I have a question for you, and please be honest. When was the last time you checked which email clients are most commonly used by your mailing list? If your lists look anything like mine, you’ll be surprised to see that iPhone has far-and-away the highest percentage of users, with Hotmail trailing behind and Gmail somewhere in the single digits (gasp!).  The chart below represents the breakdown of email clients for one of my biggest brands.

Shocking, right? A report by Campaign Monitor suggests that mobile email use has grown from 4 percent of the market to 20 percent in two years. The bottom line is, if you’re not optimizing your email marketing for mobile, you’re missing opportunities.

After much research and deliberation, I’ve come to the conclusion that the easiest and best way to handle mobile optimization (for now) is to improve your regular email design to be mobile-friendly. Ensuring that your emails look good on both desktop computers and mobile devices is a delicate balancing act, so here are a few tips to help you out:

  • Subject line: Make sure the main message of your subject line is within the first 15 characters, because for a lot of mobile clients, that’s all they’re going to see.
  • Layout: Use a simple, stacked layout as opposed to a multi-column layout.
  • Width: Keep the width to 600 px or less.
  • Font: Use a font size of 14 pts or higher for body copy and 30 pt for headers. Anything smaller than 12 pts will be automatically resized to 12 pts on Apple devices, causing text to wrap and email designs to break.
  • Buttons and links: Make buttons and links big and “clickable.” According to Apple, the ideal size for a clickable area is 44 px. That’s not to say that all buttons have to be 44 px, just that there shouldn’t be any buttons or links closer together than 44 px. Otherwise you run the risk of a “mistap.”
  • Click-to-call: Use a plain text phone number or a click-to-call button. It stands to reason that mobile users are likely to have a high conversion rate over the phone. The idea here is to make it as easy as possible for them to do that.
  • Ergonomics: Remember that ergonomically, you’re designing for people’s thumbs. Keep that in mind as you’re placing important elements such as call-to-action buttons. For instance, they shouldn’t go in the lower right corner because it’s uncomfortable to click there.
  • General best practices: Most of the best practices for regular email design still apply. Keep the copy to a minimum, use images wisely, balance images with plain text, use alt text, and always – always – include a plain-text version.

Another interesting option we’re exploring is special code that will automatically optimize the email for the screen it’s being viewed on. This method is somewhat complicated and also requires some tweaking to your email design, but the folks over at Campaign Monitor explain it quite well. We’ll be testing this in house and writing a follow-up post with our results, so stay tuned!