Op-Ed: Four Beginner’s Tips to Designing Mobile-Friendly Emails

Four Beginner’s Tips to Designing Mobile-Friendly EmailsThe following is a guest contributed post from Neil Berman, CEO of Delivra.

More than 53 percent of emails are opened on a mobile device, and this number will only continue to grow. For those not sending emails in a mobile-friendly format, you’re failing to speak the language of your target audience.

Not everyone can master the art of mobile design overnight. For those novices, these four tips will help enable mobile-friendliness in your email marketing strategy.

The value of subject lines & pre-headers

Subject line and pre-headers go together like two peas in a pod. Both are have high-value in every email – whether you’re designing for mobile or desktop – and can help entice readers to open your message rather than clicking delete.

If you’ve been in the email design world for any amount of time, you’ve probably heard this piece of advice: keep your subject lines short and concise. This still holds true for emails delivered to mobile devices, but to an even greater degree. With mobile devices cutting email subject lines short at around 30 characters, it’s important for marketers to create something that’s not only enticing and eye-grabbing, but also able to fit in this limited amount of space.

The pre-header is listed at the very top of your email, above the content. Think of this as an extension of your subject line. iPhones display about 140 characters (in the traditional vertical view), so try limiting the message to 85-100 characters to ensure the whole message is visible.

Architecting the best user experience

With such a small space to design your content, it’s best to make the layout as simple as possible. Keep the number of images limited within the text of your email. It’s also important your text is formatted as short, easy-to-read blurbs.


If you need to split up images for each design, stack them vertically instead of next to each other. This works especially well on devices with narrower screens. As time goes on, this will less likely to be a problem as both Apple and third-party Android device manufacturers are increasing mobile screens sizes. But as of today: better safe than sorry.


Additionally, one of the most important aspects of mobile design is to give all items in your content plenty of space to breathe. While small, packed-together links are easy to click in a desktop setting with a cursor, recipients on smart phones use their fingers to tap links. Designing your buttons and links appropriately to the overall width of your email can make the user experience much more gratifying.

Why responsive design is important

If your multiple-column layout works really well on desktop but doesn’t translate well to a mobile device, it might be a good idea to consider a more responsive design. Responsive designs are constructed using @media queries within a block of embedded CSS at the top of the HTML document. These are filled with new instructions to be followed when an email is opened on a device with a smaller screen size indicted by the designated max-width.


Depending on the instructions coded within that style tag, the layout of the email may change entirely based on whether it’s opened on a desktop computer or a mobile device. Those columns you love on your desktop that don’t work so well on mobile will readjust to better suit the new surroundings.


Test, test, and test again

Testing cannot be stressed enough. It’s always worth the time to view email campaigns on mobile devices, experiment with layouts, and see email code in action. And with the mobile world constantly evolving, the testing process allows marketers to catch odd rendering quirks and make any needed code tweaks ahead of deployment.


We all know smartphones are here to stay. With more than 80 percent of business-to-consumer emails expected to be opened on a mobile device by 2018, traditional emails that neglecting mobile design are bound to be ignored. If you want your email marketing strategy to be engaging and relevant to recipients, the time is now to implement marketing tactics that are compatible with mobile operating systems.