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Hal Licino

Improve Smartphone Rendering of Your Education Email Newsletters

Aug 30 2011, 06:42 PM by

A growing number of your academic and educational email campaign subscribers are accessing your newsletters on a wide variety of mobile web enabled devices. This percentage is growing so quickly that experts estimate that the majority of emails will be opened on smartphones within the next couple of years. In order to keep providing your services efficiently to your varied email subscribers, it is imperative that your emails display properly on as many of these smartphones as possible. Adhere to these top five ways to improve your email rendering on smartphones to ensure that the majority of your subscribers will be able to view your newsletters as intended.
1. Provide a Web Alternative
A number of email clients on smartphones do not render email elements as intended for larger pixel screens such as the ones found on personal computers. But you can take advantage of the fact that their integrated browser functions are often more adept at rendering web pages and usually have superior support for the full spectrum of HTML including zooming and default image viewing. Create a mobile browser version of your email missive on your .edu site and make the link to that alternative prominently feature in the preheader. This will help you capture customers with problematic smartphone email browsers.
2. Keep Images Under 160 Pixels
In most cases you have the option to set up your email message to display at 100% width so that the content resizes to the size of the user's screen, but that is a function that can cause more trouble than it’s worth unless specific guidelines are followed. Many mobile web enabled device screens top out at 320 horizontal pixels, so it goes without saying that any specific element on your email or mobile site web page cannot exceed that size. A good rule of thumb is to keep any image on your page to less than 160 pixels, which will allow your text to flow around the element with a minimum of funky line breaks.
3. Avoid Long Words
Your text content should also take into consideration the line breaks that will be displayed as the words wrap around your images. In many cases with typical fonts and point sizes a word wrap around a 160 pixel element will only allow you about 20 total characters including spaces. To avoid troublesome hyphenations you should avoid not only hyper-long words often found in academic content such as magnetohydrodynamics and deinstitutionalization, but even certain geographical place names such as Muckanaghederdauhaulia in Ireland's County Galway and almost every town in Wales (Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwyllllantysiliogogogoch, anyone?) Fortunately many very long words and place names are already hyphenated, such as Winchester-on-the-Severn in Maryland.
4. Display Spreadsheets in Image Format
Blackberry smartphones are infamous for their rejection of multiple content columns and any tables with nested elements. To allow your data to be displayed accurately you should restrict your tables to a single column. If you absolutely have to show a multiple column layout for a spreadsheet or similar purpose, you're going to be better off by saving the columns as an image and embedding it in your mobile browser web page.
5. Rely Strongly on Alt Tags
Alt tags are absolutely imperative as many smartphones still stubbornly refuse to load images by default. Ensure that your alt tags clearly define the essence of the image without going overboard into extremely literal descriptions. You may also want to define a different background color for each element on your page so that the users accessing your messages with images off will see a Mondrian-type pattern with alt tags describing the image elements that would have normally been visible there.

Catering to the wide variety of smartphone image resolutions need not be a nightmare. Adopt these five key steps and keep your subscribers happy and reading!

Posted in Tips & Resources, Deliverability, Email Design & Templates, Education

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