Text-only vs. HTML format: Text-only newsletters look like a standard email; there are no graphics or colors in it. HTML-formatted emails can have graphics, colored text, bold text, and larger text for headlines.

So, which one should you use? There are some experts who are really set on text-only newsletters, and others who only recommend HTML. Often, their reasons for making their recommendation are based on:

  • Technical stuff: It used to be more common for graphically-based HTML emails to be rejected by email hosts as spam. Or, different email-reading programs would misinterpret the graphical content, resulting in a funky-looking, illegible email. This is becoming less and less of a problem all the time, though, as long as you have a well-coded HTML email template to work from.
  • Ease of sending the newsletter yourself: Text-based emails, just by their nature, are very easy to write and format. HTML emails do consist of HTML code, and can be more difficult to format and send out every month. But, many email management tools now offer easy-to-use editing tools that you can use with your template to place the new content for each newsletter, seamlessly.
  • Sales effectiveness: It’s long been said that graphics can increase your sales numbers. But, I’ve also seen many newsletters done in a text format that are very effective at selling products or services as well. So, it seems that the effectiveness of the sales in the newsletter is more likely based on the offer, product, text you use to promote it, the benefits, the audience and the price than whether or not you use a picture.

I think the answer depends on your business’s brand, what you do, your newsletter’s purpose, and your customer’s tastes:

  • Business Brand: If your business has a rich brand and Visual Vocabulary, it can’t hurt to create a graphical newsletter to extend your brand. But, you can also extend your business brand in a text newsletter by beginning and ending each edition of the newsletter with the same text.
  • What You Do: As a graphic designer, I couldn’t imagine having a plain-text newsletter. Fashion designers, jewelry makers, artists, photographers, interior decorators – anyone whose work is primarily visual in nature – should all strongly consider having a graphical newsletter. A copywriter, on the other hand, might benefit from the focus that a text-only newsletter would place on the words in the newsletter.
  • Newsletter Purpose: If your newsletter is primarily intended to educate your potential clients, then a text-only newsletter could certainly work. But, if your newsletter’s primary function is to sell products, then you might want to consider going graphical, since that can help you make more sales.
  • Customer’s Tastes: Your target audience can also help you determine the best format for the newsletter. For example, a very technical audience of programmers might prefer the straightforwardness of a text-only newsletter. Women tend to prefer images and be more visual than men. And, you can always ask your existing clients what their preference would be.