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Optimize Your Email for Mobile

  |  May 18, 2011   |  Comments

As more subscribers use their smartphones to view your email, you must keep your email program successful by designing your emails in a mobile-friendly manner.

You have worked hard to develop your email creative so that it meets email design best practices, but now you must consider a new imperative: making your email easy to view on a mobile device.

Mobile adoption among B2B and B2C users has exploded over the past few years, and it's only going to continue to rise:

  • ComScore reports that 69.5 million people in the U.S. owned smartphones during the three months ending in February 2011, up 13 percent from the preceding three-month period.
  • Smartphones outsold PCs for the first time ever in February, according to IDC, while 43 percent of the total mobile population in the U.S. will have a smartphone by the end of 2011.

Because reading email is the number one activity on smartphones, it's only a matter of time before all of your emails will have to be mobile-friendly.

Depending on your subscriber base, you might already be well past that point. Check with your web analytics provider, or use tools such as Litmus or Return Path to find out what your subscribers use to read their email.

Design for Mobile in Mind

As more subscribers use their smartphones to view your email, you must keep your email program successful by designing your emails in a mobile-friendly manner.

Keep these four points in mind when you design your email for mobile:

1. Use a preheader and hosted versions. The first and easiest item to include in your email copy is a "view on mobile" link in your email preheader. It links to the text version of your email or an HTML-"lite" version.

The HTML-"lite" version typically includes an image - your logo and maybe a small hero image - but otherwise minimizes image elements.

2. Design for mobile devices. When you design for mobile, don't reduce the amount of content, because that minimizes the email experience. Instead, add features to "mobilize" the experience:

    • Avoid using long subject lines. They will push the main email content farther down on an already-small mobile screen.
    • Reduce the width of your emails to 640 pixels or fewer. Mobile-friendly email widths increase a user's interaction and click-through rate. Most smartphones have screens between 320 and 480 pixels wide held in vertical orientation, so if your email is 640 pixels wide it is somewhat legible prior to zooming in.
    • Lighten your email file sizes. Ideally, emails should be 20K or less because mobile Internet speeds are slower than desktop connections. This might not be realistic for most marketers. However, the more you can slim down the file weight, the better. Some mobile email clients require a user to click an additional button to download weighty emails.
    • Increase the size and padding of text link and button calls-to-action. A typical adult finger covers 45 pixels when pressed against a mobile screen. Make sure that your calls-to-action are padded at least 10 to 15 pixels to avoid frustrating tap errors. Be sure to factor in that your email may be zoomed out 25 percent to 50 percent depending on the width of your emails.

mobile-finger-padding

3. Create mobile-friendly landing pages. Mobile-friendly emails need mobile-friendly landing pages to encourage subscribers to click through.

  • Optimize your landing page with narrower widths to be more mobile-friendly.
  • Keep landing page copy very brief with the detail saved for pages deeper on your site. Mobile users who need the full scoop will visit when they get back to their computers.
  • Replace Flash on your landing pages with HTML5, CSS3, or JavaScript. The iPhone, iPod Touch, and BlackBerry do not support Flash. Android does support Flash for web pages, but long load times are challenging and can be difficult for users to interact with by touch.
  • There is no hover-state for links on mobile touchscreen devices. If they touch, they click.

4. Promote your mobile applications. Always include a link to download your mobile apps in your emails. Place the link at the end of your body copy and consider sending a dedicated email intended to encourage mobile users to download your mobile app.

The Last Word

The move toward mobile doesn't have to signal the death of feature-rich emails. Creating mobilize-friendly email versions is really a balancing act, where your shorter message should be comfortably consumable on a small screen if a user wants to see it while traveling.

Longer messages can be saved for when subscribers get home. That said, mobile users will remember which brands consistently deliver solid experiences. That's a list your brand wants to be on.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mike Hotz

Mike Hotz is a senior strategic consultant for Responsys, working with clients to design, develop, and execute cross-channel digital marketing strategies that contribute to their cross-channel digital marketing success. As an industry veteran, Mike has worked in e-mail marketing since 1998, designing, building, and executing e-mail and multichannel direct marketing strategies focusing on increasing customer engagement, nurturing leads, supporting sales organizations, and driving revenue for companies such as CDW, OfficeMax, Grant Thornton, and Digitalwork.com.

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