12 Popular Actions in Email Newsletter Usability

How easy is it to interact with your email newsletter?

Marketers can get carried away with email. Some will hide the unsubscribe link with tiny text. Others will use more calls to action than a drill sergeant. These marketers forget that people, not cash machines, are reading the email, and they should be treated well.

Part of respecting your audience is designing an email newsletter that’s usable. This means it should read well, link to a webpage of the article, and yes, even allow readers to unsubscribe easily.

As a whole, here’s a list of email newsletter actions that your readers will, at some point, want to perform. By giving them a way to do them, you’ll keep subscribers happy and on your list longer.

  1. Unsubscribe – An easy, obvious, quick way to unsubscribe will keep customers from being angry with you and hitting the “junk” button.
  2. Update their email address – Give them a way to update their email preferences so they can continue to recieve your email newsletter as long as they want.
  3. Ask the editor a question – Provide your editor’s contact information so they can communicate about an article or an element of your email.
  4. Comment on the article – Don’t forget a big fat “comment on this article” link that transports them from email to your website.
  5. Whitelist you – If they don’t want to miss an issue, give them your proper email address in the footer with instructions on how to whitelist you.
  6. See it on the web – Sometimes email browsers muck up your message or a subscriber wants to share the article online. Create a web version of all your emails and always link articles to their original source.
  7. Ask about a featured product or service – Provide customer service contact information that’s immediately helpful, like a phone number.
  8. Read your privacy policy – Part of the rapport-building process is including a link to your privacy policy in your footer.
  9. Forward to a friend – Providing a “forward to a friend” link is the traditional way to help people pass on the good word.
  10. Share on social media – Provide “share” buttons for your articles so people can promote them with social media.
  11. Follow you on social media – Don’t hide your social media icons — shine them like badges.
  12. Buy a product – Highlight contextually relevant products and services to help make a sale!

Download a FREE copy of Best Email Subject Lines for Selling Premium Subscriptions and Memberships and discover an extensive list of email subject line frameworks that are consistently proven to sell and boost revenue for publishers.

Designing the first impression

The first screen of your email newsletter, which includes the preview pane, is another part of your email newsletter’s prime real estate. Preview pane best practices aren’t covered here, but you can follow the link to read them.

When designing what users will see first in your email newsletter, make sure you follow these four simple rules:

  • The email newsletter includes an engaging opening paragraph specific to this issue.
  • The email newsletter comes from a “real person” or group.
  • The email newsletter includes a table of contents specific to this issue (best if you have a tip with multiple stories).
  • The email newsletter table of contents includes links, either to each item in the email newsletter or to the full text on a website.

Making these usability adjustments will keep your readers happy if you put it all together in an obvious and easy-to-use way. Design an email newsletter that they enjoy using and your company will earn trust. Disregard too many features and you’ll risk being branded as difficult, or even sketchy! Remember, you only want people reading your newsletter who want to read it. Anyone else is a “junk button” waiting to happen.


Originally published Oct. 1, 2007


Leave a Reply