Businesses that regularly use email blasts as a way of growing their subscriber base must consider many factors in the design of the actual blast template. While there are many websites that provide free templates – and email blast services such as Constant Contact and MailChimp have their own templates, its appearance, as well as content, is a major determining factor in growing and keeping an active subscriber base. Nobody wants to receive a newsletter from a patronized company that sends out shoddy or dated looking blasts. After creating electronic newsletters for three years now, I have learned what works and what doesn’t work in newsletter blasts. The first topic to be addressed is the use of arrows and darts in a newsletter.
Arrows – particularly the Webding key #4 symbol – are often used next to a series of hyperlinked words for emphasis or decoration. Darts, or the > key, are often used in the same manner. However some issues can arise from using arrows in a newsletter. Unlike a print newsletter, an electronic newsletter can distort the arrow symbol on a computer monitor. For example, on my Dell Windows 7 laptop, a Webding key #4 looks like a carrot, with the pointed tip elongated. Carrots may not be the most appealing thing to use, and using a small GIF image with an arrow can be overkill, especially if the image is in a color not used elsewhere in the newsletter. A double dart like this >> is not really an emphasis on the dart itself even though it may appear to be so. While an arrow image in another color to stand out from the text link may have been used several years ago, such as this HMT newsletter, today it would not be used as it would make today’s newsletter look too dated. Instead, the keyboard dart symbol, if any, would be more ideal to use.
If darts or arrows are used – ideally darts, which is the > symbol on the keyboard, they should be subtle in their appearance in the email blast. A great example is one sent out by Great Oakland Public Schools. Here the darts are the same color as the text link, the call to action. Using arrow graphics like Webding key #4 in a color different from black text – such as bright red or orange – looks less appealing and professional in a newsletter blast. For companies that utilize a table of contents (toc) at the top of the email, using no darts or arrows is best – the newsletter designer may instead elect to use bullets, or no decoration at all.
Some newsletter designers may decide to not use darts or arrows at all and just rely upon the hyperlinked words to be the call to action. A perfect example of a blast like this is one from Advance for Medical Laboratory Professionals. Here the hotlinked words are in dark red (as compared to the default blue) which are the call to action. The look is simple and clean without the use of decoration.
When in doubt, take a look at the newsletters you receive in your inbox, particularly those that are business oriented, versus an update on your favorite celebrity. Do these newsletters use darts or bullets anywhere? If you are unsure, forego using darts and arrow completely and use color to make the hyperlinked words stand out from the text. So long as the recipient sees the call to action, your newsletter will engage the reader to click on the link to view more information or special offers.