design trait you can follow is flexibility. Make sure your newsletter design will cater to a wide audience of people. Use big text and plenty of images if possible. Also offer some type of unique branding to showcase your website. A simple logo in the header or footer will remind people about your website and why they signed up for your newsletter in the first place!
I hope this article can offer some insight towards design trends for e-mail communication. There is no end-all be-all final list for e-mail design. It’s a fluid process which takes a lot of trial and error before you learn which methods appropriately match your audience.
But this is a form of marketing which will scale alongside your website. As traffic grows from search engines more people will be interested in keeping updated on your website. And most people will check their e-mails frequently so it’s a natural progression between the web.
Along with these tips I have put together a small gallery of email newsletter designs below. Some of these are from older galleries online, while others are from e-mails I have personally received and archived. I find this to be an exceptionally inspiring gallery for web designers. Check out this collection and see if you can put together any email design trends which would match your own website content.