When to Use a Mobile Template

Dutch HollisI’ve been quoting Marshall McLuhan that “the medium is the message” (or perhaps misquoting it), since I read it nearly 20 years ago. But I’m pretty sure I’ve got it right when we talk about when to use mobile templates for email. So using McLuhan as a starting point, what actually is the “medium” of mobile email?
Mobile is a choice. It’s one way of many to interact with a message. It’s ubiquitous. It’s always on. It’s a small screen. It’s a short time to get someone’s attention. It’s a productivity and triage tool. It’s used with fingers, not a mouse. It’s imperfect cellular data connections.

So, when designing our mobile email templates, we need to solve for these traits.

As we said before, you probably don’t want to send mobile-optimized email as the default unless you’ve asked your recipients for their preference. If I’m using my mobile device for “triage” (weeding out what’s most important) or convenience but plan to read more once I’m on my PC, I’ll want the “full version” to be default. However, if I’ve given you a mobile preference, feel free to send me that version. (Just be sure to make it easy for users to switch back their preferences.)

If we assume mobile templates aren’t the default, then we need to make the option (to view it via mobile) easy and quick to find. Have a link to “View mobile version.” Keep that link near the top of your design and make it easy to both read and tap (yes tap, not click). Make it spaced enough to be touched with a chubby fingertip at the default size, without making the user zoom in or out. You also don’t want it to be too close to other links.

As Scott and Todd both mentioned, you need to accommodate the most popular devices with device-aware templates. This will address some of the design issues, by leveraging the elements of that particular platform/interface to make your mobile version instantly usable. Something as simple as giving an iPhone user buttons that actually look like iPhone buttons and your battle to communicate meaning is half won.

Don’t go crazy with devices. Use your mobile traffic analytics to determine the top few, in concert with the fact that many OS/browser combinations render the same result. We’ve settled on three for now.

Again, Todd did an excellent job describing simple, clean, content-forward design for mobile devices and I encourage you to check out that post.

But what discussion on marketing would be complete if we didn’t close the loop? Some advice…

First, once you’ve deployed your mobile template solution, re-evaluate your mobile traffic by device. Are the new templates being used? By which devices? You may find that certain devices click to mobile template more frequently than others.

Secondly, you may choose to optimize these templates through the use of an A/B/N test plan in the same way you optimize landing pages or email campaigns, looking at clicks from the mobile template as your key performance indicator.

Use this data to your advantage. Optimize, measure, repeat.

So when your audience says “I want my mobile,” give them an experience they’ll appreciate.

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  1. When to Use a Mobile Template…

    Mobile is a choice. It’s one way of many to interact with a message. It’s ubiquitous. It’s always on. It’s a small screen. It’s a short time to get someone’s attention. It’s a productivity and triage tool. It’s used with fingers, not a mouse. It’s impe…

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