Full day training course

Email Newsletter Usability

Subscription workflows and content strategies to increase conversions and user engagement

Email newsletters can be used to regularly engage with your most important audiences. In this course, we’ll explore guidelines for creating an effective email newsletter, such as: How to design a usable subscription process, what content to include, and how to create an easy-to-read newsletter that can be accessed from any device.

This course draws extensively from over 200 guidelines derived from Nielsen Norman Group’s five separate studies on email newsletters.

Topics covered

  • How users interact with email and email newsletters on various devices
    • Managing email and email newsletters
    • Reading newsletters on various devices
    • Discovering new newsletters
    • Saving and forwarding newsletters
    • Impact of spam and unsolicited newsletters
    • Personal newsletters (B2C) vs. business-related (B2B) newsletters
  • Techniques for creating engaging and easy-to-read newsletters accessible from any device
    • Designing for desktop, tablet, and mobile subscribers
  • Subscription process
    • Link name and placement
    • Newsletter names and descriptions
    • Setting expectations
    • Collecting information from users
    • Confirming subscriptions
    • Encouraging new subscriptions
  • Matching frequency and delivery with availability and demand
    • How often should newsletters be sent?
    • Is there a day of the week or time of the day that's best?
  • Sender information, subject lines, and pre-headers for higher open rates
    • Writing for the inbox
    • Character count recommendations for sender info and subject lines
    • How to optimize the pre-header
  • Content that provides value
    • Understanding your subscribers' content needs
    • Writing styles (voice and tone) for different audience
    • Advertising tips to attract users
    • Personalizing content to increase relevance
    • Keeping content fresh
  • Layout and visual design that increase readability
    • Elements of email newsletters that help users scan efficiently
    • Newsletter length
    • Prioritizing information within the newsletter
  • Hyperlinks and calls to action
    • Well-written calls to action
    • Designing buttons and links to get more click-throughs
  • Images and videos that add substance and increase understanding
    • Choosing meaninful images
    • Designing for blocked images
  • Subscription maintenance and unsubscribing
    • ​Unsubscribe links
    • Maintenance options
    • Unsubscribe process
    • How to confirm email newsletter cancellation
  • ​How we collected our data
    • Methodologies and tasks
    • Participants
    • Types of newsletters studied


The course is mainly in lecture format with a couple of group exercises to reinforce the learned principles and guidelines.

The course also includes:

  • Findings from our own usability studies, including eyetracking
  • Videos from usability testing of people's behavior in response to newsletters
  • Screenshots of newsletters that work and don’t work, and why
  • Opportunities to ask questions and get answers


Janelle Estes

Janelle Estes is a Senior User Experience Specialist with Nielsen Norman Group. Estes works with clients in a variety of industries and presents regularly about usability methods, email newsletters, writing for the Web, and the user experience of nonprofit websites. She has been the primary researcher on and co-author of NN/g reports covering email newsletter design, ecommerce communications, non-profit and charity websites, senior users and and social media messaging. Read more about Janelle