What do my emails look like?

I will admit that although this blog has over 4,000 email subscribers, I don’t spend enough time ensuring it always looks attractive enough to read for every last one of you. I just never seem to find the time, and I’d be prepared to bet that you’re in the same position with your own sales and marketing emails. Of course, if you use a professional emailing system, you have every right to expect that the developers of that system will be working hard for you in that respect. But they can only do so much. Once you’ve started tweaking their templates, it’s out of their hands.

This is a crazy situation to get ourselves into. It’s like designing a brochure and then saying to the printer: “stick it on any size paper, put it in any old envelopes, we don’t care”. We can, and should, do better.

What devices, browsers and apps are your the recipients of your company emails reading them on? If you’re using a professional emailing system, there should be some data provided. It may surprise you. Have you even looked though? In particular, while you might be able to get away with dismissing the number of website visitors you have who are using mobile devices, you can’t do the same with emails. You probably imagine your recipient is an engineer sitting at his desk with his company-provided Windows PC running Outlook 2007, and maybe many of them are. Unfortunately, many of them are not. Have you looked at your company’s emails on anything other than the setup you have yourself?

We use Mailchimp to distribute these emails. Other services are available, as they say. Mailchimp gives me some decent representative data showing on what devices the emails are being read. Currently it’s 67% desktop PC, 33% mobile device. Now, I will freely admit that in my mind’s eye, every one of you is reading this first thing in the morning, at your desk, on your bog-standard, company-provided, 21-inch screen Dell PC. With a mug of coffee. Clearly that’s not true. One in three of you are reading this on a mobile device (of which 90% are iPhones, incredibly).

Mailchimp warns us that mobile device stats can be on the high side, but it’s still food for thought. Of the two-thirds of you who are reading this email on a PC, over 80% use Outlook, with the majority still using Outlook 2010. Indeed, I can get a good idea of what over 85% of my readers are seeing if I look at the emails in Outlook 2007 and Outlook 2010 on the PC, and in the iPhone’s mail app.

Mailchimp’s “Inbox Inspection” shows me what my emails might look like in various application and device combinations, and I’ve tweaked things over recent months to try to get the display looking good. In particular, what we need to avoid on mobile devices is the “shrunken full screen” effect, which requires zooming in and scrolling left-to-right to read anything. I hope we’ve managed that, although the mobile GMail app remains a problem. But to do so, the design of the email needs to be very simple. We don’t have multiple columns, nor do we have images with text flowing round them. If your own marketing emails are any more than this, I hope you’ve tested them thoroughly on a range of devices and apps. Do you even know what your own recipients use?

Discussion

  1. Kat

    Inbox Inspection is such a huge tool for me. The first newsletter I ever made, I neglected to do this and found that it was nearly impossible to read on mobile (where a lot of people ended up viewing it… uh oh). I looked into five different email clients when looking to start a newsletter for my current company (also, did a blog post about it), and found that GetResponse and Mailchimp offered the best tools for inbox inspection, and also a lot of other great features at a reasonable price. We ended up going with Mailchimp as well, based on social media and the newsletters I’m subscribed to, I’d say they’re the most popular.

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