Mobile Email Design Tips

How often do you think about people reading your emails on their mobile phones?

Three years ago, “64% of key decision makers were viewing your carefully crafted email on their BlackBerrys and other mobile devices” according to MarketingSherpa1.

Imagine, that was three years ago! Since then, smart phone sales have grown worldwide and the number of people checking email on their mobile phones continues to increase rapidly.

It’s high time you think about your mobile subscribers when you design your emails. Here are a few ideas to get you started…

Make Your Emails Easy for Mobile Viewing

Viewing Email on a Mobile DeviceWhile the number of subscribers that can check their email on their mobile phones is on the rise, don’t panic and think that you have to recreate your entire campaign.

There are some simple changes that you can make so that your subscribers checking their email on their phones aren’t left with a garbled message in place of your newsletter.

Include a Plain Text Version of Every Message

Simply put, including a plain text copy of every HTML message that you send eliminates potential issues for subscribers with mobile email applications that do not support HTML.

If their mobile device doesn’t support HTML, subscribers will still see the plain text version of your message.

Optimize Images

You should always include alternative text for images. While some phones are sophisticated enough to display HTML emails, there’s not always the guarantee that your images will display properly.

Rather than show a random file name for each image in your message, use alternative text to further describe components of your message.

alt text 2

Even if subscribers can’t see the image, they will know what the email is about and they can make an informed decision as to whether or not they should go back to your message when they are at a computer.

Use the Subject Line and Preheader to Summarize Your Message

Should your subscribers have trouble viewing your email on their phones, including a brief summary of your message or continuing the subject line in the preheader will allow them to get a better idea of what you are sending.


Darrah MacLean, a copywriter at Smith-Harmon, gives some great examples and discusses the relationship between subject line and preheader in depth for the Email Insider here.

Don’t Crowd Clickable Links

Consider the readability and navigation of your message design. Always include links to important pages on your website, making it easy for mobile viewers to hop over to your page.

Remember that when a subscriber views your email on a mobile phone, they only see a small area of the message.

spaced links 2

If you include links that are too close together, someone with a touchscreen phone may have trouble clicking on an individual link and end up frustrated that they cannot easily get to the page they are interested in.

The Benefits Reach Far Beyond Mobile Viewing

These suggestions can positively impact the effectiveness of your campaign, regardless of whether or not you have mobile subscribers. For example, including a plain text version of every email is always appropriate.

For your subscribers who are only viewing your emails on their computer, many of these tips are already email best practices and can only help to strengthen your campaign.

What is Your Experience?

Do you receive email on your phone? Do your subscribers read your messages on the go?

As always, we would love to hear your stories!



  1. Ankit

    2/15/2010 12:56 pm

    You will see the greater number of mobile devices in future. So, You have to optimize your marketing approach to hit the web.
    Thanks for the wonderful tip.

  2. Jeff Ente

    2/15/2010 1:34 pm

    Very helpful post. I sometimes stop into Verizon stores just to see what my newsletter looks like on various phones. Please send help.

    One thing that I would want to point out is that there is a difference between ALT text and TITLE text. ALT was designed to help users with accessibility challenges, TITLE will sometimes make your words appear where ALT doesn’t. Use both, IMHO. TITLE also works on regular text links.

  3. Chris Lang

    2/16/2010 9:24 am

    I have to say that my self and every major Internet marketer in the Internet marketing product space except for a few are sending text emails.

    Jack Humphrey sends HTML and Andy Jenkins just started too.

    But there are still some guys with very large lists that have gone back to text only.

    One guy in particular is sending text emails formatted to a very short character width and you can see that that is in preference to mobile phones.

    I myself have sent text for 10 years straight and don’t plan to change.

    Not to mention WiFi is the new dial-up, I am on the road and have been for a year now, hotel WiFi can really suck. So remember that too when it comes to how you format your email.

