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Catering for Email Compatibility

Your readers all use different devices and inboxes to read your emails. Today we'll explore how best to cater for email compatibility in your email strategy.

Person holding an iPhone, close up with a long-exposure filter

Catering for email compatibility

You may not realise this, but it is statistically more likely that more emails are being opened on a mobile device than on a desktop or tablet.

If you’re sending emails that aren’t optimised for the device or inbox via which your email is being read, then you’re (inevitably) going to begin losing readers and results.

Don't just take my word for it, here are a few quick stats you'll want to consider:

  • 42.3% of users delete emails that are not optimized for mobile devices.

  • Mobile email views outrank desktop views by up to 3x.

  • A whopping 75% of Gmail users read their emails on a smartphone or tablet.

And the list goes on...

One thing becomes quite clear: It's no longer recommended but essential to ensure you create a great email experience for your readers, regardless of the device they’re reading your email on.

Today we'll be looking at a few inbox and device compatibility considerations you'll want to keep in mind when creating your email campaigns and strategies.

Email compatibility in a nutshell

If you've never come across the term before, email compatibility refers to the ability of an email to be properly displayed, and functional across the various email clients (inboxes), devices, and operating systems you get.

Since different email clients and devices interpret HTML and CSS code differently, looking after compatibility helps your email appear as you intend it to, regardless of the platform your audience is reading your emails on.

This includes maintaining the visual integrity of the email, ensuring proper rendering of images and text, and enabling any interactive features or buttons to work seamlessly across different environments.

It's relatively obvious that emails look different in different inboxes, or on different devices, but so often email marketers are building and testing our emails on a laptop or desktop.

You can see where the potential dropped catch comes in here, right?

Why compatibility matters

It should be pretty self-explanatory, but here are 4 reasons that add extra impetus to begin aggressively focusing on compatibility in your email strategy:

  1. User Experience (UX) Improvement: It's always, and I mean ALWAYS, about your readers. If you create a great email experience for them, not only will this show them that you're keeping them top-of-mind, but will also likely lead to higher engagement in your emails.

  2. Maximised Reach: If someone can't properly access your email, they'll no longer stay engaged. If you're looking to optimise the reach of your email content or offer, you'll want to focus on compatibility.

  3. Brand Consistency: Your emails convey your brand and the way readers perceive you as a business, creator or teacher. A solid brand and attention to visual detail lead to ongoing credibility. The benefit? Enhanced brand recognition and trust.

  4. Avoiding Spam Filters: Looking after compatibility can also help avoid your emails from being flagged as spam. It's known that some email clients and inboxes may treat emails with formatting issues as potentially malicious.

Now that we understand why you want to focus on compatibility within your emails, we can look at a few ways to get this right in your next campaign.

An Apple Macbook, iPad and iPhone laying side-by-side on a wood surface

Watch the length of your subject lines

A typical desktop inbox displays about 60 characters of an email’s subject line, while mobile devices show just 25-30 characters. Or email subject lines are typically around 60 characters (unless you've added your full name to our sign-up form). We do this as part of our strategy to remain consistent with a visual principle in the inbox that we'll likely discuss in a future email, however, your strategy may differ. According to statistics and emails analysed, having reviewed over 2 million emails from 3,000 senders, it’s been noted that most subject lines were between 41-50 characters. This means that almost half of a subject line is eradicated when looking at these on most mobile devices.

To help you determine the best subject line length, you may already have a tool at your disposal: Your email client usage report.

If you have an idea of what inbox or device your readers are using to read your emails, you've already won half the battle.

This allows you to optimise for the inboxes that the majority of your readers use, instead of merely guessing.

Here's a brief example of the report I use to do this in TouchBasePro:

Preview of device testing metrics in's platform

Use your preview/ pre-header text effectively

Pre-header text is often ignored, left out, or simply plain overlooked, but it can be very useful when it comes to mobile-friendly emails. As a quick reminder here, the pre-header or preview text is the first line of copy in your email and serves as a support to your subject line, providing more context to entice your reader to open your email. Preheader length will vary by both email client and device, so try different lengths and see what works best based on what you know about where (mobile, tablet, or desktop) your subscribers are opening your email campaigns.

You can then design your email campaign accordingly.

Below is an example of a preview or pre-header text in action on a mobile device:

Example of preview text on an iPhone

Images and buttons in your emails

Not all mobile devices display images by default. It is best to plan for an “images off” experience and make sure your email will still make sense if your images don’t show. You also want to use smaller images with as little text-overly as possible.

Remember, your images are re-sized on a mobile device, so you’ll be essentially “shrinking” images. What will this do to your image quality and text on a mobile device?

Buttons are also critical as they're an extension of both links and images.

When creating emails for busy readers and email skim-readers, you want to get to the point quickly and tell them what you want them to do as soon as possible (this depends on the intention of your email, of course). It is considered best practice to place your button or CTA near the top of your email to make it the most mobile-friendly.

Again, this depends on the intention, layout and structure of your email.

To further ensure maximum clicks in your emails, you want to try to make your CTAs and buttons at least 44 x 44 pixels in size to get this right on mobile.

White space and testing in your emails

When creating your mobile-friendly emails, remember to make them click-friendly.

This can be done by leaving enough white space around links and CTAs to make them clickable. You want to make sure that it is easy to click without accidentally clicking something else by mistake. This is where white space and having clearly defined breaks in content is critical to mobile readers especially.

Lastly, don't forget to test!

Before you schedule or send your email campaigns, ensure to test them across multiple devices and email clients to ensure that they look the way you intend them to. Depending on your email platform, you can either do this in your system or take the longer route of sending a few tests and emails to various inboxes.

The one to focus on is MS Outlook as Outlook often skews background images or breaks buttons (the problem child of the email world 🙄).

If you aim your content at a B2B audience, this is especially critical as many businesses use Outlook as their preferred inbox.

Here's the design-test tool we use in TouchBasePro:

Preview of's email device and spam-testing features

Compatibility is your friend

Instead of fighting the resistance, join it. Email inboxes and devices will always change, so adapting your emails remains an ongoing practice.

The great news is you now know where to begin 💡

Get testing & optimising to ensure you're catering for email compatibility. Your subscribers and returns will thank you for it.

Before you go, click here to grab a copy of our detailed Database Growth Playbook for Email Marketing to help you grow your database further and support your efforts 👇

Preview of the Ultimate Database Growth Guide for Email Marketing by Email Expert Africa

Want more tips like these? Get our expert email guide today! Click here to find out more

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