Apr 24, 2012

Email Anatomy: 7 Steps to a Mobile-Friendly Email

by: in Email

About 20,000 times a day (or so my friends say), I check my email on my iPhone. Now, I don’t open every email. But I’ll make an exception for those that catch my eye whether it be a value-packed subject line or from a beloved, trusted brand. Those that make the cut have about three seconds to capture and keep my attention. That means poorly designed mobile emails have little chance of escaping my swift move to the “delete” key.

As more consumers are using mobile devices to read email, having a simple, flawless design that is readable across multiple email operating systems is more important than ever. To create the perfect, mobile-friendly email, content and usability both play crucial roles. So, read on, grasshopper, and see how you, too, can design a mobile email that works.

Opt for a simple layout

Skip the two-or-three column newsletter format and opt for a “skinny” approach. The single-column template accommodates smaller screens and can increase legibility. Go with a two-or-more column layout and risk content being hidden or shrunk down on the mobile device, both of which can frustrate the user.

Keep scale in mind

iOS devices are smart and will zoom to fit the email’s width to the screen. However, most operating systems don’t, leaving it to the user to resize or, even worse, scroll horizontally to view the entire message. Make it easy for customers and consider sizing emails between 320-550px so they don’t have to make too much of an effort to see the whole message.

Highlight the call to action

What do you want your readers to do? Tell them in no uncertain terms. Having a prominent and strong call to action is the most crucial part of effective mobile email design. Make the call to action the star, putting it front and center. And make obvious and tappable, driving them to an equally attractive and well-designed mobile landing page. Think Groupon. Groupon uses prime real estate in the email to place their “Buy Now” button. Their effective CTA and their very “tappable” button is probably why I am now the proud holder of half a dozen local restaurant deals, two massages, and a set of ballroom dancing classes.

Remember that less can be more

On a mobile screen, space is rare and valuable. Clutter is mobile’s enemy. Stacking links, buttons, and copy on top of each other can dissuade users from tapping any link. Instead of giving your reader an information overload, consider simplifying complex blocks of text, headers, social sharing buttons, and, really, all elements to keep the design simple and clean.

Use images carefully

iOS is the only mobile operating system that doesn’t automatically block images. On most other devices, users will be prompted to turn on the images. So, use them carefully, and make sure that they are balanced by HTML text that will help users decide that this email is worth their time (and make them want to download the images). Most of us don’t have too much patience when it comes to loading time, though, even if we are interested in the offer. Studies have shown that 59% of users wouldn’t wait more than 10 seconds for a page to load before they abandon. A one-second delay in loading can result in as much as a 7% decrease in conversion. So keep the email file size small so it can quickly download, under 50K just to be safe.

Get to the point

Carefully evaluate the copy of your email, and keep the email a lean, mean conversion machine. Prune less relevant or useful links, images, and copy, which will cut down on both loading time and clutter (both of which, we know) can hurt your chances of seeing response.

Ergonomics make a difference

Finger targets are another consideration of mobile email design. As touchscreens are becoming the norm, fingers have replaced the mouse. And bigger is better. Increased button sizes, font sizes, white space, and line spacing all allow for plenty of breathing room. Mis-taps on screens can mean the email accidentally being deleted, closed, or worse, user frustration. So make sure you test how easy it is to navigate through your email on leftys, rightys, and those with even the fattest of fingers.