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WildApricot Updates

How to Create a Mobile-Friendly Newsletter to Engage Your Members 

Author: Catherine Chea
April 9, 2020
🕑 9 min read

Keeping in touch with members can be a struggle – particularly when you’re not able to run in-person events. Many organizations send a regular newsletter to try to engage their members, but if you find that people aren’t opening your emails or engaging with your newsletter, you’re not alone.

If your newsletter isn’t reaching as many people as you’d like, the problem might be that your newsletter is hard to read on mobile devices.

One of the first things many of us do when we wake up is to check our emails through our smartphone. If this sounds familiar, it’s because two-thirds of people check their emails on their phones instead of viewing them on desktop.

So, if you’re looking to increase the number of people opening, reading and clicking on your newsletter, this post will show you how making it mobile-friendly could help. We’ll cover the best practices for creating newsletters for mobile, and how to make these changes in the WildApricot email editor.

Here’s what you’ll learn about in this post:

  1. Mobile responsive email template 
  2. Compelling subject line and preheader text
  3. Visual hierarchy
  4. Clear and consistent text
  5. Images that enhance your email
  6. Simple color scheme
  7. Strong call-to-action buttons 
  8. Testing 

With these best practices, you’ll be ready to create email newsletters that your members will be excited to open and read.

1. Mobile responsive email template

Now that so many people are reading their emails on mobile devices, every email you send needs to be comfortable to look at on any device, whether it’s a desktop, smartphone, or tablet.

Responsive templates are email templates that automatically adjust the size and positioning of the images and text, so the email is easy to read on different-sized screens. That means people don’t have to look at tiny text crammed on a small screen, so they won’t need to squint their eyes or end up tapping on the wrong link.

If you use WildApricot, all our professionally designed email templates are responsive. If you choose to build your own email design from scratch, the content blocks you use will be automatically stacked to suit mobile screens, so be sure to preview what your email looks like on mobile before you send it.

Below are how email layouts change from a desktop to a mobile screen. You’ll see how the original horizontal columns stack vertically in the mobile view to suit the smaller screen.

WildApricot GIF

How would this look with a fully-designed email? Here’s an example of a fictional wellness community newsletter, which you can use for inspiration.

Animated GIF

Click through to claim your 60-day trial of WildApricot to create effective QR codes that will speed up event check-in.

2. Compelling subject line and preheader text

One reason your members might not be reading your newsletter is that it might be getting lost in the sea of messages in their inboxes. Using a compelling subject line and preheader text can encourage people to see and open your emails. Here are four top tips to make your email stand out from the crowd.

Every word counts

Especially when writing for mobile devices, you don’t have much room. On an iPhone or Android, your members will only be able to see the first 30 characters of your subject line in portrait view. Try to keep your subject line short enough that they’ll be able to read it at a glance. The subject line can be added in the Recipients step of the email editor.

Need a little more space? You can also add preheader text in the email editor. This is the short snippet of text displayed beneath the subject line, between 30 to 55 characters long.

Drawing people’s attention

What are some ways to attract people’s attention? Here are some ideas:

  • Tell an interesting story
  • Pique curiosity with a little mystery
  • Personalize the message
  • Incorporate timely and relevant headlines
  • Offer valuable advice

For example, here are the opening lines of an email newsletter for our fictional wellness community. With as few words as possible, the email subject line and opening line address a concern by asking readers a question and then sharing a relatable scenario.

A screenshot of a cell phone Description automatically generated

Beware of trigger words

Try to avoid using words like “free,” “boss,” or “million”, as these can trigger spam filters. These words can make your text appear too promotional or inauthentic, so your email could end up in someone’s junk folder rather than their inbox.

Who is the sender?

If people can’t trust who the email is coming from, they probably won’t open it.

Make sure it’s clear to your recipients who the email is coming from. If your sender address is full of random characters or looks suspicious, then you risk your email getting flagged as spam. Ideally, if you have a custom domain, you can reduce the chance of your email of being identified as spam by setting up a DKIM record (DomainKeys Identified Mail), which authenticates emails sent from your domain.

3. Visual hierarchy

It can be hard to make sure your readers are taking note of the most important parts of your newsletter if you’re not using visual hierarchy.  Visual hierarchy might sound complex but it’s simply about placing the most important messages at the top.

When you’re creating your newsletter ask yourself: what do I want my readers to know? And in which order?

Here are some visual hierarchy best practices:

  • Have bigger fonts for the main headlines and smaller fonts for less important info
  • Highlight important points by changing the contrast, position, and size
  • Include a logo at the top so people see right away that the email is from your organization

This example shows how you could use visual hierarchy to lay out an email newsletter for mobile screens.

