If you read your email regularly using an Internet-enabled phone, you probably know that it’s an experience that can swing from awesome to awful. While an email newsletter can look superb in the inbox, when squeezed onto a small screen, it can become absolutely unusable, with small fonts, narrow columns and broken layouts being common issues.

In this guide, we’ll look at why designing for mobile has become a necessary skill for email designers, cover the fundamentals of designing and building a mobile-friendly email and back it all up with some neat tips and techniques.

Why optimize your email for mobile?

If you send email newsletters, it’s likely that a growing percentage of your subscribers are reading your messages on an iPhone, tablet or similar. When we last surveyed email client popularity in 2011, we found that almost 20% of email opens occurred on a mobile device, rising dramatically from a mere 4% of the market when we last ran the numbers in 2009. iOS devices accounted for over 90% of these reported opens.

What this means for designers is that getting your email newsletter to display optimally on mobile devices is just as important as ensuring it can be read in long-standing email clients like Outlook and Gmail. In fact, mobile email client usage is soon set to eclipse both that of webmail and desktop clients, meaning that providing a less-than-optimal reading experience on the small screen may not only inconvenience a few recipients, but eventually the majority. This could lead to diminished response rates, or as Return Path summarized in a recent report:

“…those that aren’t tracking which device their subscribers are reading their emails on, or optimizing their emails or websites for mobile devices stand to lose out. A poor user experience could mean no response, no action, or plainly put, no ROI.”
‘Email in Motion: How Mobile is Leading the Email Revolution’, Return Path, 2011

In this guide, we’ll look at a couple of ways you can improve the mobile email experience, from the use of media queries when coding up responsive layouts, to more advanced techniques. We’ll also cover design considerations when planning your newsletter and even look at how to best cater your subscribe forms to smartphone users.

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