Go Mobile or Go Home

By • November 26, 2012

Marcus Underwood
Marcus Underwood, Chief Innovation Officer, Naylor Association Solutions

The explosion of smartphone usage continues to alter the way we conduct our personal and professional lives, but have you considered how this wave might be adversely affecting your member communication efforts? Yes, an always-connected member can be a positive thing, as it allows you to reach that member in ways never before possible. However, if you aren’t able to create mobile-friendly communications, you may be turning off members—possibly for good.


  • More email is now read via mobile device than via a desktop client or webmail.
  • The majority of mobile recipients will delete your email if it’s hard to read or formatted improperly.
  • Content and subject lines should be as concise as possible in a mobile environment.
  • Responsive design can help the reader experience regardless of mobile device used.

Mobile usage has increased dramatically over the past few years. Consider the latest research:

Clearly, and not surprisingly, this is a significant and permanent shift in how we use the “killer app” of the Internet: email. But what does it mean for your member communication efforts? Stated simply, an enewsletter that is not formatted for mobile, or does not offer a mobile-friendly version, will do you more harm than good.

Surveys show that your members will delete your eNewsletter immediately if they receive it on their mobile device and it is not formatted well or easy to read. And, most likely, they will never go back and read it on their computers. In a recent BlueHornet survey, 69 percent of respondents said they would delete email it if it was hard to read and, worse, 18 percent said they would unsubscribe. So it’s easy to do the math here: If your email isn’t mobile friendly, an increasing number of people will never get your messages.

To keep this from happening, there are a number of things that you can do to increase the likelihood of successfully reaching your audience. A few things to keep in mind when creating your content:

Five quick tips to make your email mobile friendly

  1. Keep subject lines short—30 characters or less (not much room on the device).
  2. Limit data-heavy tables and large pictures.
  3. Keep the contents short and link to more info.
  4. Use large fonts for links to make tapping easier for readers.
  5. Use a single column layout. It’s easier to render on a mobile device than a two column layout.

Beyond content changes, there are a few technical paths you can take to improve your chances of success:

  1. Responsive design: Responsive design seeks to provide the best experience to each reader, regardless of the device. Using CSS code or HTML5, it is possible to identify the type of device the user is viewing the content on (desktop, tablet, iPhone, etc.) and show that user a layout that is optimized for their device. To do this effectively, your newsletter content needs to be stored in a Content Management System (CMS) and there are some limitations about the size of images and tables used. This technique is relatively new but gaining traction fast and will likely become the norm.
  1. Keep it simple: Basic, one-column text with minimal graphics and tables will likely render well on any device. While it is true that on a computer this may look pretty dull, it is a sure-fire way to ensure universal readership. Several email user-interface experts think that this is they way to go, especially if you are in an industry that is news driven, and you don’t provide many images already.
  1. Mobile web version: This method typically is shown as a link at the top of the email that says something like “Click Here for Mobile Version.” When clicked, a web browser will open and the user will essentially be viewing the newsletter on a webpage optimized for a smaller screen. This is the method that Naylor uses for all of its eNewsletters, and we have found that it produces the most universally consistent results. To do this efficiently, you still need some sort of CMS or database in order to store the content for easy conversion. But most email services (as well as Naylor) provide this functionality as part of the product.

Regardless of which solution you choose, make sure to look at your eNewsletter on your smartphone, and make adjustments where you can. The payoff can be big, and just as importantly, the risks of NOT becoming mobile friendly are growing larger by the day.

Marcus Underwood is vice president and general manager of NaylorNet, the online media solutions division of Naylor, LLC.