Many of the top email service providers have ready-made templates, which you can edit using html. Among the best in terms of html template offerings are:
- iContact, which provides a library of 300+ templates that you can edit. You can learn more about iContact at this link.
- VerticalResponse, which provides a library of 500+ templates that you can edit. You can learn more about VerticalResponse at this link.
If you cannot find an email newsletter template to your liking, you may decide you need to build your own. Here are some tips if you need to create an html email newsletter template.
- Use a Solid HTML Editor
Your desktop email client (such as like Microsoft Outlook) makes it easy for you to create html email. While it’s easy, it’s not a good idea. If you have a large subscriber list, you are sending your email newsletter to recipients on many different systems. If your recipients don’t use Outlook, your template may look very different to them. If you want to design your own, you should use a basic HTML editor. Some good editors include: Dreamweaver, Nvu, and KompoZer. If possible, code your template by hand.
- Use HTML Tables (but avoid nested tables)
Tables will make it easier to use columns. Ideal is 2 columns, most folks view email through the preview pane and the far right column is cut off. Tables also help eliminate some of the problems caused in creating a design that is readable by all email clients. Table-less design is not yet ready-for-prime time in email newsletters.
- Fixed width is critical
So-called fluid design (which expands and contracts depending on the view screen) is very fashionable in design-circles. But it can look awful if images are blocked. Suddenly your text and hotlinks are in a mess all over the page.
- Understand General CSS Guidelines
If you are a proficient HTML designer, you may be used to creating a separate CSS file that contains the formatting instructions for tags, and referencing that file through a link in the head section of a web page. Although this works fine in most locally operated mail programs, it usually does not carry over to web-based mail. For example, Hotmail requires that CSS be spelled out in the body, Yahoo mail needs it spelled out in the head, and Gmail only offers support for inline CSS. These are just a few of many reasons why designing HTML email with CSS can be very frustrating. There are, however, several ways around them. If you carefully format your CSS with semantic markup, email readers that only ignore some of its features will likely downgrade your message to an Rich Text Format (RTF) look without ruining your links.
- Simplicity is Power
When designing your HTML email template, try your best to the keep the formatting as simple as possible. The technology itself is ideal for incorporating things like images, Flash animation and forms, but you should never let these dynamic features hinder the effectiveness of your message. The more complex HTML gets, the more it degrades in performance and turns off the reader. You must also keep in mind that some mail clients may not work in perfect harmony with certain features. This should give you all the more reason to keep your design simple and effective. HTML email code should be self-contained, as a single Web page with the basic HTML, HEAD, TITLE and BODY tags. Make sure all tags are closed. Your email should include inline style sheet information. Use HTML tables for the design layout. Avoid nested tables if possible. Some email clients, Lotus Notes in particular, may not render them correctly.
If you use a top email service provider, your provider has a many template designs. Visit our page on free email newsletter templates to see top email service providers that provide templates free to subscribers.