26/06/2014

By Elizabeth Carter, e-Communications at Technology Trust

We are all bombarded with email communications, so creating engaging and attractive layouts and templates is what differentiates emails we read from the ones we delete. And with 90% of smartphone owners accessing the same email account on mobile and desktop , making your designs mobile-friendly has become essential to any email marketing campaign.

Emails that don’t load properly or that are difficult to read on mobile devices are generally ignored or completely dismissed by the recipient, which translates to a waste of time and resource and can even make brands look hopelessly out of date. These issues are a reality for everyone from large corporates to small businesses and charities, but luckily can be easily remedied — even on a tight budget.

Here are some practical tips for designing mobile-friendly marketing emails and are useful to apply even if your organisation has invested in ‘mobile responsive’ software that automates everything for you:

Design for a smaller screen size — It sounds obvious, but remember that mobile screens are smaller than desktops. Adhering to screen size makes the email easier to read and reduces frustration for the recipients who would otherwise have to keep scrolling from left to right to read all the copy. Apple devices automatically resize the content but non-iOS phones do not, so when creating your emails make sure the content is in a single column format and the template width is between 320px and 550px.

Pay attention to email snippets - The first thing the receiver will see before even opening a marketing email is the pre-header or ‘email snippet’ .This refers to the preview text displayed underneath or next to the subject line of an email on most smartphones. Ensure your snippets contain text like ‘Unable to read this mail? Open the web version’. This will help to increase the open rates of your email, as it offers an alternative way of viewing it and confirms that is not spam or junk.

Be careful with images - While images can be more appealing than just text alone, they can also crowd the space, and take too long to load, especially if commuters are trying to read them on moving trains! Ensure any images you use are quick to load on smartphones. If not, it is best not to include them at all, as it makes the email look messy and difficult to read with error messages.

If you still want to include images, make sure you include ‘image alt-tags’, which provides the reader with a brief description what the image is -- for example, ‘holiday cottage’, ‘children playing’ or ‘glass of wine’. Recipients will see these tags if the image doesn’t download, providing context to the corresponding messages.

Use headlines - Most readers will scan the content of the email for information that is relevant to them, so rather than having large blocks of text, consider using larger headlines that are easier to read with hyperlinks to the main content.

Ensure the font size is legible — There is nothing more frustrating than trying to read small text on a mobile device. It leaves the reader with two options: struggle to read the information or zoom in, the latter inevitably results in the reader struggling to keep their place in the paragraph or accidently clicking on a link. Make things easy to read and stick to using 14-20px font sizes for the body copy and 22px for headlines.

Make your links and buttons ‘finger friendly’ — In the same vein as small fonts, placing links and buttons too close together or making them too small often results in the reader accidently clicking on the wrong thing on a small screen. Avoid causing frustration by keeping links spaced at least 22px apart and ensuring buttons are a minimum of 22x44px.

Regardless of what software you use to design your marketing emails, following these tips will help ensure that they are mobile-friendly and easy for your customers, prospects and supporters to read on-the-go or at their desks. And don’t forget to ensure the look and feel of your emails is consistent with your brand — this combine with compelling content will help ensure your contacts look forward to reading your emails, rather than resigning them to the recycling bin.