E-mail should be smaller: EmailLabs

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E-mail marketing firm EmailLabs, a subsidiary of J.L. Halsey Corp., is advising business-to-consumer marketers to reduce template size to account for the trend in smaller viewing areas in Web-based e-mail clients.

The recently released Yahoo Mail Beta and Microsoft's Window Live Mail Beta now enable preview panes by default. These smaller reading spaces enable consumers to quickly scan their messages before opening them, forcing marketers to get to the point.

"Marketers need to rethink how their e-mail templates are designed so that the top left corner of the message includes the core call to action," said Lena Waters, director of marketing at EmailLabs, Menlo Park, CA. "It is important to have a full understanding of what the clients are going to see."

Due to widespread adoption of Microsoft Outlook's preview-pane function in corporate settings, business-to-business marketers have been dealing with this design challenge for some time. But this is not true for business-to-consumer marketers, who for the most part always have designed e-mails under the assumption that consumers would see the entire e-mails as designed.

Ms. Waters said that even when messages are viewed in a full window, shrinking real estate can still be a factor. Many e-mail clients now serve display ads on the right-hand side of the screen, taking that space away from the message window. Also, many e-mail programs automatically disable all images in the preview pane, leaving a big red X or an empty space where the main idea should be.

So she recommended adding text-based e-mail navigation in case images are automatically blocked, as well as color backgrounds as opposed to images.

"Designing with these new viewing habits in mind is important to communicating with your customer," Ms. Waters said.

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