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Designing your emails for mobile: a critical task

I know many people in business still find it hard to bring themselves to attach sufficient importance to views of their websites on mobile devices. Even when Google Analytics says that 30% to 40% of visits are from smartphones, it’s tough to get away from the mental image that every customer is sitting at a desk in front of a bog-standard desktop PC.

But if website browsing is being eaten into by mobile market share, that’s nothing compared to email. Of course figures do vary from one area to another, but it’s likely that whatever sector we operate in, over half of all the emails we send out will be read on smartphones and other mobile devices. If we have a day sitting at an office desk, which can be most days for some people, then we’ll read most of the emails which drip in during the day on our desktop PCs. But even so, we’ll probably still read a proportion of our emails that day on our phones. And for days when we’re not at our desk, it might be all of our emails.

Even more than websites, therefore, our emails need to look good and read clearly on mobile screens. And sadly, many still do not. A quick survey of my inbox shows that about a quarter of the marketing emails I’ve received in the last few days are hard to read. Now, I’m using the notoriously ‘difficult-to-design-for’ GMail app, but then so are millions of others. I suspect that several of the businesses sending me illegible emails did check for readability, but not on enough screen and app combinations.

It’s not just that the layout needs to be responsive, so the text scales up to be legible. Links too need to be “clickable” with thumbs (for that reason, I think talking about “clicks” probably needs to die out too). If you really want someone to follow a link, make it a button. And use plenty of white space, so people don’t click accidentally while scrolling!