Five Keys to Mobile-Ready Email Design

By Feb 04, 2011

We’ll spare you the statistics regarding how many more people are reading their email on smartphones as opposed to traditional computers—you know that the number is increasing dramatically. What you might not know, however, is how best to craft your emails so that smartphone users can read and respond to them as easily as can those viewing them on computers.

Matt Caldwell, senior creative director at Yesmail, says that there are three options to accommodate “mobile opens.” You can include a link to a text version of the message, which in fact many marketers do in their preheaders. While this is an easy and safe fallback, it doesn’t provide a riveting email experience. You can create a dedicated mobile version of each email, but this can be costly and time-consuming. What’s more, both of these options require additional clicks on the part of the subscriber, and we all know that more clicks translates to lower response rates.

The third, and as far as Caldwell is concerned best, option is to “design your emails to scale down cleanly” so that they are legible and engaging regardless of the platform on which they’re being read.

Given that an iPhone, which is currently the closest there is to a standard for smartphones, allows for a 300-pixel width when held vertically and a 480-pixel width in landscape format, compared with typical inbox pixel widths of 600 and more, this can seem daunting. Making matters even trickier, while iPhones do resize emails to fit their screen, other smartphones do not.

In a session at the DMA’s 2011 Email Evolution Conference, he shared the five keys to scalable email creative:

* a grid system. Designing your messages on a grid system, in which the various elements are aligned, allows emails to scale down much more neatly.

* a single-column design.

* items grouped into sections. If your email includes multiple items or article links, group several together to create a discrete section. Then use the background color the email itself to act as the divider between the various sections. This makes for easy organization and alignment.

* big scale on a narrow page. Caldwell advises getting used to designing to a width of 450 or so pixels, with a minimum font size of 14 pt.; headlines, he adds, should be at least 30-pt. type. To accommodate the larger type, “you’re going to have to go on a word diet,” he warns.

* viewport meta tag. This is a simple code placed in the HTML header that enables some smartphone browsers to automatically change the dimensions of the email to accommodate the smartphone’s