Home > Archive > Email Newsletter Format: HTML or Text
April 11, 2004
Newsletter Format: HTML or Text
An email newsletter is probably the most effective way to communicate with your target
audience. One of the main considerations before you create and deliver an email newsletter
is what format to use: HTML or Text.
Until a few years ago, some email programs couldn't handle HTML. Nowadays that is not an
issue, since most email programs are HTML compatible: AOL versions 6 and higher, Internet
Explorer versions 4 and higher, Microsoft Outlook and Outlook Express, Eudora, Yahoo Mail,
and Hotmail all support HTML. HTML email newsletters can easily be managed and sent
using services like Constant Contact,
Publisher or Vertical Response .
Using HTML for your newsletter can be a plus from a usability perspective. Studies
conducted by usability guru Jakob Nielsen show that most people prefer HTML newsletters because their
enhanced layout makes articles easier to read (provided that the design of the HTML
newsletter is clean and simple). The same design guidelines recommended for web pages
also apply to HTML email newsletters.
However, HTML newsletters are often confused with unwanted advertising, since HTML is the
format of choice for marketers trying to sell their wares and services through email
messages. For this reason, text email newsletters are still popular, since their
plain, no frills look helps differentiate them from advertising.
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Text is also the format of choice for those who use a free service (like Topica or Yahoo! Groups)
to administer their mailing lists and deliver their email newsletters, since these free
services usually don't support HTML. If you use text, remember that you won't be
able to use formatting tags, such as bold or underline, and that you
must create hyperlinks by adding the prefix http://
before the URL (or the prefix mailto: before the email
address, if you want to create an email link).
The approach I prefer is a hybrid between HTML and text. I compose my email messages
in HTML, but using only text. HTML allows me to use simple formatting tags like
bold, underline and italics, and a nice, screen-friendly font.
I use a lot of white space to facilitate scanning, and include only a summary of
each article, with a link to the full article (which is hosted on my website), since most
users don't like to read long articles in the body of email messages.
My email newsletters, therefore, are similar to the table of contents of a magazine, in
the sense that they give readers a broad overview of the current edition's content, and
tell them where to find it if they are inclined to read further.
This hybrid format is never mistaken for advertising, is easy to read and scan, and loads
fast. Furthermore, by offering links to the full articles, your users will be
encouraged to visit your website, where they can have access to more information and learn
about your products and services.
The Step By Step Guide to
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you step by step through every single element of creating and promoting an ezine. If
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You can freely reprint this article provided that you include the following resource
Mario Sanchez is a Miami based freelance writer who focuses on Internet marketing and web
design topics. He publishes The Internet Digest ( http://www.theinternetdigest.net ), a growing
collection of web design and Internet marketing articles, tips and resources. You
can freely reprint his weekly articles in your website, ezine, or ebook.
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