Twelve tips to make your newsletter mobile-friendly

Already, 91 per cent of consumers check their email at least once daily on their smartphones, according to ExactTarget’s 2014 Mobile Behaviour Report. And of all the emails consumers receive, more than half are opened on mobile devices, according to Experian’s August 2014 Quarterly Email Benchmark Report.

That’s great…if your newsletter is optimised for mobile devices, but almost 75 per cent of consumers will delete an email instantly if it does not display correctly, according to BlueHornet’s 2014 Consumer Views of Email Marketing report.

Given those stakes, it’s worth your while to design your newsletter to be mobile-friendly.

FIPP’s Innovation in Magazine Media 2015-16 World Report includes a chapter on newsletters, still a core component in many publishers’ distribution strategies. Below, Innovation Media Consulting’s John Wilpers, co-editor of the Innovation World Report, lists 12 tips for mobile newsletter success from successful email marketers and publishers.

1. Start by using responsive design or mobile aware design 

Without getting into the details of responsive and mobile-aware design, suffice to say, both enable you to create newsletters that will display properly on whichever platform the reader is using at the time. 

2. Keep subject lines to 45 characters or less

Subject lines longer than 45 characters may not be readable on all mobile phones.

3. Switch to a single column

Scrolling down on a smartphone is not a hassle, but pinching and dragging to read text is. It’s so inconvenient that most of us won’t do it. A single-column format makes your newsletter easy to read on desktops, tablets, and smartphones.

4. Keep your width less than 600 pixels; photos smaller than 300 pixels

If your text is wider than 600 pixels, you’ll be forcing readers to pinch the screen to read it. And nothing motivates readers to trash an email like a chunk of white space where content is supposed to be. That’s what will happen if you include images wider than 300 pixels at the top of your newsletter, like your top banner.

5. Go light on photos

Photos take time to download and if your newsletter is taking too long, readers will simply delete it. Use one good photo to pull readers in, and stop there. Here’s another reason why: “Apple’s iOS automatically enables images to display by default, but many other mobile device platforms — like Android — turn images off by default,” according to Dave Gerhardt, a product marketing associate at ConstantContact. “You can’t assume your images will be displayed. If your email has a bunch of images in it, they might just look like chunks of white space.”

6. Limit the number of elements or stories

Many magazine media newsletters limit themselves to between 10-15 stories. That makes sense to us. Keep in mind; your newsletter is a briefing, not a full-blown magazine.

7. Use large fonts and high-contrast colours

The body text should be no smaller than 11 points and 22 points for headlines. Use dark text on a light background. “Many people turn down the brightness level on the mobile device to help conserve battery — and they are often reading on the go outside in the sunlight — so a strong contrast of colours will be easier to read,” according to ConstantContact’s Gerhardt.

8. Test on multiple platforms

Don’t assume it works. Check it out on desktops, smartphones (several different makes), and tablets (again, several different varieties).

9. Use just one call to action at the top

If you want readers to do something (visit your website, enter a contest, subscribe), make it a simple button and put it at the top of the newsletter. Do not use more than one. And make sure it’s easy to click. Do not put it near other links or buttons and make it big enough for a finger to activate it (at least 40 x 40 pixels).

10. Do not use navigation or menu bars

These can be difficult to size adequately for small devices. “The main links you should need should be a call to action, unsubscribe, share on social networks, and contact email,” according to Wendy Yung, marketing manager for marketing company Emarsys. That’s it.

11. Do not stack links on top of one another

Given the size of the screen of a mobile device, and the size of the human thumb, it is very easy to click on the wrong link if they are too close together. Either enlarge them or keep them far away from each other.

12. Place the unsubscribe button away from all other buttons

Again, given the size of the screen and the size of human fingers, you don’t want the unsubscribe button anywhere near other button where it could be clicked by mistake.  

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