The schmickest | Top 4 enewsletter designs

Crisp copy. Useful content. A layout that gives the reader pleasure whatever hour of the day it’s cracked open. These are all features of the most clickable of enewsletter designs.

It can be so easy to ruffle your subscribers with unnecessary emails. In fact, the 2017 Adobe Consumer Email Survey Report found that over half of us get cheesed off when companies send us too many emails, too frequently.

To build higher-quality subscriber lists and grow loyal audiences, the task is not to send more of the same. It’s to transform what might otherwise be seen as inbox clutter into the kind of content people actually take pleasure in scrolling through – and which, just as crucially, they’ll use as a springboard to leap over to your site. And from there – ideally – convert.

And conversion is likely, too. A report by VentureBeat tells us that 59% of B2B marketers say email is their most effective channel when it comes to generating revenue.

With this learning in mind, here are some of the schmickest enewsletter designs gracing our inboxes and enticing our clicks.

1. MailChimp

Enewsletter designs - mail chimp

Tech companies just tend to nail great email UX – both on copywriting and design. Perhaps the only business that is in league with them here is elite sports shoes. There are a ridiculous number of emails about sports shoes that are just straight up majestic in their design. Check out this one sent out by Adidas for instance – it’s a work of UX art.

Talking MailChimp though – its craft here is exemplary. As an international email service, it sort of has to be.

We could talk about the little plasticine version of the MailChimp logo, for instance. No doubt shot by a professional photographer, it gives the email a gorgeously human and memorably quirky touch. We’re also in admiration of the two-tone complementary colour scheme – switching out white space for bright planes of colour.

The call-to-actions demand special notice. They are exceptionally strong in their wording and make up most of the email text. From the ‘Design your best email’ header up top, to the four links below (‘Send with a purpose’, ‘Convey your message with style’), it’s evident they’ve been tailored to meet questions at each stage of the user’s journey.

Most of all though, readers can admire the bold brevity of the email. Look at the precision of the copy – not one CTA is followed by descriptive text, not even in a drop-down menu. Instead, they act as simple hyperlinked prompts – if the user wants to read more, they must travel to the MailChimp site itself.

It’s a clever ruse, designed to drive traffic to the place where users are most likely to convert. Put too much information in your email, after all, and why should the user leave their inbox at all?

2. The New York Times’ Morning Briefing

enewsletter designs - nytimes

When the New York Times introduced a paywall, limiting the number of stories readers could access each month to a mere handful, I was at first devastated. For years, it had been my favourite watering hole to keep up to date and apprised of everything that was happening the world.

I wasn’t quite prepared to fork out the $10 per month on a basic subscription plan. Why? Because I am a stooge. I did want to keep up a relationship with the brand though – at least a pinkie touch, I thought. So I signed up to their  morning briefing, the one created specifically for the Australian readership (there are also briefings timed for the Asian, European and American mornings).

Each day, jam-smeared toast in hand, I receive an email which begins:

Good morning.

Here’s what you need to know:

The day’s top stories are then neatly listed in bullet points, summarised in about 100 words or less. High-quality images are interspersed throughout, but take the backseat to text so as not to hamper page loading speed. There are a few category subheadings, too, for a segmented read – from ‘Business’ to ‘Smarter Living’ (which I skip) and ‘Noteworthy’. At the very end, as an ‘easter egg’ for the loyal reader, there also sits a category called ‘Back Story’, which reflects on an interesting or significant event that took place on that date sometime in the past.

It makes me feel professional, presidential (I’m being briefed!) and fully in the loop. I’m able to get through it in as long as it takes to scoff down that aforementioned piece of toast.

Design-wise, there’s nothing particularly flashy about this email. They could’ve (and in the future, might) added GIFs, video, cinemagraphs. But for now, this pared-back approach makes perfect sense. It ensures that the legacy publication is creating a smooth line of continuity between its traditional past – safeguarding its reputation by hailing back to its venerated, staid and credibility-driven print identity.

In my pre-subscriber days, I had mainly engaged with the publication after searching for a topic on Google and clicking through to articles. Now, after a few months being informed, intrigued and impressed by these short-form summaries, I freely declare myself a NYT subscriber.

3. Moment’s The Momentist

enewsletter designs - momentist

The Momentist is an enewsletter sent out to subscribers by Moment – a company specialising in mobile photography and powered by the conviction that “the future of photography is in your pocket”.

For a 2014 startup with a 20-strong workforce spread all over the world, Moment does content marketing remarkably well. Their email design only adds to the proof of this. The aesthetic continuity between its minimalist, indie-style website and its enewsletter is almost seamless – the achromatic background making its feature images positively glow.

At the top, the email invites the reader in by contemplating a single-word theme – in the above example, ‘Place’. I’m a fan, too, of its single-column layout – a design that gives ample space and attention to each content segment listed, whether that’s a vlog about an excursion to China, an article about ‘Summer vibes and ‘smores’ or a competition to win a trip to Alaska. The copywriting could be better, it’s true – there’s a bit too much wide-eyed earnestness in sentences like “you will taste the salty breeze as you scroll” (will you?) and “it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen” (is it?). But perhaps Moment’s main readership isn’t quite so jaded as I.

Just above the footer, a range of three products is featured, prices included. For all links, the CTAs are crisply worded (e.g. ‘Watch now’, ‘Read more’, ‘Shop all’) with big buttons that cursors don’t have to hunt around to find.

Another plus for Moment is that they are not forced to truck with the often kitsch and shallow world of stock photography. Instead, by the pure nature of their business, they are able to inspire their users with their own, community-generated images, sourced from all over the world.

Do we envy them? A little.

4. Harry’s Five O’Clock News

enewsletter designs - harry's

For the well-groomed gentleman with the five o’clock shadow, Harry’s Five O’clock News is an early morning delight. The shaving company’s enewsletter (shuttling users through to its content hub) sports a design that is modern, dapper and masculine-chic – incorporating New Yorker-esque GIFs, a simple colour layout and conversational copy for an uber smooth read.

To be useful, the email’s top content serving is an article linking to new shaving advice. Just one, mind – Harry’s doesn’t want to overburden its readers with too much detail, or exhaust their index fingers with excessively long scrolls. It also features “advice from one man to another”, as penned in one edition from none other than Ron King, a big wheel over at Time Inc, and with the kind of coiff that looks like a combination of David Lynch and Johnny Bravo.

Finally, as an extra gift, the email gives the reader a playlist of shower tunes to soundtrack their lathering, beard-sculpting and rinsing to.

Elegantly structured, with superb font choices for easy web reading, it has swathes of white space to instil a feeling of much-needed morning calm. What’s more, it speaks levely to its well-to-do metrosexual audience; to the modern man who doesn’t want to be burdened with the task of trawling through dense paragraphs of text before they’ve even got to work.

Our schmickest series doesn’t often allow for favourites. But I’m going to have to break rank – Harry’s Five O’Clock News has pride of place in my design-loving heart.

This is just our personal pick. What are your favourite enewsletter designs? Give them a shout out and share in the comments below!

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About the Author

Job Title: Head of Creative

About Matt Caufield: Matt is Mahlab's Head of Design. From his window-side second-storey nook in the Darling Street office, he designs covers for industry magazines, spins creative concepts, and is a pro when it comes to websites, infographics, branding and anything else you could possibly think of. As a father of two young kids, he found working on HBF's DAD project a fantastically relatable experience. Whether it's design ideas or boxing heroes, he has a Pinterest board for everything.

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