Here’s why you need to make sure your email design is mobile-first

By Len Shneyder

It should come as no surprise by now that if you’re designing emails with a mobile-first ethos and aesthetic, then you’re already late to the game. Nearly 56% of emails are now opened via a mobile device, which means we’ve been living in a mobile-first world for quite some time. The overhead associated with managing templates across devices, domains and brands could be onerous but thanks to responsive email design techniques, brands have numerous options for controlling the look and feel of their emails and minimizing the associated work to create a uniform brand experience across platforms and devices. This may all seem like old hat, but it’s worth reviewing how mobile has changed email and how it will continue to define our inbox experience moving forward.

Keep it small

Remember this number: 102. If your email is more than 102KB in size, then Gmail will clip your message when it arrives and asks the recipient to “download” the rest of it. Why are long emails a problem? Most people put their tracking pixel at the bottom of a message. If the whole message isn’t rendered, then you won’t register an open. Recipients are fickle and may deem a message that isn’t fully rendered from top to bottom as broken and simply delete or mark the email as spam. Mobile is all about portability and speed – messages that lack these two qualities (e.g., requiring the recipient to take an extra step) will be seen as flawed. Thus, keep your messages light and to the point.

One column to rule them all

Single column layouts are often the best and most expedient means of organizing your content and calls to action (CTA) for mobile devices. More than a single column will require recipients to pinch, squeeze and manipulate the email. When you consider how mobile content is consumed – on the go, commuting on a train or a bus, walking to lunch, etc. – making email easily scrollable with nothing more than a thumb swipe is the way to go and makes for longer potential engagement. Embrace one-handed navigation and the simplicity of single columns. If you do decide to use a two column layout, check out this example from Hautelook that uses oversized images in a staggered orientation. The key is that the images and CTAs are large throughout the message, making the two columns a playful back and forth between image and text.

Taps not clicks

This may be stating the obvious, but I don’t see a lot of mobile devices coming equipped with a mouse. Thankfully, we’ve come far since the first Handsprings and Palm Pilots that required a stylus for interacting with the screen. Today, Apple’s human design interface guidelines state 44 square pixels is the target while Android’s guidelines point to 48 as the magic number. The truth is somewhere in between. Whatever size you choose to make your buttons and CTAs, make sure they’re well padded and spaced so that mishaps don’t …read more

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