A screenshot of a cell phone Description automatically generated

4. Clear and consistent text

Most people don’t have a lot of spare time to spend reading emails, so if you make their life easier by keeping your newsletter text simple and clear, they’ll be more likely to read to the end of your email.

Here are some ways you can make your text clear for readers:

Sticking to consistent web-safe fonts

Using cursive or bubbly fonts might be fun, but they can make your email difficult to read online. Web-safe fonts are fonts that look consistent on different web browsers—and are easy to read.

In the WildApricot email editor, you can choose from a list of web-safe fonts. Choosing one font that your organization uses and keeping that consistent across your emails and website can also help strengthen your organization’s brand.

A screenshot of a cell phone Description automatically generated

Breaking up text

People typically skim through text when they’re scrolling through their emails, so if you have long paragraphs of text, chances are people won’t stop to read them. Try to use short paragraphs and break up your text with plenty of white space. Using images and bullet points can also help keep people reading to the end.

Always proofread

Proofreading your newsletter text before you send it can make the difference between it landing in inboxes or spam folders. If your email has excessive punctuation, symbols, capitalization, or poor grammar, it could trigger a spam filter and end up in the junk folder.

5. Images that enhance your email

While we highly recommended you include images in your email, having too many images can also make your newsletter less effective.

Having fewer images and reduced file size

We’ve all experienced the frustration of having to wait for a page to load. This often happens when an email has too many images or images that are too big, which makes it even harder to load on a mobile phone that relies on WiFi. Keeping your image resolutions under 500px helps your newsletter load faster.

Here’s a GIF to show you how you can do this in the email editor:

Animated GIF

As you can see, the image will often look the same on the screen even after you’ve changed the resolution, unless you’re making the resolution very low. Generally, 480 by 480 pixels or smaller is the recommended resolution for email content.

Using alt text for images

Not everyone can see the images in your email. Some people have images blocked or turned off for their inbox, while others are visually impaired and rely on screen readers. This is where alt text comes in, which is alternative text displayed with images that tells the reader what the image is about.

A screenshot of a cell phone Description automatically generated

In the email editor, you can label the alt text by clicking an image to open the image settings panel and adding information to the “Image alt text” field.

Avoiding image-only emails

Image-only emails are often seen as spam, so it’s something to avoid entirely. There are many ways to customize your layout within the email editor, so there’s no need to design the entire body as an image.

6. Simple color scheme

Like text, keeping the color scheme in your newsletter simple will help keep your members reading.

Choosing a background that’s easy to read

Using shades of white and grey for the background of your email will make it easy to read on mobile. See the difference between a white background and a bright color background in this example:

A screenshot of a cell phone Description automatically generated                             A screenshot of a cell phone Description automatically generated

The bright color competes with the text, making it hard to read. The white background is much cleaner and simpler to read.

Selecting a few distinct colors

Like painting a room, pick a few distinct colors with complementary shades for your newsletter design.

Consider choosing colors that match your organization’s brand for consistency. To match a color exactly, you can use tools like Color Cop for PC users, or  Digital Color Meter  for Macs, to find the RGB or Hex value of the colors on your website or in your logo. These values are like paint codes for emails. Once you have these values, you can type them in to the email editor to get an exact color match.

The GIF below shows how you can change the background color of your email by typing in your hex code.

Animated GIF

7. Strong call-to-action (CTA) buttons

When you’re trying to get a reader to take an action, like donating or signing up to an event, buttons are your friends. They’re easier to click than hyperlinks, which can get selected by accident, especially on a small device. In the email editor, you can add a button gadget by dragging and dropping it into the body of your email.

One way to get more people to click on your button is to use colors that make them stand out from the text. Labelling your button with an action word like “sign up,” “download,” or “learn more” will encourage people to click.

To label a button in the email editor, click the button gadget to open the button settings panel, and enter your text in the label field.

A screenshot of a cell phone Description automatically generated

Also, it’s best practice to place your call-to-action button towards the top of your email, so people can see it without having to scroll down.

8. Don’t forget to test!

Once you send the email, you can’t take it back—so be sure to test! In the preview page of the email editor, you can click the Send a test button before you dispatch your newsletter to your mailing list.

You can send this email to yourself or forward the email to your colleagues, or your friends and family who can provide their valuable input.

Ask them to look for things like grammar, formatting, and spacing. Is there anything that doesn’t look right? Keep in mind that emails may look different on different browsers and devices, so try opening the email on common browsers or applications like Google Chrome, Safari, and Outlook, and on a desktop, tablet and smartphone.

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I hope you’ve found these tips helpful! Feel free to let us know which ones you’re putting into practice in the comments below.

If you follow these steps, you’ll be well on your way to seeing your newsletter being opened and read by many more people.

For more advice, look at these related articles and posts:

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