The rapid growth of smartphones and tablets means that as much as half of your audience will access your email messages on mobile devices. That growth opens many exciting opportunities for marketers, but also presents new challenges when it comes to designing messages. Potential customers form perceptions of your brand based on your marketing communications. Email messages that are difficult to read and interact with give prospective customers reason to question the quality of the products and service you will deliver. Here are some guidelines for developing email messages that will deliver a pleasing and effective experience to mobile users.
You can design two versions of an email message – one for desktop/laptop computer viewers and one that is optimized for individuals accessing on smaller mobile phone screens. Or you can develop a single “mobile-friendly” version that delivers an acceptable experience on a variety of devices. Optimizing for each type of device provides the best experience for each audience, but involves more time and cost. The mobile-friendly approach requires eliminating or reducing some design elements in the desktop/laptop version to accommodate the limitations of mobile devices, but it can reduce your investment.
Mobile internet speeds are usually slower than desktop internet speeds. A message that downloads rapidly on a desktop computer with a broadband connection may be painfully slow on a phone. Most mobile users expect messages to download within a few seconds. To help this happen, limit the size and number of images when designing email for mobile. Not only will it reduce the file size, but it prevents important message content from being pushed even further down the small screen.
Many marketers distribute two- or three-column newsletters that may look attractive when viewed in some desktop email clients – but they can be a nightmare for people viewing on small screens. Some smartphones won’t properly render messages with multiple columns. At best, multiple column formats are hard to read or require constant scrolling and zooming. Stick to a single column format when designing for mobile.
Viewers use mouse clicks to take action when viewing emails on computers. With smartphones, it’s usually done with a finger tap. Individuals with larger fingers have difficulty tapping in a precise area. Plus, mobile viewers are often on the move when checking messages. So, it is important to have calls-to-action that are easily noticed, but also well-separated from one another to prevent finger tap errors. It is not a good user experience when an individual who is attempting to tap your “Dealer Locater” link repeatedly triggers the link to “Edit Your Preferences.”
Keep in mind the full email marketing experience. It makes no sense to develop mobile-friendly or optimized email messages, but then have the audience click through to web pages that are unfriendly to mobile viewers. Create landing pages with limited widths and graphics. Avoid using Flash on landing pages because Apple® and Blackberry® devices do not support it. While you’re at it, make sure your complete website is mobile-friendly or that you have separate mobile-optimized pages.
Download Swanson Russell’s The Marketing and Communication Manager’s Guide to Email Marketing for more advice on developing effective mobile email messages and other ideas to improve your email marketing program.