  4. Sylvia White

    2/16/2010 9:27 am

    Great tips. I always read my emails on my phone. My phone doesn’t show the HTML, so it’s a good idea to add the text also. I do get frustrated with several listservs where I can’t read the email on my phone and have to wait to go to my computer later. I have started using my daughters’s IPOD Touch for emails and it does the HTML and is great because I can then click and go to someone’s website. Thanks for the great tips!

  5. FD

    2/16/2010 9:33 am

    We know that many of our subscribers use iPhones, Blackberry’s, etc, as they regularly reply to our email newsletters with a tag-line below their signature indicating their reply email was sent from their mobile phone.

    Question: Is there a way to modify the character width on the "wrap long lines" feature in Aweber for plain text emails? If not, that would be a nice enhancement.

  6. Angela Wills

    2/16/2010 12:18 pm

    Great tips!

    I haven’t given a lot of thought to how my emails are viewed on mobile devices since I’m one to try to stay away from emails and working when I’m NOT working.

    I always include a text version but I much prefer reading HTML emails so that’s how I send them too.

    Thanks 🙂

  7. Zack Covell

    2/16/2010 1:47 pm

    Thank you for the discussion here folks.

    I’m also a believer in TXT only messages because of all the various devices and obstacles faced by Internet Marketers reaching across borders and technology levels when delivering their messages.

    I’ll take all of this info into consideration too! 😉

  8. Amalaki Juice

    2/16/2010 1:54 pm

    I have to say this is pretty important. When I check emails on my phone, I make sure the pictures don’t load (just in case of embedded viruses), so the description will be displayed. If it says logoghr24h.jpg, what am I looking at? And if it isn’t clear what is to be displayed, I won’t go back to it.

    thanks for the info!

  9. Chris Lang

    2/16/2010 6:24 pm

    @FD, just do it the way we did it in the old days:

    Decide how many characters the max width of the charcter string you want to allow for on mobile email screens and then hit the enter key on your keyboard creating a page break / a new line in the text box.

    This is hard to decide on because a Windows phone held vertically (25 char) is much different than one held in landscape mode (42 char). Then apply the same thinking to Blackberry and iPhones (still the most used phone) and come up with a max character width. To me that is 25 characters since most emails are opened in a phone in portrait mode.

    That will keep the text from breaking in a text email.

    We used to have to do that before AWeber helped us out with a max character width textarea on their forms.

    Actually we used to write our emails in Notepad using the max string length method and then upload them to AWeber autoresponders.

    Today we trust the cloud quite a bit more than we did then and I believe most write and store theirs right in AWeber. How times change…

    But this old fashioned method will still work today.

  10. John

    3/1/2010 9:17 am

    It only works if you have a good phone with a big screen and a touch screen.

    But it’s worth having the extra bit of work done to cater for people who are into phone-email.

  11. khatir

    3/4/2010 12:21 pm

    You will see the greater number of mobile devices in future. So, You have to optimize your marketing approach to hit the web.
    Thanks for the wonderful tip.

  12. Tony

    3/4/2010 5:19 pm

    WOW! This is a real eye opener for those of us who are just beginning to integrate .mobi web sites and AWeber campaigns into our IM efforts. I have been using text as well as HTML but out of ignorance not forethought. Can the wrap function on text be set for 25 characters so it becomes automatic? Can we then depend on the HTML version to open in a PC while the tailored text version opens in smart phones?

  13. yoonka

    3/6/2010 3:08 am

    But it’s worth having the extra bit of work done to cater for people who are into phone-email to participate in this program

  14. dann

    3/8/2010 9:40 am

    My favroite emails are a combination of ‘faux text’ or text with only 1 html link formatted in the in the text section but copied to the html to give tracking data. I do use images but later down the email, so text only viewers get it all, but I clealy reference elements below.

    This allows emails to stay looking like simple 1 on 1 communciations while providing an invitation (not a push) to view media rich content if they are able, without changing interfaces.

    Good open and click rates.

  15. Dan

    3/14/2010 2:19 am

    Mobile emails are getting bit tricky. Would there be a program that does that so it comes out fitted for mobile messaging?

