I Wasn’t Open to Change, Just Changing How I Open

So I guess I probably belong to about 30 or 40 various email lists: vendors from whom I’ve purchased, group discount deals, shopping news websites, travel… the list goes on. But lately I’ve been noticing a behavior change. Whereas before I’d often look at the all important subject line, I think I’m now just checking out who sent the email and deciding to open solely based on that. As a matter of fact, I can’t really recall any subject lines from any email I’ve opened in the last few weeks.

Without looking at my laptop, I can easily recount my favorite senders and what messages they’ve sent. But I wanted to know what I wasn’t opening, so I opened up good ol’ Gmail. Hmmn, I passed on opening newsletters from a music site, an airline, a creative magazine… and this list goes on and on too.

How Did I Pass Up Some Good Subject Lines?

So then I looked at the subject lines: Special This, Deal on That, Introducing This, Important Notice about That. Honestly, I’m numb to this. But I was surprised that I also ignored some brands I care about (usually seeing them in a subject line makes me open) and some witty, interesting subject lines (I’m a sucker for off-kilter subjects). I was truly surprised that I was passing up some good stuff. Am I just overwhelmed by the volume of email and unable to pick out things I care about?

No One Was Calling but It Was Time to Pick Up the Phone

Then I got to thinking: I rarely check my email on the Gmail webpage. I rarely check it on my laptop at all. I check it mostly on my phone! So I had to get up off this comfy chair, retrieve my iPhone and look to see just exactly how my emails show up. As I was walking over, I tried to recall how email messages are displayed on my phone. Maybe the subject lines are truncated…

The iPhone Almost Forces You to Look at Sender First

Two seconds later the answer was painfully obvious. I clicked the circle, slid the thumb and touched the mail icon on the bottom of the screen. As I stared at my iPhone’s mail client, I saw that Apple’s iPhone email display was encouraging me to focus primarily (if not solely) at the sender of my emails.

No, the subject lines were not truncated, but they were in a subordinate position. On my laptop, the sender and subject line come in at similar sizes. But on the iPhone, the sender literally receives top billing: Bold, double size and on top. Have a look here:

Just glancing down, all I see is “Overstock, Groupon, YouTube…” and some clothing deal newsletters. Never mind the somewhat compassionate “Animal Rights” subject line. Forget about Matix and other clothing brands. And if I’m overwhelmed by Groupon’s mail rate (I am), I just pass on it and totally overlook their deal on a cool wine bottling experience (I did). Looking back, I probably would have opened some of these if the subject line had top billing.

So What Now?

I dunno. You tell me. Is there a setting that lets me switch how this looks? Can I swap the positions of the sender and subject line? I’ve had this phone for a few years and this is honestly the first time I thought about it. Chances are good that a great percentage of iPhone users never will think about this. I don’t know if this counts for everyone in the world, but it’s now true for me: If you want me to open your email newsletter, you’d better be a name I really trust to deliver the goods.