How To Design Great-Looking, High-Performing Mobile Email

Some timely tips as we get ready to tackle email campaigns:

by Zephrin Lasker, Monday, Aug. 20, 2012

It’s fair to say that smartphones have experienced explosive growth within the U.S. According to Canalys Research, there were more smartphones shipped in America last year than tablets, desktops and laptops combined.

And what are people doing on their smartphones? They are posting pictures on social networks. They are throwing eggs on pigs that have stolen eggs from birds. But one thing they are doing more than anything else is checking email. According to ExactTarget, 88% of smartphone owners check their email on their phone at least once a day.  In addition, if all U.S. mobile Internet time was condensed into an hour, email would account for as much as twenty-five minutes.

Knowing how to design great mobile email is one of the cornerstones of a great mobile advertising campaign. You could be running a mobile search campaign driving people to a landing page optimized for driving sign-ups. Or you could be running signup ads on mobile apps to capture the email addresses of people who are interested in your business. No matter what type of campaign you are running, you need to design great looking mobile email if you want to extend that first point of contact into a long-term relationship.

Using these simple tips, you’ll be able to do just that.

Design for mobile first. There are more design requirements for mobile devices than for other devices, so you should design for mobile first.

  • Avoid complex email designs, such as Flash or large blocks of text, as they have the potential to break or not render correctly on mobile phones.
  • Contrast the color scheme. Contrasting colors will be easier to read and more visible on small screens.
  • Size your text appropriately. Text should be at least 12 pixels, but Apple recommends 17-22 pixels for iPhones. Avoid blocks of text over 320 pixels wide, as anything larger will be difficult to read on iPhones.
  • Place the most important message first, even if this doesn’t mirror the HTML version. This will be one of the first things that users see on their mobile device, so be sure it’s what makes the most impact.

Design for touch. People use their fingers — not cursors — to interact with smartphone and tablet screens. When pressed against a screen, a finger can cover a 44 x 44 pixel touch area, so be sure to design accordingly.

Mobile users also scroll, tap and pinch, but they never hover or click as they would on a desktop. For this reason, you should create call-to-action links and buttons that are at least 30 x 44 pixels in size, with 10-15 pixels of padding for optimal user experience. This way, users can navigate without expanding the screen. This will also ensure that enough space will exist between clickable items so that a user doesn’t accidentally click on the wrong link.

Keep it short and simple. The same guidelines that apply to writing good signup and search ad copy apply to mobile email. Keep it short. Keep it simple. On the mobile screen, less is much, much more.

  • Some mobile inboxes truncate subject lines, so place vital information (like your call-to-action) first.
  • Make sure your subject line is clear and short — around 60 characters or less. Doing so could increase your open rates.
  • Since you’ve got limited real estate to convey your message, consider promoting your offer and call-to-action in the pre-header, along with your standard “view in browser” link.

Preview your mobile email. Before you deploy your email campaign, be sure to view it in a mobile email preview tool, and test it across different browsers and different phones. You can use tools like DeviseAnywhere, iphonetester, PreviewMyEmail or Campaign Monitor to test your email.

Your mobile ad is only your first point of contact with your consumer or prospect. By designing great mobile email, you can build a long-term relationship with consumers and keep them engaged with your business.

Zephrin Lasker is the CEO and co-founder of Pontiflex. Reach him here.

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