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6 Tips to Optimize Email for Mobile Email Apps

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By Garrett Spence   |    February 21, 2017   |    10:17 AM


The vast majority of Internet users frequently check their email on smartphones. With this in mind, it pays to optimize your marketing messages to connect better with mobile users. 

If you're not sure how your emails look with limited screen space, learn the best ways to tailor your campaign for mobile devices.

  1. Stay simple: Clear, concise formatting is important for any email, but it becomes critical in relation to mobile devices. Keep your design clean and maintain a considerable amount of negative space, so readers will be able to distinguish and digest the content. Since limited screen space prevents the audience from viewing the entire email at once, be sure to place essential elements at the top and place non-essential items, such as social sharing buttons, near the bottom. Forget all the bells and whistles, focusing more on functionality.

  2. Choose a basic format: Avoid multi-column layouts in favor of simple, stacked layouts. A single column template works much better on smartphones and tablets. Limit the width to between 500 and 600 pixels to prevent navigation problems. Never exceed 600 pixels, or readers will have to zoom in and out to view the message. They may also miss the call to action, which can drastically reduce your conversion rate.

  3. Choose fonts wisely: Err on the side of caution when choosing fonts. Select a minimum size of 13 pt for the email body, since smaller sizes could be reformatted to ruin your layout. Make your header 22 pts or larger and choose simple fonts that maximize readability. Pay special attention to font color in relation to background color, since many users keep the brightness on their smartphones turned down to conserve battery power.

  4. Include a sharp hook: You message subject line will play a considerable role in determining conversion potential. While emails with enticing subjects are opened more frequently, remember that some mobile email clients display fewer characters. Take the time to research available email clients, giving preferential consideration to the most popular types. Carefully craft your subject to ensure it doesn't run too long. With iPhone and Gmail, a good subject length should stay between 41 and 70 characters; however, you may want to stay on the shorter side to target as many clients as possible.

  5. Include a call to action: Be sure to offer a clear call to action that emphasizes some sort of benefit to the recipient. Remember that mobile readers will be using their fingers to navigate, so make sure the button or link is large enough so it won't be difficult to activate. According to Apple, an active button should provide a minimum tappable area of 44px by 44px. That said, an MIT study found that the average adult finger measures 16 to 20 millimeters, which amounts to approximately 45-57 pixels. With this in mind, you may want to make your call to action button closer to 57 x 57 pixels to reduce the risk of missteps.

  6. Choose responsive or scalable: While scalable designs are simpler, they can become problematic if you fill your message with substantial content. On the other hand, responsive designs consistently render your message to function on all platforms, which can yield improved open and conversion rates. While responsive designs can seem complicated, certain email clients offer pre-designed responsive templates that can guide you through the process. In the end, you will have to decide whether the extra effort is worth the time.

Testing Your Messages

If your message doesn’t display correctly, it is likely to be deleted. This means missed opportunities and fewer conversions, while also promoting increased opt-outs that can reduce your audience. Before sending out an email, double check its design on an email previewer such as Litmus, or simply send the message to yourself to ensure it looks just right.

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