“What some call ‘mobile first’ is in truth already ‘mobile majority’. Being mobile-friendly, having content that is quick, usable, graceful, and compelling on smartphones is not optional.”Tom Grinsted, the Guardian
Although email is among the oldest and most basic forms of digital marketing, it still contains many moving parts. Optimizing an email marketing campaign involves keeping up with trends and best practices for formatting and engagement to increase open rates, click-through, and other KPIs.
Mobile-first design is one trend that’s often overlooked – but no less important than elements like a compelling subject line.
The Importance of Mobile-First Design
At its heart, prioritizing mobile-first design means ensuring that your content looks and performs as well on a small mobile screen as on a large desktop monitor. This design concept is also known as mobile responsiveness.
Note that “mobile-first” design isn’t the same as being “mobile-friendly.” A mobile-friendly design concept involves creating a functional design layout on a PC or laptop monitor and then scaling it down to fit a mobile screen.
It’s still accessible for viewing, but the overall experience will not be the same as a layout designed for mobile devices first.
When you prioritize the layout and scale of your content to appeal to mobile users, you’re improving the overall quality of the user experience (UX). As a result, user experience has become one of the most important aspects of SEO, taking precedence over nearly every other aspect of content marketing and web design when search engine crawlers evaluate pages.
It’s so vital in page design that Google switched to mobile-first indexing in 2019. That means Google’s algorithms will evaluate all of your content for mobile responsiveness by default when deciding how to make sense of your content for page ranking.
How does this apply to email? After all, email isn’t something that’s indexed by search engines.
This is true.
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However, email is one of the main points of contact and engagement with users, driving both web traffic and conversion rates that contribute to the success of your overall marketing and customer satisfaction.
When marketing and traffic KPIs fall short, so does your ability to attract and convert quality leads. That will ultimately affect your place in the SERPs.
Email Marketing and Mobile Usage Statistics
Email and mobile responsiveness are intrinsically linked in several ways. First, if you think about how often you check email while you’re on the go, you’ll understand the struggle of most of your fellow consumers as they attempt to read and respond to tiny text and barely visible calls to action.
According to research, more than half of people with smartphones use them to check email. In addition, the average person checks their email 150 times a day.
Moreover, 80% of those users will delete an email that isn’t optimized for a mobile device.
Can your email marketing campaign afford to lose such a large segment of your audience? I don’t think so.
According to statistics, email has the highest ROI of any other form of digital marketing. How high? Consider the potential of a whopping 4,200%!
Yet, one-fifth of marketing emails aren’t optimized for mobile-first design.
The Benefits of Mobile-First Email Design
Although UX is an important consideration when you’re constructing an email, it isn’t the only advantage of prioritizing for mobile devices.
Mobile responsive design also:
• Decreases Bounce rates:- The whole point of email marketing is to connect with your audience more personally. That’s how customer relationships and sales are created.
But how can you accomplish that if your email goes unread? The average bounce rate for email is up to 30% higher than desktop bounce rates, while conversion rates tend to be lower.
Neither rate is good for business when most B2B customers use mobile devices at work.
Most people use their mobile devices to acquire information while they’re on the go quickly. They may check their email, but engagement is lower if it isn’t brief, to the point, and optimized for interaction on a mobile screen.
Optimizing for mobile-first may not entirely fix the problem, but it will improve this critical metric.
• Improves performance:- Another issue with the mobile content is performing. Slow page loads and poor design contribute to a low-quality UX and high bounce rates.
It’s all down to user activity. For example, when someone is reading their email on a mobile device, they’re also more likely to use that same device to respond to CTAs or use mobile search to get more information.
By optimizing your email for mobile responsiveness, you’ll also improve overall performance and increase engagement.
• Supports content scalability:-Mobile-first design concepts improve content scalability. You can optimize smartphone screens’ most essential elements, such as CTA buttons and layout, and add other features that look and perform better on larger screens. For example, reserving video content or a product gallery for your website. You can, of course, link to those in your email message as part of your CTA.
7 Areas of Focus for Mobile-First Email Design
Now that you understand the importance and benefits of mobile-first email design, the next step is to decide which features you should prioritize. These basic design principles and best practices will help ensure a highly responsive and successful email marketing campaign.
- Keep Users at the Forefront of Email Design
If the user experience is the goal, keeping how people use and interact with content on mobile devices is the priority. So take off your marketing hat and view your content through the eyes of your audience.
• How compatible your email is with the priorities, habits, and activity of mobile users
• The convenience and flow of your content in relation to user engagement and interaction. Are users able to engage efficiently and accomplish your intended mission?
