Eight Steps To Good Mobile Email Design

by Neil Berman

If you’re like me, being separated from your mobile phone makes you a little panicky. I use my mobile phone for so much more than voice conversations. I keep in touch through texting, surf the Internet and answer email when I’m not at my computer. I rely on apps for everything from finding a restaurant to locating the cheapest gas.

My love affair with my mobile phone isn’t unusual. A recent study by the Pew Internet Project found that 87% of smartphone owners use them to access the Internet or for email.

This is all the more reason to have a mobile strategy for your email design. While mobile devices are rapidly catching up with computer technology, relying on traditional email design may mean that a large portion of your audience won’t have a great experience interacting with your emails.

This doesn’t mean that you should completely redesign your email without first investigating how subscribers access their email. A simple and inexpensive way to determine mobile usage is to provide a link in the header of your email to a mobile-friendly version of your email design. The click traffic to this link will give you an idea how much of your audience accesses their email from a cell phone. The data you get also can be useful for segmenting mobile-specific users in your recipient list.

Designing for mobile email isn’t difficult and can be accomplished in eight easy steps:

1.    Send in MIME Multipart Format. No design changes are needed for this step, but the benefits are immediate. MIME multipart format ensures that emails are sent as both HTML and plain text, so they are readable on mobile devices that can display only the text version of your email.

2.    Keep subject lines to 15 or fewer characters. Mobile devices cut email subject lines off at about 15 characters. Keeping the subject line concise increases the impact of your email. If you cannot write a subject line in 15 characters, front-load it so your key message is in the first 15 characters.

3.    Make the most of pre-header text. The pre-header text contains the message at the very top of your email. Many mobile devices will display this text along with the subject line in the email preview pane. Use this space to persuade recipients to read the email. iPhones allow about 140 characters in vertical view, so keep the text short and persuasive. This is the perfect place to link to a mobile-friendly version of your email.

4.    Chose the right email dimensions. Many newer touchscreen phones automatically resize your email to fit the screen. While your standard 600-pixel-wide email may display correctly for these devices, the text and images may be too small to read. For the best display on both mobile devices and the desktop, code your emails between 480 and 600 pixels.

5.    Keep the layout simple. Since the space for content on a mobile device is small, keep the layout simple and stack information in one column.

6.    Take it easy on the images. Include important information in the text of your email, and  never send emails consisting of one big image as the only content. Include ALT text on all of your images, and keep the text short and easy-to-read. When splitting up images, stack them vertically, on top of one another, instead of next to each other, so your content stays together.

7.    Design for fat fingers. Since many mobile devices have touch screens, designing links and buttons with plenty of space makes them easier to click with fingers. Apple recommends coding all links and buttons with a target area of at least 44 x 44 pixels.

8.    Test to ensure good results. Now that you’ve optimized your email design for mobile, test it on various devices to make sure your emails are rendering as you intended. Test frequently, since the mobile industry changes constantly.

Finally, extend your new mobile experience to your website. Make sure your website renders properly on mobile devices so you can keep your recipients engaged from open to conversion.

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