September 05, 2012

Tweaking E-Mail for the Mobile Age

Ever since e-mail programs gave users the option of blocking images, many organizations have added short notes to the top of their messages—variations on “Trouble viewing this e-mail? Click here”—to direct recipients to online versions of the e-mails, images and all.

But while the notes make sense for people who read their e-mail on desktop computers, they can reduce the number of people who open the message when checking e-mail on mobile devices, says Holly Ross, executive director of the Nonprofit Technology Network.

She says that if someone is checking e-mail in a preview pane on a computer, they’ll usually be able to see enough of the message to know what it’s about.

“But on a mobile device, often all you see is a name, some part of the subject line, and then you see, 'E-mail not displaying correctly?' and that's about it,” says Ms. Ross. “It doesn't give the mobile user very much information about whether or not they want to open that e-mail.”

Mobile-Friendly Messages

As the number of people who read e-mail on smartphones continues to jump, nonprofits should think about creating a version of their messages designed to be read on the devices’ small screens, says Ms. Ross.

And, she says, they should be smart about how they order the text in the mobile version of the message. “Instead of saying, 'Do these images look funny?' " Ms. Ross says, say something that tells recipients what the message is about.

Go Deeper: The current issue of The Chronicle takes an in-depth look at how nonprofits are responding to the explosion in traffic from mobile devices.

Learn how charities are retooling their Web sites to make them easy to read on small screens. Find out more about using responsive design for better site display, and read how the Human Rights Campaign increased the number of mobile users who responded to the group’s advocacy alerts.