Page 3 of 3

Mobile Email Design 101

Depending on when you send and who makes up your audience, mobile devices will account for 10 – 30% of all email opens (source). Let me repeat that: 10 – 30% of your emails are being read on a mobile device.

Have you even looked at your company’s marketing emails on an iPhone?

Esquire eNews email designEsquire eNews email design
What is important here? What is all that tiny, blurry stuff at the top? Is Gisele with Eli Manning now, I thought she was married to Tom Brady?

It might not be pretty. That could mean that those emails you think are going to be big hits are instead big duds with around one out of every five of your customers, regardless of how well thought out your messaging, imagery, or marketing plan is. Your emails could be broken, hard to read, overly complicated, or just plain ugly. If you didn’t design your email with mobile in mind then there’s a good chance you’re leaving conversions on the table with your email marketing campaigns.

The same email will be displayed on all HTML-based email clients including smartphones, so take the time to make sure you’re communicating as effectively as possible to all of those in your email lists. Some basic design changes to your emails can make a huge difference in the usability and success of your emails.

Sure, iPhones and Android phones in general do a great job rendering even complicated email designs. The default clients on modern smartphones actually do a much better job of displaying CSS (including CSS3) emails than the most popular desktop and webmail clients. That doesn’t mean, however, that they display emails in a way that is going to make your subscribers want to read your content or click the links you want them to click. Depending on your text size, layout, and image selection, there is a chance that subscribers won’t even see the most important parts of your email.

As with webpages, the email clients simply either zoom out to fit the entire width of an HTML email design into 320 pixels or with simpler emails arbitrarily increase all the font sizes. There is more that you can and should be doing to make your emails successful on mobile devices.

The first steps to a successful mobile email strategy include following some general mobile best practices and focusing on the readability, impact, and primary conversion of your email. By implementing these tips you can make your emails more effective regardless of where your subscribers check their email.

Continue reading → Mobile Email Design 101

HP Kills Off TouchPad, webOS Phones

HP TouchPadHP TouchPadThe complicated mobile development market got just a little simpler yesterday as HP discontinued operations related to the production of webOS mobile phones and tablets. Not sure anyone saw this news coming, despite rumors that sales of the TouchPad in particular had been abysmal and prices for the tablet had recently been slashed. HP will “continue to explore options to optimize the value of webOS software going forward” however so webOS itself isn’t quite dead yet.

webOS is a great piece of software but HP’s hardware didn’t wow and their devices never found a place in a competitive marketplace. The OS itself was great to use. It felt intuitive and responsive, and from a aesthetics and usability perspective might have been the closest thing yet to matching Apple’s iOS. Hopefully HP can find a partner or a buyer for webOS and maybe by this time next year we’ll see webOS software on HTC phones or even the next BlackBerry.

Hey, at least the HP Touchpad lasted one day longer than Microsoft’s Kin.

PhoneGap 1.0 Released

The PhoneGap open source mobile development platform released their 1.0 version on Friday at the first ever PhoneGap Day in Portland. The platform originally launched in 2009 and after some iPhone App Store hiccups, they have steadily improved by fixing bugs, adding features, and extending platform support as they approached their 1.0 release. Seven mobile platforms are currently supported including iOS, Android, Blackberry, WebOS, and Windows Phone 7.

PhoneGap is a development platform that allows our developers to leverage standard web technologies to build native, cross platform mobile applications. HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript (along with server-side databases and code) are used to build the base of the mobile web application and then we can wrap that code with PhoneGap in order to leverage native APIs to access a mobile device’s camera or GPS functionality. That standards-based app can then be deployed to the various platforms and app stores.

content-choreograpny

Content Choreography – Content Strategy in a Responsive World

Trent Walton has written (and designed) a great (and beautiful) article on dealing with content in responsive web designs that adapt to the width of visitors’ browsers. Content Choreography is a good discussion of content organization, changing designs too much between various widths, and the workflow needed when creating responsive web sites. Definitely a must read for any designer or developer.

Jason Grigsby of CloudFour has posted an interesting (as always) article on the latest trends in mobile first responsive web design and the numbers show the majority of responsive designs provide very little, if any, file size savings for their mobile versions.

Bypass Lane: Skip the concessions line with an app

Bypass Lane is a service that lets you use your phone to order food and then skip the concessions line at ballparks. It’s a great looking app and well designed website too. There’s an HTML5 web app along with native apps for iPhone, Android, and Blackberry. I originally saw it advertised at the Ballpark in Arlington. I didn’t get to try the app at the game (the service isn’t available up in the cheap seats) but it seems like a great idea to avoid long lines at a big game.

Think Apps are All That Matters for Mobile? Think Again.

The buzz out there now is all about apps. Whether it’s for iPhone or Android, you can’t visit Yahoo.com or watch the local news without hearing all about the latest, greatest mobile app. Dedicated apps that users install from app stores have a lot of advantages and there are some out there we all can’t live without, but you can’t ignore the mobile web.

