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Jim Byrne Accessible Website Design Glasgow for The Third Sector, Voluntary, Charities and Not for Profits

Accessible design for the Third Sector
Creating inclusive websites since 1996
Jim Byrne Web Designer

Newsletter FAQ

What should my newsletter be about?

Write about things that you think will be useful for your clients to know about, e.g. useful tips, or services that you offer that directly meet their needs. If your newsletter isn’t useful they will stop reading it.

How often should I send a newsletter?

At least once a month – but you can send it more frequently if you have useful things to write about. Ensure that once you start that you keep it up – otherwise your readers will lose interest.

Short or long Newsletter?

Thinking you always have to write a long newsletter can start to feel like a burden. Decide to write short newsletters – you may be surprise how much you have to say once you get started.

Can I send emails that look like web pages?

Yes, these are called HTML emails and you can be accessible, designed using webs standards and look great. Research shows that HTML emails lead to a greater response from those who receive them than text only emails.

Can I have images and photos in my newsletters?

Yes if you decide to send HTML newsletters you can have photos and images in your newsletter and have a newsletter that looks similar to your website design.

Will my newsletter be accessible and be compliant with web standards

Yes we will ensure that you newsletter is designed so that it is accessible to people using screen readers and other access technologies.

Can I send an email that contains both text and HTML

Yes, and this is usually a good idea because many spammers send HTML emails only – and this is one of the tests that applications trying to weed out spam use. So it is a good idae to send both.

Can I send emails that are text only?

Yes you can create and send text only emails. Some people prefer text only emails to HTML emails.

How do I get started with my list of contacts?

The most cost-effective marketing is to target the contacts you already have; they already know and trust you – and are most likely to use your services in the future.

How do I grow my mailing list?

Once you add a registration form to your website pages – you can offer incentives to encourage people to sign up, e.g. a free report or e-book. You can also invite people to join your mailing list from the mailing list application control panel. Grow your list initially by inviting all of your existing contacts to subscribe to your newsletter or mailing list.

Do I need to know HTML to create my newsletter

No, you write your newsletter as text (or get us to write it for you). You don’t see the code that creates the page design.

Best practice

Ensure that everyone on your list has been through a subscription process – so that it is clear they requested to receive your newsletter.

How to create accessible email

Email has become one of the most common ways to communicate. It is a good and economical method of disseminating information to people where they want to receive it. Emails are used for private communication, confirming transactions, newsletters, reminders for appointments, marketing and invitations, to name just a few examples.

There are a number of different email clients you can use when creating, receiving and storing emails. An email client can be installed on your computer or accessed over the internet (web mail).

Formatting email

Emails can usually be written in different formats which can be selected in the email program. The different types of formats are:

  • Plain text,
  • Rich text,
  • HTML.

Plain text

In plain text formatting, your emails are written in the base font set in your preferences and you cannot create any other formatting, e.g. bullet points or bold. The receiver of the email can choose what font and font size they prefer their messages to be displayed in.

Rich text

In rich text you can create bullet points, different fonts, font sizes, font colours, horizontal lines etc. that can visually enhance an email.


In HTML formatting you can include anything you would use in a webpage such as images, forms and animation.

Accessibility issues

Different email clients display emails differently and there is currently no standardisation. Some can display certain features of rich text formatting and HTML, some can display all of them – others none. Some strip the email of all the formatting and replace it with their own version. The situation currently is similar to the first internet browsers in the early days of the internet. Some could display some of the HTML tags and others could not, and they were displayed quite differently depending on which browser was being used. This is something to keep in mind when creating emails and email-based newsletters.

The only way to ensure that the information is received in the same way by all recipients is to write ‘plain text’ emails. This is also the recommended format for people using screen readers and other assistive technology. The font, font size, colour and contrast are set as preferences in the email client. Users then get emails displayed the way they want.

There is some argument for the use of HTML-based emails and newsletters because they can convey a lot of additional information with images and colourful graphic designs. However, if an email is produced in HTML it should follow the same accessibility guidelines that are valid for webpages. Unfortunately there is little and disparate support for CSS (cascading style sheets) which should format the content, in today’s email clients. You cannot be sure, therefore, that the HTML email reaches the recipient as it left you.

If you are producing a newsletter in HTML format, it would be an idea to offer a plain text version as well and let the user choose which one they would like to subscribe to, or send everyone a plain text newsletter with the HTML version as an attachment. The attached newsletter could then be opened by the user’s normal browser with their accessibility settings in tact.

Newsletters and standards

There are no official standards for structuring a plain text newsletter to achieve good accessibility. However, there is an organisation called Headstar which promotes the Text Email Newsletter (TEN) Standard. This consists of guidelines designed to improve the readability of plain text email and newsletters by all readers, including people with visual impairments using special access technologies.

The Text Email Newsletter (TEN) Standard document gives examples of how you can structure your newsletter, provide a list of content and separate different sections to help the readability of the document in plain text. The document itself is structured as an example of good practice.

The Text Email Newsletter (TEN) Standard was developed by

E-Access Bulletin, a free email newsletter on access to technology by vision-impaired people, published by Headstar with support from RNIB.


Text Email Newsletter (TEN) Standard document

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Give me a phone if you would like me to test the accessibility of your website:

I provided feedback on the WCAG 2 (as representative of Guild of Accessible Website Designers) have two decades of experience and worked with hundreds of organisations.

07810 098 119