• How well does your messaging address their pain points or nurture them further along on their journey
If possible, check out your competition. What are they doing right, and how can you improve in areas where they’re falling short? What types of things are a turnoff when checking your own email?
- Visualize the Content Hierarchy
You’ll save time and support quality results if you visualize your content hierarchy and layout before constructing your message. Consider the goal of your message in relation to user intent and priorities, and then build the structure to deliver the essential information. You can use design thinking tools to make the process easy.
Your message hierarchy should elegantly lead the eye through the content while helping the recipient discern what information is most critical and those elements that are secondary.
For example, titles and CTAs should pop in the viewer’s eye and frame the content. One-sentence paragraphs or bullet points lead the eye downward toward a conclusion and call to action.
Tools like an email template and flowchart creator will help you to visualize a unified, consistent email campaign that’s responsive and strategic.
3. Keep the Design and Layout Short and Simple
TL;DR is just as much a mindset for email as it is for social media commentary. Besides, no one using a mobile device has the time or the attention span to navigate through a long, rambling message.
The goal is to focus the reader on the important elements of your email and compel them to act on them. That means simplicity in design and content that quickly gets to the point.
Elements of clean email design include:
Typography that’s clear and fonts that are large enough to read on a mobile screen, Sans-serif fonts are a good option. That means non-serif fonts rather than those letters that look fancy on a large screen but are pixelated and hard to read on a mobile device. Consider instead Arial, Courier New, or Times New Roman.
Short lines and whitespace to set them off:- Negative space is not only easy on the eyes, but it also helps to focus the reader on the content.
Whitespace as it relates to content can be divided into two categories:
- Active white space that’s used to focus the eye on specific content
- Passive white space between sections and around the edges of the email
Content layout:-Stick to one column of content with wide borders and clean, justified text.
Interactive emails are fine. In fact, they’re expected and improve that all-important UX. Just try to limit the number of links and images to perhaps one of each.
4. Prioritize Your CTAs
One of the main reasons for sub-par click-through is also one of the most basic and easy to fix: you need a clear call to action. It’s surprising how often content marketers neglect to provide a clear directive for what their audience should do with their information.
Whether it’s a button or a clickable link, make sure that your CTA is large, prominently displayed front and center at the end of your message, and contains a clear directive for what the reader should do next. Touch targets should measure a minimum of 44 pixels square.
5. Optimize the Content for Performance
The user experience from one platform to another should be seamless. That means optimizing for performance as well as scalability and responsiveness.
Performance can be improved in email design in much the same way you optimize it for any other marketing platform:
• Optimize the content to improve load times. Shorter messages help the message load fast, and they will decrease the chances of your message being clipped. Ideally, the recipient should be able to take in the whole message whether their screen is in landscape or portrait orientation without scrolling or swiping, and it should load in three seconds or less.
• Use visual media sparingly. Rather than adding a video, link to it on another platform instead. Avoid audio clips and any media that auto-plays. Use a thumbnail image that links to your gallery.
• When linking to your website, landing page, or another online platform, make sure that the links lead to content that’s also optimized for mobile use.
• Eliminate any feature that relies on a hover control to trigger interaction. This capability isn’t yet available on mobile devices.
6. Mind Your Media
I’ve covered media a bit previously, but there are some specifics about video, graphics, and images that require further attention and explanation. For example, text on images is virtually indistinguishable on a mobile screen. If you must augment photo content with text, place them separately.
Image size and orientation also impact the mobile experience. Landscape-oriented images and graphics don’t render well on mobile screens, and large graphics just overwhelm the eye. Better to avoid both.
Video adds interest, but large file sizes affect performance. If you must include a video, use a short clip and offer the reader the option to link to the full version.
7. Test and Test Again
Before sending that first email, you need to test each component for the above design elements. Even in web building environments that provide page previews for different screen sizes, the results will not always be consistent when viewing the page live.
Many are the times that I designed content in WordPress, checked the preview, and then saw something completely different when I tested the live page on an actual device.
Designing the actual content for a mobile screen first, then viewing it on an actual mobile device before going live, will save time and ensure that your email looks and performs exactly as intended. Make sure that your testing includes various smartphone operating systems. It should look and perform just as well on Android as on iOS or Google Pixel.
Your email marketing campaign is the foundation that supports all of your customer conversion, outreach, and engagement. In terms of ROI, it’s also one of the most cost-effective.
If you want to maximize the benefits of email marketing and minimize the downside, like higher bounce rates, it’s essential that you put mobile responsiveness first.
About the Author: Uday Tank is a serial entrepreneur and content marketing leader who serves the international community at Rankwisely. He enjoys writing, including marketing, productivity, business, health, diversity, and management.