Two apps that are on most every smartphone user’s home screen are Twitter and Facebook. They’re two of the best designed apps out there and both have been in the top 25 free apps in the iTunes App Store consistently since launch. Knowing that you might think Facebook and Twitter users always take advantage of those great apps when they’re on the go, but the numbers say otherwise. Based on numbers aggregated by Luke Wroblewski, mobile usage of the top two social juggernauts continues to explode and much of it is on the mobile version of their websites:

  • 50% of the more than 500 million active Facebook users currently access Facebook through their mobile devices (250M) compared to 25% a year ago (100M out of 400M). 33% of Facebook posts are sent via mobile devices. (source)
  • Facebook’s top mobile client is m.facebook.com (Facebook’s mobile Web site) with 18% of total new Facebook posts. Android, iPhone, and Blackberry are next each with about 4% of total new Facebook posts. (source)
  • 50% of total active Twitter users are on multiple platforms (mobile) compared to 25% a year ago. 40% of all tweets are sent via mobile. (source)
  • Twitter’s top mobile client is m.twitter.com (Twitter’s mobile Web site) with 14% of total unique users. SMS is next with 8% of total unique users. Then Twitter for iPhone (8%) followed by Twitter for Blackberry (7%). (source)

For both sites, a much higher percentage of people are using the mobile website than any particular mobile app. On Twitter, even SMS is still ahead of the iPhone and Blackberry apps. Whether it’s because they’re on older phones or because they’re following links in an email or a search result (remember that links don’t open apps), it’s clear that just because you offer an app doesn’t mean your mobile web presence is any less important.

Will Apple’s New App Store Subscriptions Force Mobile Development Towards HTML5?

We knew it would be coming when News Corp’s The Daily debuted with it’s in-app subscription model, but this week Apple officially detailed their new subscription service for all iOS app publishers. The new policies allow users to sign up for weekly, monthly, or yearly subscriptions and they can easily pay via the same App Store billing system they used to grab Angry Birds. Apple will handle all the payments and management of the subscriptions and users can go to a single place to cancel any subscriptions they have purchased.

Wow. This is great news… isn’t it?

Turns out it may not be that simple.

Yes, Apple is making it easy to get your subscription content into the App Store and in front of those millions of potential customers, but they’re going to take the same 30% cut they do from any other App Store transaction. And there are also some huge caveats that are making many developers very upset. Check out these two excerpts from Apple’s announcement:

All we require is that, if a publisher is making a subscription offer outside of the app, the same (or better) offer be made inside the app, so that customers can easily subscribe with one-click right in the app.

And also…

…publishers may no longer provide links in their apps (to a web site, for example) which allow the customer to purchase content or subscriptions outside of the app.

Essentially, that means you can no longer link to your subscription options online and if you offer a subscription service elsewhere you must also offer it from within the app. And give 30% to Apple every time a payment is processed.

30% on the initial sale of an app is fair. Apple has built the store, provided the marketplace, and given developers access to millions of consumers. With subscriptions, they are acting as little more than a payment gateway. It is up to the developer of the app to create the subscription features, develop the extra content, communicate to the user that they exist, and then finally convince them to sign up. Apple has no role in converting an app user into a premium subscriber. Even PayPal’s high transaction fees are less than 3% on most transactions. Apple wants 27% more than that just to process your payments.

They’re also not going to let you tell users subscriptions are available elsewhere. The press release stated that if you do offer subscriptions on your website you are required to also offer them from within the app so Apple can get their share. For many SaaS companies, it may not be a sustainable business model if you’re having to give away that much of each sale. Especially when your service is primarily web-based and the iOS app is just a tool for existing customers.

Think about companies such as 37signals who have been thriving for years selling subscription services online. Is there anyone out there looking at the App Store first when evaluating large, full featured project management tools? An iPhone app doesn’t help them sell more subscriptions. It’s just a viewer and a way to do simple tasks in a service you already pay for.

Even more confusing, 37signals and many other companies offer APIs which allow third party companies to develop sites and programs that access their data. There are at least 11 iPhone apps currently available for 37signals’ Basecamp, none of which are actually from 37signals and therefore have no right or ability to sell subscriptions to the service. But Apple’s new rules say that these apps must include a way for Apple to sell an in-app subscription in order to be approved. The new rules are just too broad to be fairly applied in every single case.

Will these changes force some developers to decide against offering iOS versions of their apps? If a service already has a large customer base and doesn’t need Apple’s marketing help, does it make more sense for them to develop their mobile apps in HTML5? Developing with HTML5 would save money on cross-platform development while they also maintain complete control over their subscription revenue. That’s exactly the direction 37signals went earlier this month when they launched a non-native, brand new mobile web app for Basecamp even before these new rules were public.

Overall, the whole thing is clear as mud. And according to the Wall Street Journal, the new rules may raise possible antitrust issues. Apple needs to quickly clarify and possibly amend the new policies and explain when they apply, or they will soon be facing a backlash from the very developers whose work has made the iPhone and iPad a monumental success.