The skinny on e-mail marketing

A client recently asked why e-mail newsletters are often laid out in a rather narrow format. An e-newsletter should be formatted for a maximum of 600 pixels wide, while the most popular screen resolution is 1280 pixels wide. Why don’t they take advantage of modern, higher resolution monitors? This was our reply:

Lowest Common Denominator
The main reason is to prevent left-right scrolling in the viewing window—a real annoyance for readers. There is a huge variety in e-mail readers out there: Outlook, Thunderbird, Outlook Express, and Eudora, to name a few; web based e-mail programs, such as Hotmail and Gmail; webmail viewers on company intranets; and e-mail readers on smart phones. A good e-news designer must design for all eventualities—never assume that recipients have their browser/e-mail client window set to full screen; so the open window could be almost any size. Also, allowances need to be made for sidebars within that browser window.

Readability
The second reason is for readability. It’s much easier for a person to read a full line of text without the eye having to move left or right. Readability experts say that a line of text should have no more than 12-15 words. When the design of the web page or newsletter allows for the content to expand to the full width of the screen, the length of a line of text (especially with larger, high-resolution monitors) becomes more difficult to read. It also means that the designer has less control over the look of the layout.

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