Our upcoming 25-page report, "Email Design & Coding Recommendations," addresses the current wave of changes affecting email design, including the rapid adoption of HTML-friendly smartphones, the exploding tablet market, and the launch of Facebook Messages. Here's a sneak peek:
Small screens. Sales of smartphones that render HTML email well are booming thanks to the iPhone and a mega-slew of Android-powered phones. Not only do these phones render HTML emails well, but smartphones are driving increased use of email. Most marketers will find that slightly more than 10% of their subscribers are viewing their emails using a smartphone, but teen-focused brands may have a much higher percentage.
While there are lots of smartphones out there, iPhones are still dominant, so we use that platform as the basis of our recommendation of limiting email width to 640 pixels or less. Very few of the top online retailers that I track currently meet this recommendation.
We also recommend that marketers:
Touch-friendly. In addition to smartphones, the other platform explosion has been tablets, driven by the iPad. Providing more evidence that tablets have gone mainstream, the iPad 2 sold out its debut weekend, with 400,000 to 600,000 units sold.
The primary design concern with tablets is making links and buttons touch-friendly, following the same size and padding that we recommend to be smartphone-friendly. This is generally most effective in the design of navigation bars and recovery modules, where link density tends to be very high. Among the retailers I track, only B&H Photo Video has a touch-friendly nav bar. Link density will have to be re-thought as tablet usage increases.
Text only. B2C emails have been strongly HTML-oriented for a number of years now. While the text portion of a multipart email has been necessary for the small percentage of users who used BlackBerry phones and other HTML-unfriendly platforms to read email, it has gotten new life from Facebook Messages, which displays text only by default. While it's still too early to see where this platform is going, it's likely to find traction among teenagers and 20somethings. We recommend monitoring your list for new @facebook.com addresses to see how concerned you should be.
To create a strong text version of your emails, we recommend that you:
What other changes on the horizon do you see shifting the way we design marketing emails?