Optimizing Email for Mobile Devices

Many people think of email as something they check in their office or at their home computer.

The fact is, email isn’t just for the computer anymore: at least some of your subscribers are reading it from their mobile phones. Does that change how you should be writing your messages?

Mobile phones have come a long way from the briefcase-sized analog “bag phones” of the 80s and early 90s. You can now send text messages, take pictures and video, and even listen to music on your phone.

You can also get on the Web, and that means you can check your email.

According to a study by research firm Ipsos, more people than ever before are using their mobile phones to access the Internet. Over one-third of all households with a mobile phone have used it for email.

It’s especially relevant that this growth isn’t just among the traditionally tech-savvy youth. More adult users are getting online from their phones too.

If your subscribers are going to be checking email from their handsets, your messages better be readable.

Considerations For Mobile Phone Email

  • Users with more advanced devices may be able to view HTML email messages with images, but others will not. You need to include a plain text version of all messages.

This is a best practice anyway, but the increase in mobile email access underscores its importance.

  • Mobiles have smaller screens and resolutions than computers. Keep your message width short: no more than 60-65 characters.
  • Depending on their email platform, your subscribers may not see your “from” name or email address when scrolling through messages in their inboxes.

Brand your subject lines to build recognition of your messages among the others in your subscribers’ inboxes.

Are most subscribers still reading your messages exclusively from their computers? Absolutely.

However, mobile ‘net and email access isn’t going anywhere but up, and addressing that now can you time and hassle later.

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Resources:
Ipsos Study: Mobile Phones and Internet Usage
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18 Comments

  1. David G

    11/28/2006 6:42 pm

    Hi Justin,

    I use a blackberry and can’t tell you how frustrating it can be trying to read a poorly planned HTML newsletter on the blackberry.

    Do you see Aweber expanding into text messaging to mobiles?

    Thanks for the tips.

  2. Justin Premick

    11/29/2006 10:58 am

    David,

    Unfortunately, if a sender omits a plain text version of a message, users of Blackberry, Palm and similar devices are left to choose between a sometimes unreadable HTML message and not reading at all. This is one of a number of reasons that we strongly recommend including a plain text version of all messages.

    Re: SMS – In an opt-in model, it’s up to the subscriber to choose how/where to receive the information.

    In my opinion, while some people may opt to receive subscriptions via SMS now, as email on your mobile gets easier and better (and it will), I don’t see the point of subscribing to a list via SMS, since you’ll be able to easily access your regular email address on your mobile.

  3. Craig Dunn

    12/7/2006 9:00 am

    Unfortunately when it comes ot marketing opinions are very often wrong. Case in point – the company who sat with their top marketing execs and showed them a hard copy piece of marketing material with five different backgrounds and ask their opinion on which back ground colour would work best – all of the execs went for the black background and commented on how the red background was garish. The V.P. decided that he’d test them all, all five colours. And you guessed it the RED one got the best response and made the most money. So don’t dismiss SMS so readily. I for one would love AWEBER to incorporate some kind of SMS facility into it’s current permission marketing tool and I’m sure others would too! We currently use another company for our opt-in SMS marketing but it would be so neater and would allow us to keep our data better managed if it was integrated into the current system.

  4. Bev hanna

    2/23/2008 3:55 pm

    I’m very new to newsletter marketing (trying to learn the basics before sending out my first ezine), and I’d like to know what is the maximum size to make my html layout. I’m using a 3-column format, incorporating our logo and background gradient, with the bulk of the text in the centre column. When you say 60-65 characters is the maximum width, does that mean the plain text maximum or the total width of the layout. What is the maximum width in pixels, or am I asking a nonsensical question?

  5. Justin Premick

    2/24/2008 10:14 pm

    Hi Bev,

    The 60-65 character width refers to plain text emails and is a best practice based on where email clients typically wrap those.

    You could make your widths even shorter (since not all mobile devices will display that many characters per line) but you’d be doing so at the risk of sending excessively narrow emails to people who *aren’t* reading your emails on mobile devices but still prefer plain text over HTML.

