How to Design Emails for a Mobile Inbox

By Bizclik Editor

Today’s consumers are hyper-connected, making cross-channel marketing campaigns a must for businesses. The massive adoption of smartphones in Australia (around half of all Australians now use one*) means we are living in a mobile world. Mobile is transforming business, giving consumers the opportunity to interact with your brand every waking moment of the day. Mobile provides a unique opportunity to optimise customer experiences and increase conversion rates.

Design tips for a successful mobile experience >>>

1. Understand how a reader scans emails 

Often without realising they are doing it, readers look at emails in sections and make decisions to continue reading or exit at each stage. Know what those stages are and plan for each one. 

  • From name (approx. 25 characters): Make sure this tells the reader who you are. A generic ‘admin/staff’ name can result in losing readers at this crucial point
  • Subject line (approx. 35 characters): Use email subject line testing to optimise open rates
  • Pre-header (approx. 85 characters): Give readers a brief glimpse into the message content. This will grab readers’ attention, so make it count
  • Viewport: Once the email is opened, the reader will see the message viewport and can choose to scroll down to continue reading

Think about space; space is limited on a mobile so your most important information should come first.

2. Design for touch

Don’t focus solely on click-based interaction. Instead, try to think in terms of swipes and taps. As with any good design, using grid-based layouts ensures content is easy to interact with and digest. A finger isn’t as precise as a cursor, so elements like buttons and text links need to be large enough that the user doesn’t accidentally tap the wrong link or miss entirely. To make a button that’s easy to press, shoot for a height of at least 0.33 inches (44 pixels or more).

3. Design for legibility

Use a single-column layout, be concise and maximise text size to improve readability. Consider these factors to ensure your message is legible >>>

Contrast: As we age, less light enters the eye, making it more difficult to see colour contrast. Computers and mobile devices also allow users to alter contrast settings, so carefully consider your colour choices to ensure the text and images stand out properly against the background. Avoid reversing out small text on a dark background.

Text size: ExactTarget recommends using text of at least 13 pixels for body copy. Be generous with margins and white space to ensure text is readable. When it comes to copy, remember that less is more.

Imagery: Bold, beautiful imagery is slowly taking over our inboxes, as we take cues from Pinterest and social hubs like Facebook and Twitter. Images help tell your brand’s story, so consider taking the time to choose artful shots that complement your message. Think outside the realm of traditional stock photography to make your messages unique.

4. Design for reality

Circumstances affect accessibility and attention span, so your message may be viewed on a small screen out of consumer preference or sheer convenience. It could be competing with distractions of all kinds, like a small data plan, a business meeting, spotty Wi-Fi connections, or a long line at the grocery store. Tailor your messages accordingly:

  • Keep it simple with direct content.
  • Be incredibly clear about what you want to the reader to do in your call-to-action.
  • Be brutal with your editing. Is there a better or shorter way to say the same thing? Is your message crystal clear? Is everything easy to see?

Lee Hawksley, managing director Exact Target said: “By integrating mobile into the marketing mix, businesses will not only increase the chances of their emails being read on a mobile device, but also improve the overall customer experience. This helps build lifetime relationships and improves conversion”.

*eMarketer, Smartphone Adoption Tips Past 50% in Major Markets Worldwide


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