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If Your Emails Aren’t Mobile-Compatible, Don’t Hit Send: Best Practices for Optimizing Responsive Email Designs

By Christina Hagopian, Creative Director and Owner, Hagopian Ink

Up to 70% of all emails are now opened on mobile devices and the percentage continues to soar. If your emails are not mobile compatible, don’t even bother to hit send. My tried and true design rules for responsive email increase open rates, improve click rates and drive results.

Six best practices for optimizing responsive email designs:

Think columns

Email cannot just be mobile friendly, it’s important that it be responsive. Graphics and text must automatically adjust to maximize scale, font size and readability. Think of email content in a simple grid and create a two or three column layout system, allowing images and text to stack, tumble and scale accordingly. The rules for scrolling have changed with mobile. It’s now ok to scroll, even a long scroll, so let the content flow.

Size matters

Designing responsive email requires you consider how and where your subscribers are viewing your content. Are they on the go, walking and navigating while viewing their phone? Are they at home lounging on their couch with an iPad, or commuting on the subway or bus, sifting through their inbox? Are they in a coffee shop on their laptop or at work on their desktop? Each scenario requires consideration in terms of image, button scale, text length and size –larger, more simplified for your phone, wider for an iPad, and more detailed length for the desktop. Decide how you want to scale and edit for each device, then design and develop appropriately.

Images are in the eyes of the engaged

As a designer first and marketer second, I want everyone to see our beautiful graphics front and center. But unfortunately email is deployed through different system browsers and some disable auto image loading. Don’t ignore this fact. Make sure subscribers can see alt text, preheader text and body content immediately and make them want to click to view more. Entice them to engage. 

Short is sweet

Don’t be a Chatty Cathy. Be a Brief Bridget. You are REALLY lucky if someone opens your email in his or her crowded inbox. You are even luckier if someone reads past the first few lines. Create content that gets to the point quickly. If you have a lot of news to share, spread the content over multiple campaigns. Email is a continuous dialogue. Subscribers generally open your first and second emails but if they know they don’t have time to sift through irrelevant content, they will simply delete subsequent emails without looking past the subject line. Think about your own inbox and whom you do this to. I call this the “email haze” ­– we all do it.

Dare to click

Does your responsive email ask the subscriber to DO anything? It seems obvious but I audit countless emails that do not have a single, clear call to action and it always amazes me. What action do you want me to take? Learn more? Start shopping? Find a store? Sign up for an event? Create bold, graphic buttons with tempting language that scream “ACT.” Don’t make me have to think about what to do next. Lead me.

Create once, send forever

Creating custom, responsive email design takes time. If clients simply wanted to look like everyone else, they could log onto countless email tools to modify stock templates with drag and drop functionality. But smart marketers want to create more immersive, branded experiences. It takes thought and care to customize communications to meet both marketers’ and customers’ needs. Think about multiple content scenarios and build a flexible template that can easily swap images and text systematically. Work diligently to consider all necessary elements and allow image areas and text blocks to flexibly accommodate. With one or two solid templates you can build once and send forever.

If you follow these guides, you will find that you emails inspire higher conversion rates and engender more enduring customer loyalty. So get started.

Christina Hagopian, creative director and owner of Hagopian Ink, has for 18 years created award-winning designs for print and interactive media. Known for her fluid approach to creative direction, Christina has been a trusted resource to clients, collaborators and contemporaries since launching Hagopian Ink in 2002. Christina holds a BFA in Communication Design from Carnegie Mellon University and is an active leader in the New York City design and entrepreneur communities. Contact Christina at:c@hagopianink.com

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