  16. Chris Lang

    3/18/2010 9:25 am

    @Dan, Yes, it’s called text messaging or SMS.

    But allas SMS gateways are not cheap.

    Getting into this heavily myself right now. Don’t understand half what I need to.

    In my book, right now the best thing you can do is send text email.

    Either don’t cut it off with the return button / enter key or format your emails to 30 char wide.

    I am seeing Jeff Walker do this and a few other big guys too.

    My mobile stats are currently showing 30% of my traffic is from phones.

  17. Michael

    3/19/2010 8:14 pm

    This is why I stopped sending my newsletters in the emails and just send an announcement, with a link to the newsletter. Doing this also lets me know who’s actually reading the newsletter instead of just opening it by using the Email Analytics that are now in my account.

  18. Phill

    3/20/2010 3:05 pm

    It is True, And I’m very confident that Aweber Will Start Creating Templates for Mobil E-mail. And Get Success on This New World

  19. Christine Gierer

    3/22/2010 8:43 am

    When I send HTML emails I always limit the characters per line just like I do the text messages. But this makes it look a little choppy on the mobile devices.

    I guess I need to let the HTML go the full length? But then it doesn’t look so pretty in a regular email reader.

    Any thoughts?

  20. Inna Preobrazhenskaya

    3/26/2010 9:07 pm

    WOW! WOW! WOW! 🙂

  21. Chris Lang

    3/29/2010 9:27 am

    This post really inspired me to look deeper into mobile visits to my sites.

    I am seeing almost 30% of my traffic on a phone.

    With StomperNet and Howie Schwartz both launching high ticket mobile marketing products, Google Buzz really being a mobile product as much as a desktop app and Scoble calling 2010 the year of geo location I am digging deep on this.

    Very timely and thanks to Rebecca Swayze for getting my thinking cap on straight with this post.

  22. Pat

    4/28/2010 7:17 am

    Aweber never fails to impress when working to integrate tools and features that will help me keep in touch with my clients.

    Thanks, Aweber! 🙂

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  26. Sarah Smith

    3/24/2011 10:39 am

    At this point I do almost everything on my phone. And I always send the message in HTML text so there are no issues!

  27. Dee Sydia

    5/10/2011 9:00 am

    Another thing, make your email direct to the point. Don’t clutter it with useless images or flashy texts, just tell them what you want them to know, and that’s it.

    A simple message is all that you need. It can even net you a new customer!

  28. James

    6/28/2011 10:57 pm

    I 100% agree with your point of view. Everything makes complete sense now, thank you.

  29. Naomi Campbell

    8/28/2011 2:07 pm

    This article is well-written plus it has some pictures that go with the steps. With this I can visualize the steps easily. I am more engaged to try these mobile design tips!

  30. B

    8/29/2011 3:45 am

    This is a wonderful tip for email marketer. And those who have some busy schedule and always on the go person “like me”. I always have received email from my phone and it really help me get in touch with out any laptop on hand. Including plain text can really be helpful.

  31. Jackey Wordstooln

    9/5/2011 2:07 pm

    “You should always include alternative text for images. While some phones are sophisticated enough to display HTML emails, there’s not always the guarantee that your images will display properly.” Yes, I’ve experienced this with my own android phone.

  32. B

    9/17/2011 9:35 pm

    This is a wonderful review. For me, I send a HTML and pure txt. This can be useful.

  33. Michael Haley

    3/14/2013 3:02 pm

    This old article was linked to from a current new post 03/14/2013. But much has changed since this article was written. For instance, mobile responsive websites respond to the display size and are quite compatible. But what about our html emails? How do you design a template to be responsive so that the email is just as easy on a smart phone as a pc?

  34. Jimmy Johnson

    3/14/2013 6:55 pm

    Picked up a serious tip about crowding clickable links. This is good advice for blog post too, I know I have been guilty. Always great tips and content here.