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Set up an e-newsletter in Outlook Desktop
Learn how to set up an attractive and accessible e-newsletter in the Outlook 365 desktop app (using a table to lay out your design).
Outlook has a nice collection of editing tools (similar to MS Word) for creating e-newsletters that are both attractive and accessible (easy for users with visual impairments to read via a screen reader).
Before setting up your newsletter, you’ll want to consider:
- How many items/stories do you plan to include? (This will determine how many rows you'll need in your table.)
- Will your newsletter include full stories/articles (in which case it’s probably better to have a one-column layout)?
- Or will it consist of a series of story headlines + image + brief teaser text and a link to the full story (in which case it may be better to use a 2-column layout)?
- Do you have images you want to use? If so, you'll want to optimize them beforehand (crop, reduce resolution, and compress) to ensure quick loading speed for end-viewers. You can also find some great images in Outlook's stock-photo library.
A helpful resource to refer to as you create your e-newsletter is the UW's HTML Accessibility & Usability KB doc: https://kb.wisc.edu/accessibility/99409
- Start by creating a new email message in Outlook.
- Setting a message background color:
In the “Untitled Message” window that pops up: select the “Options” menu item, and then click on “Page Color” and select a color. You should see the background area of your message change to whichever color you choose.
- Creating a table:
Now we’ll set up a table to hold the newsletter content. In this tutorial, we’re going to have 2 linked stories, 1 full story, and 2 announcements, so we’ll need 4 rows and 2 columns in our table. In the top horizontal menu in your message window, click on the “Insert”, select “Table”, and select 4 rows + 2 columns in the grid.
- Add text and designate Heading vs. Body text for accessibility:
Now we can start adding some content. Start by pasting the title and teaser text for the first linked story into the top left table cell. Select "Message" from the top horizontal menu. With the story title highlighted, click on the font drop-down menu and select the font that is designated for headings. Next, highlight the teaser text and select the font from the drop-down that is designated for body text.
- Activate "Read more..." link:
We want recipients to visit our website and read the full news story for our first newsletter item. Go to the "Insert" option on the top horizontal menu and add a link by highlighting "Read more..." and pasting the web page url into the address field provided.
- Adding an image (uploaded):
Now we can add an image to accompany this story. Set your cursor in the empty table cell (to the left), and click on "Pictures". Navigate to the folder that contains the image you wish to use and select it.
Use the corner handles to resize the image while maintaining the original aspect ratio:
- Add alt text to your image:
So that viewers who use screen readers can "see" any images you have included, you'll want to add some alt text.
Right-click on the image and select "Edit Alt Text" from the drop-down menu.
The alt text should be a brief, descriptive sentence or phrase. (See the UW's Accessibility's guidance on Alt Text Best Practices).
- Add a full-width story:
For full-length stories, using the full width of the table is the most efficient use of space.
Use your cursor to select both cells in the next row, right-click, and select the"Combine cells" option from the drop-down menu.
You can now add header and body text for your full width story as you did in step 4 above.
- Adding a stock image:
Outlook has a great collection of copyright-free stock images that can be added to your emails. Click on "Insert" (top menu), select "Stock Images", and then simply type a word into the search field provided. Select the image you want to use (blue check mark will appear), and click "Insert" button. The image will be added -- it will be SUPER HUGE, but don't worry - we can resize and crop it!
When the image appears, it will be SUPER HUGE, but don't worry - we can quickly resize and crop it!
Start by right-clicking on the image and selecting "Size and Position" from the drop-down menu.
In the pop-up box that appears, change the height value to 30% (we can adjust the dimensions more precisely in a minute.)
The image is much smaller now - it fits in our table cell! Now let's say we want to crop the image. Right click on the image and select the Crop icon.
Use the handles provided to crop. In this example, we'll shorten the image so it's wider horizontally. We can all alt text to the image as we did in Step 7 above.
- Add a header row to the table:
We want to make sure our newsletter has a header at the top with the newsletter name listed. We can go back up to our top row in the table, select both cells and right-click, and select "Insert Above". A new row will appear.
Now we'll merge the cells together by selecting the two cells, right-clicking, and selecting "Merge Cells".
- Designate a header row in your table:
To better navigation of the newsletters when viewed with a screen reader, we can make sure that the top row in the table is a header row. Do this by going into "Table Tools", clicking on "Style Options", and selecting "Header Row."
- Now we can type in our e-newsletter title and date/issue. (Make sure to use the header text for the title, and paragraph text for the issue/date.)
- Adjust table row colors:
For extra punch, you can change the background color of your table rows. Let's make the header row red by going into the "Design" area under "Table Tools" and choosing a color from the "Shading" option.
- Link an image to a web page:
In some cases you may want to add an image that you want to link to some web page (e.g.,Partners in Giving). Simply add your image with some alt text. Then, with the image selected, click on the "Link" option and type in a destination url before hitting OK.
- Set up a footer area:
The footer is usually where things like contact information, copyright, social media icons & links, subscribe/unsubscribe links, and your group's logo are typically placed.
If your footer cell is not white, you may want to use a png version of your logo -- png files often have a transparent background, which allows the color behind to show through.
- Remove the border outlines on your table:
The most important last step is to remove the borders on your table so that your newsletter looks like a unified entity.
Scroll to the top of your message and click on the table icon (1). From the drop-down menu that appears, select the border options and choose "No border."
Voila - you now have a beautiful e-newsletter that you can send out!
You can save it as a draft in Outlook and use it as a template for future mailings to save time.