    Typical recommended maximum widths for HTML email range between 550 and 600 pixels.

  6. Bev Hanna

    2/27/2008 3:16 pm

    Newbie here again…
    Can you use a fluid html layout? Percentages rather than pixel width?

    Thanks for your help

  7. Justin Premick

    2/28/2008 7:52 am

    Bev,

    You can do it, yes, but it’s not typical.

    Most HTML email newsletters I see are fixed width. I’d say that’s because a fixed width generally allows you to plan a more consistent experience for the viewer across different email clients.

    If you do elect to try a fluid width layout, test it thoroughly before going live with it.

  8. romano180

    5/28/2008 5:50 pm

    I couldnt agree more with craig… combine your database of SMS and EMail. check out spongecell…and aweeber.. take some notes!

  9. Erin

    10/7/2008 2:01 pm

    Hi, I usually just link the headline text and ‘read more’ to the articles listed in my newsletters. Is it considered ‘best practices’ to add the URL to your content for mobile devices to see?

    For example:

    <a href= "http://www.site.com/articlename">Article Name
    http://www.site.com/articlename</a&gt;

    As opposed to just
    <a href= "http://www.site.com/articlename">Article Name</a>

    Thanks for your help.

  10. Yisel

    11/7/2008 3:45 am

    Justin,

    You said:

    "In my opinion, while some people may opt to receive subscriptions via SMS now, as email on your mobile gets easier and better (and it will), I don?t see the point of subscribing to a list via SMS, since you?ll be able to easily access your regular email address on your mobile."

    I disagree. Subcribing via SMS is an another opportunity to segment a list and specifically tailor messages, reminders, coupons, or alerts you don’t necessarily want to send in a full email broadcast. Plus, an SMS message is truly instant.
    You don’t have to log in to check email.

    For instance, you could send an SMS to your list that says:

    "Reminder: The conference call you registered for starts in 15 minutes. Dial in here: 123-456-7890 Passcode:12345"

    Think about it. There are endless applications.

    I would love to see you guys add that feature.

  11. James Schramko

    7/12/2009 11:07 pm

    Will Aweber be adding SMS capability to the service (like Trumpia)?

  12. Jason

    4/29/2010 10:28 pm

    Hi Justin,

    is there any possibility that aweber will be adding a subscription by text message capability as well as followup emails by text messages?

  13. Clinton

    2/28/2011 10:22 pm

    How do I reduce the width of a html email if I am not using a template? I am keen to make it the 60 characters you recommend, but am stuck on this one. I can’t find an option in the html window to reduce the margins or width of the message.

    Would really appreciate anyones input.

  14. Jeff

    4/9/2011 1:58 am

    i would love to have a mobile optimized webpage hosted on aweber servers!
    i find it tedious to be able to create mobile websites for so many types of mobile phones…

  15. Michael Wise

    2/13/2012 7:44 pm

    SMS messaging would be a great add-on for Aweber to incorporate into product offerings for Aweber users.

    Would be interested in knowing if Aweber has put a time line on adding SMS.

  16. Tom

    3/9/2012 6:19 pm

    Mailchimp is already integrated with an SMS company so you can add a customers email to your autoresponder just by them texting a shortcode.

    I’ve been with aweber a long time, but this will change everything if aweber doesn’t keep up. I’m already considering a change.

  17. Rebecca

    5/23/2013 11:59 am

    Why oh Why does Aweber not have a mobile-friendly template for follow-ups and broadcasts???

    FYI Aweber, everyone in the business world is talking about this. It gets mentioned quite often btw.

    Am I missing something? Do you already have a mobile friendly template?

    Please do something about this- quick!
    THX

  18. vincent

    8/31/2013 5:30 am

    Why oh Why does Aweber not have a mobile-friendly template for follow-ups and broadcasts???
    FYI Aweber, everyone in the business world is talking about this. It gets mentioned quite often btw.
    Am I missing something? Do you already have a mobile friendly template?
    Please do something about this- quick!
    THX