Email design vs content - who wins?

As a content creator, do you think subscribers open your emails because of how good looking they are...

Or because of how the content can be helpful to them?

The answer is obvious 👇

Unless you're trying to win design competitions or run an ecom store...

Sending emails with a good enough / simple design and just let your content take center stage is a better approach than sending fancy-designed emails.

Here's why:

✅ Better email deliverability because simple design means cleaner html

✅ Faster to set up and send emails

✅ You're giving a personal (rather than a corporate) vibe — people want to connect with other humans, not with brands.

✅ The inbox is a place to consume content, not to be in awe of how good looking the emails are.

If you want to show off your design skills, use a CTA to take people to your website.

There, feel free to use fancy design.

Content creators - do you use fancy or simple design?

  1. 2

    I see your point here @wellymulia

    AVC.com (Fred Wilson) & paulgraham.com (Paul from YC) are two great examples of blogs where the design is HORRENDOUS...more so pauls, his website looks to be straight out of the late 90s...but the content is GOOD.

    I wonder about this question/dilemma all the time...what's more important: content quality vs. content design.

    Though I think in the long term, whether it's a blog, website, or newsletter, quality and consistency trumps EVERYTHING.

    But I still wonder, do guys like Fred Wilson and Paul Graham get away with their ugly designs because they're already such amazing and known public figures? My thought is yes...because I can't imagine someone who's relatively unknown/doesn't have an audience being able to take pauls website template and replicate the same sort of success and readership.

    It's almost like an inverse correlation -> design and flashiness become less and less important the larger your audience grows...but knowing how human psychology works and how people like new and shiny things, I feel like you still need SOME good design in the early days.

    I realize this comparison isnt a 1:1 to newsletters, but just some food for thought haha

    1. 2

      Your points are spot on. They're able to use "ugly" design and still get away with it because they're already famous figures.

      It's the same with for e.g. Elon Musk decides to build a website that looks even worse than Paul's. He is going to get tons of readership and engagement b/c of the good content he produces + b/c he is "Elon".

      For your website, you def need good design to "impress" people who don't know you (aka strangers). But for emails, not necessarily.

      1. 2

        Yeah no I totally agree with you. I don't think blog/website are apples to apples when compared to emails/newsletters.

        Yes you need the good design on your landing page but the emails themselves I totally get what you're saying, the structure/layout doesnt and probably shouldn't look like a corporate newsletter.

        Though I think the structure of the email is important but can for the most part be all plain text vs. html.

        Do you have a newsletter/example of a newsletter that you think is a shining example of what you're talking about here?

        1. 2

          There are tons of creators who use very minimalistic or even "plain text" style design. When I say "plain text" style, it doesn't mean it's really plain text, it's still html -- just that it "looks" plain text.

          Since you ask for an e.g. I hope you don't mind me sharing mine 😅:

          1. 2

            Love it! Thanks for this.

            Agree with you -> your content still has to be thoughtfully designed in it's layout (I like how you have the overview and then clear sections)

            It just doesn't need to be filled with banner images, CTAs, etc.

            Agree with you that it's a much more human-centric approach towards communicating via email

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