At Work: Finance and IT - IT intelligence

Sue Fidler explains how to design an email that people will both open and read.

The critical point of designing emails is making them readable, accessible and welcoming to your audience.

The first part of that process is to get people to open the email. Tricks of the trade are simple. First, always send 'from' the same person and always use a standard subject line, such as 'Charity X e-news'. People look to see if they recognise patterns to decide what is spam, so uniform 'from' and 'subject' fields will affect whether your email is accepted.

Second, send from an email broadcast tool rather than Outlook so that your message gets to the recipient without being blocked (Third Sector, 13 September).

Third is email design. When deciding how to design your email, think about how committed your audience is and how hard they will work to read your news. Make sure it matches your brand so that it is recognisable as coming from you.

If you are sending an email to the general public, you have about 10 seconds to catch their attention. Make the email short, use colour and images (sparingly) to highlight headings and use taster sentences to get them to click through to the full story on your website.

When writing to a peer group or giving serious information to users or beneficiaries, you can get away with a much less pretty design. Longer emails, longer items and lists of links at the top may be acceptable, but don't go too far. If you have too much news, send shorter emails frequently to make them more readable.

And use your open and click-through reports. If people are clicking on one area of the email only, maybe they aren't seeing the rest.

Most of all, be consistent. Use your brand for a template, set the 'from' and 'subject' lines and use a standard layout. You need people to recognise your mail and find it easy to read.

- Sue Fidler is director of communications and solutions at the Charity Technology Trust.

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