January 11, 2007, 12:00 AM

Shrinking e-mail preview panes means marketers must adjust messages

Spurred by beta releases from Yahoo and Microsoft that enable small-pane e-mail preview by default, Email Labs advises b2c marketers to rethink e-mail template design.


New beta releases of the widely-used Yahoo Mail and Microsoft’s Windows Live Mail enable preview panes by default, allowing readers to scan messages in smaller reading spaces before actually opening them – sending the message to marketers that they must make their point higher in their e-mails to customers.

That’s what’s behind Email Labs Inc.’s new recommendation to b2c e-mail marketers to reduce template size to account for smaller viewing areas for web-based e-mail clients. Microsoft’s Outlook preview-pane function in office settings has forced b2b marketers to deal with the issue already, but it’s new territory for b2c marketers.

“B2c marketers who want big results had better start thinking small,” says Stefan Pollard, director of consulting services for Email Labs. “Many are completely unaware that preview panes and automatically-blocked images can make their current design templates virtually unreadable.”

To adjust for shrinking viewing panes, Email Labs is advising b2c e-mail marketers to put the most important content in the upper left corner so it can be seen in either horizontal or vertical preview panes. Marketers also can improve readability by spelling out the most important call to action in text above the fold, and not just within an image – some programs automatically disable all images in the preview pane. For the same reason, text-based e-mail navigation should be part of the message. Finally, marketers should reduce the size of masthead images and logos or change their placement so as to devote more of the upper left corner real estate to driving desired actions, Email Labs recommends.


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