There have been a multitude of article written lately promoting a single column layout that is a max width of 400 pixels. The idea being that the simple layout will display well on mobile devices. And while that is certainly true, it’s also true that most of the people promoting this best practice have many samples of emails with multiple columns. So what gives, aren’t they violating their own best practice?
The answer is that simple best practice rules don’t work in a lot of cases and multi-column formats can display well for mobile.
If you want a more universal best practice, it would be to not have a column width larger than 400 pixels (300 is ideal). Overall width should not be larger than 600 pixels total. Why? Because columns or layouts larger than that will require scrolling left and right to read the column on some devices. Keeping columns to a set width ensures that your email will be easy to navigate and read on mobile devices but doesn’t make layouts so restrictive as to not set the email up in the most appealing way.
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When judging your website you tend to be on one extreme or the other. Either everything seems a little better than it is or a little worse than it is. It’s important to make value judgments on your website from the metrics or user testing rather than personal opinions or experience.
A client called us recently and said that one of their calls to action landing pages was not easily located. The only way they could find it was by using the site search function. We were alarmed because this landing page was one of their primary calls to action.
Rather than going to the site first, we pulled the site metrics. Guess which page was #1 for the month’s ranking? Sure enough the “hidden” landing page was more popular even than the home page.
Clearly a lot of people weren’t having a problem finding it. But it was possible that all of the hits were direct links from social media or email links so we dug a bit deeper to see how many hits were referenced from within the website. It turned out that almost 60% of the hits were coming from within the website and about half from the homepage.
Upon seeing that, we reviewed a promo section on the homepage and sure enough, there was the offer in question. When we reported back on the metrics, the client admitted that they were in a rush when trying to find it and must have just overlooked it.
Trainers, consultants, and professional coaches tend to be very busy and not finding something quickly on the site can make them jump to false conclusions. Fair enough and we all make mistakes, but that’s why it’s important not to take action on personal perspective. It leads to bad decisions, mistakes, and poorer performing sites.
Things move quickly on the internet, that’s no great revelation for most people. In an effort to keep up with email marketing campaigns, social media posts, and blog articles it’s easy to produce something and then forget about it. For email and social this often doesn’t create a problem but on a website, relics of the past can cause confusion.
Trainers, consultants, and professional coaches often work on a project and move on or have it transition to a new initiative. If project information is on the website it’s important that it reflects the current state rather than a past state.
A company we recently met with was experiencing a problem where their users were regularly complaining that project information shared with them was dated or inaccurate. This company was frustrated because they had instituted a custom email campaign specifically to keep users up to date. The person responsible for the communications said, “Honestly, I’m spoon feeding them the information at this point. What more can I do?”
After doing a review of the communication plan, we realized that the emails were actually highlighting the problem. The emails would link back to the website that had a project specific section. While the new content was there, dated content from the project’s inception was also prevalent. There was no clear definition of what information was current and much of it was outdated and no longer relevant.
After redesigning the structure of the project section and archiving old information, the complaints abated.
Websites tend to grow organically but there isn’t always a system for review and retirement of outdated information. If you find that users are struggling to understand your messages, perhaps a review and trim down of the website might clear up the misunderstandings.
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