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Humans are very good at reading lists

Yesterday I talked about overcomplicated email newsletter design, and how unattractive it is to the reader – if it can even be read at all. One correspondent said: “Are you suggesting that our company emails should only have one item in them then? Should they be more of a sales letter?” The answer to that is not necessarily, although there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that a one message, one call-to-action format gets the best results. But it may be that you have to send out something with a number of items in it. What then, is the best way to do this?

The answer is simply to list the items and to make them scannable. Humans are very good at that – we’re used to reading lists. What is much harder is for the eye to dart all over the place. An email newsletter with multiple items in a list can still be lively and attractive, possibly more so than squashing things into columns and panels. Here’s a good (random!) example which I found on Google Images:


I’d also like to mention the choice of content. Now, I understand that for many companies, there are demands from many quarters, and lots of people to keep happy. But as far as possible, keep the content educational. We all know about focusing on benefits rather than features: “New product gives you more throughput”, not “New product is faster”. However, in a newsletter we need to get educational; something like: “How to get more throughput with a new product you won’t have seen before”. It’s not that hard to make your readers feel that you’re doing them a favour with the newsletter, rather than having them feel that their time has just been used for your benefit.

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