When it comes to reading email on mobile (the world’s dominant platform), we’re all like over-amped weekend skiers schussing the blue runs.  All we want to do is go straight down as fast as possible.  Over and over.  What we do NOT want to do is have to decelerate and make a bunch of awkward wide turns all over the slope.  That’s no fun at all.

But that’s what email that has not been formatted correctly for mobile forces us to do.

Good email on mobile should be brief, readable and attractive.  It allows your audience to quickly see what something is about and then fly top to bottom (“TTB’s” in skiing parlance) in downhill tuck.  The focus is on speed and efficiency.  Of course, stopping to fully process what’s there should also be a good experience.  Remember, the person reading your message on mobile is also trying to bike, walk, make coffee or catch the subway at the same time.  So it has to be easy to take in.

Built for speed – and well formatted for mobile.

But unfortunately email on mobile is not always the digital equivalent of a blazing set of figure 11’s.  A message that is not correctly formatted diverts people from what they thought was going to be a visors-down bombing run into a careening, maddeningly slow detour.  Introducing – the “email slalom”.

Too small on mobile – but zooming in kicks off an email slalom.

You know the email slalom.  You’ve been there.  The slalom occurs when a message is too small to read on mobile – and so you have to zoom in to make the text bigger.  But once you zoom in, the full message is now no longer visible on screen, and as you read down you have to joggle the screen back and forth.  It’s an unworkable experience, and no doubt many of us bail out rather than navigate the gates.  Given the huge hit in communication value that a message takes if you ask readers to slalom, it’s surprising how common it still is to encounter emails that do not work well on mobile.

Readable – but now we’re in slalom mode.

Seattle’s The Mountaineers is a group that knows a thing or two about teaching people how to ski downhill fast.  But when it comes to emails from the venerable mountain club, we’re all stuck in slalom mode.  Take a look at this video, which shows the difference in reading experience between two emails that are formatted well for mobile and a third from The Mountaineers that is not.

On the hill, speed may kill.  But on mobile your readers want to go fast fast fast.  Don’t do anything to slow down a clear, snappy experience.


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