Mantas from MailerLite

Mantas5 min read Tips & Resources July 19, 2018

How to design a winning newsletter header

How to design a winning newsletter header

First impressions are powerful. In his book, Blink, Malcolm Gladwell famously wrote, “Buyers make most decisions by relying on their two-second first impressions"

Email headers can be your 2-second secret weapon for making a great first impression with your email newsletter.

The header is the first thing that most people see when they preview or open your email. A compelling design can be the difference maker if they stay or go.


How to create effective email headers

It’s essential that the header design captures and holds your reader's attention. It’s your opportunity to make a visual statement about your brand.

There is no secret formula for designing a great email header. You need to start by asking yourself, 

'If I get 2 seconds of their attention, what do I want people to think and remember?'

While some header designs work well with just a logo, we believe the best approach is to add some type of imagery along with your branding. Images can tell a story or leave an impression within seconds.

In addition to imagery, it’s important to design headers that are consistent, clear and include some form of branding that sets you apart.


Five guiding principles for designing effective newsletter headers

1. Use imagery

At MailerLite, we are always taking photos of the team and our experiences, which gives us a library of images that we can later use for our email headers. 

If you don’t have original images, you can find free photos at sites like Pexels, Freerange Stock, and Morguefile. Or, for a few dollars, iStockPhoto is a fantastic resource.

2. Make it your own

Once you’ve found the perfect photo, make it your own! 

You can edit with simple tools like Canva or Aviary. For example, your image might look pretty cool if you run it through a filter or add some text on top.

Of course, you’ll want to add your unique brand design cues (logo, color, icons, fonts) to ensure your readers instantly recognize that the newsletter is from you. 

Stock photo example:

Stock photo customized:

3. Avoid clutter

It might be tempting to include a lot of information in the header. Don’t do it! Less is more. The whole purpose is to grab their attention.

When you add too many images or too many words, the reader might get turned off. Keep it simple and clean.

Cluttered Example:

Simple and Clean Example:

4. Experiment & Test

Let’s face it, no one really knows if a design will work until they test it out. If you are unsure why different headers are working or want to experiment with a few designs, set up an A/B test.

Just remember to keep your newsletters exactly the same except for the header design. This way, when you get the results to see which design is more effective, you will know that the header design is the difference maker.

Have fun and take some chances. If your crazy design ideas don’t test well, at least you pushed the envelope to get the best design possible.

Want to see how easy it is to set up an A/B test?
Email Marketing A/B Testing Made Simple

5. Be consistent

Once you settle on a design direction, the trick is to keep it consistent while also keeping it fresh. 

Try to use the same structure and branding elements (such as the same color and fonts) in your design, but change the images to relate to the topics within the newsletter.

Our GDPR newsletter series is a good example of keeping a consistent design while using different imagery. Here are three different headers under the same brand look and feel.



Newsletter header design examples

Now that you have the fundamentals down, it's time to get inspired.  Spend time looking at other emails to get ideas and best practices.

Check out these header examples below from our own customers.

Pros:

  • Compelling image

  • Includes branding

  • Clean design and clear

Cons:

  • Lacks a descriptive headline to draw the reader in.

  • Image size is large. Header size should be about 600px wide and 200px high.


Pros:

  • Clean design

  • Clear messaging

  • Slight movement makes up for no image

Cons:

  • Lacks personality and uniqueness

  • Might not draw people in (that’s why we test :-)


Pros:

  • The image describes exactly what the newsletter is about.

  • The text is clear and doesn’t clutter the image.

  • Includes branding logo and colors.


Want more newsletter header inspiration? We are fans of Really Good Emails. They highlight the most recent email designs.

Have design questions? We love to talk about design. Leave your message in the comments section and we will do our best to help you!

Here are some more design examples from our customers.
Newsletter Examples - Design Gallery