Webinar Q&A with Chris Studabaker


After our popular Mobile Email Design webinar (you can watch the recording if you missed it), we had lots of follow up questions from attendees. I sat down with Chris Studabaker to cover some of them for you.

Video support for mobile

Steve Roberts: Do you know where video support is heading for mobiles?
Chris Studabaker: Current video support is spotty, especially in email on a mobile device. Dave over at Campaign Monitor posted a great blog in which he explored some specifics related to HTML5. In the foreseeable future, I recommend linking to externally hosted video and using visual cues, such as an image with a superimposed play button, to indicate the presence of video content.
Paul Farnell: The company LiveClicker have a tool that automates the creation of different video formats for different devices. It’s not cheap, but could be an option worth exploring.

Coding email for mobile

Jon Harding: Can you provide HTML examples as to how to design an email that expands/contracts on a mobile device?
PF: Here’s the email that Chris coded with his ExactTarget team. You can see by viewing the source code that they are using a similar technique to that described by Campaign Monitor. This adjusts the layout if the device using an @media query. Note that this only works for devices using the Webkit engine to render the message (iPhones, Android, Palm Pre, latest BlackBerry, etc.).

Mary Callahan: Is there software you recommend for coding/building email campaigns for mobile? An alternate to Dreamweaver?
CS: I’m coding by hand and would recommend it if building an email specifically for mobile. I do re-use some pieces of code where possible, and also use a coding shorthand powered by TextExpander for common code blocks (standard <img> or <a> tags, for example).

Michelangelo Buttitta: Is there a possibility to download a code example for the flexible size (from two to one columns)?
CS: The sample email built for this presentation does just this. It’s still available – simply text “mobile yourEmail@address.com” (without quotes) to 88769 or view a hosted version.

Marko Paljusi: Do we need a “multi-part” mobile version (like we now have multi-part html/text)?
CS: Mobile represents a new step for HTML email, though not a new technical format. In fact, in many cases smartphones represent greater technical capabilities than any other emails clients! I think smart formatting of existing content is best current solution, with a special mobile version being built only in very specific use cases.

Other mobile devices

Frank Piacitelli: There wasn’t any mention of Windows Phone 7 in the webinar. Care to comment on these devices specifically?
CS: Until Windows Phone 7 has a much more significant market share, it’s simply not a large enough segment to denote special attention. Also, it’s using Webkit in the browser and I think in the mail app, so it’s a good bet that WP7 would fall into the ‘mobile enabled’ category.

Mobile users’ behavior

Andy Driscoll: How does Litmus Email Analytics measure the time a user looks at an email?
PF: We are able to keep open a connection to the recipient’s email client to time how long they view the message for. We track this to the second. We then summarize this into three categories: glanced/deleted, skim read and read. Less than two seconds is glanced/deleted; up to 7 seconds is skim read; over 7 seconds is counted as a read. There’s some further information on how Email Analytics works in this article on our help site.

Josh Nason: Chris mentioned that people mainly ‘triage’ email when using a mobile device. What does he mean?
CS: Triage is the action of sorting and/or determining priority. To paraphrase Jeff Pierce from IBM: in the context of the mobile inbox, triage is the act of “what’s new, what can I delete right away, and what’s so important I need to respond with my thumbs?”

Other resources

Juan Calderón: Are there some web resources for mobile design that you recommend?
CS: Currently, I’m loving CSS iPhone and Mobile Awesomeness. Both provide awesome design, content, and UX inspiration for thinking about mobile email. Yiibu also has some interesting articles on thinking about the mobile experience. None of these resources – and none that I’ve found on the web – are directly and tactically addressing design for mobile email. It’s both very exciting and sometimes difficult. Our best strategy is to push forward by absorbing the evolving ideas and learnings of mobile web experts and apply them with our own email expertise.