Jun 11, 2009

Email and website navigation merit different design tactics

Though many online marketers send emails that are very similar to their websites in terms of navigation and linking, major differences in the way consumers view emails vs. websites indicate that emails should be designed differently to achieve the best results, according to a recent report from Smith-Harmon.

The report, which is based on an analysis of website and email data for 100 top retailers collected in March and April 2009 by the Retail Email Blog, found that horizontal navigation bars, emails with fewer links, HTML coding (vs. images) and special tactics to highlight sales, seasonal specials and featured departments work best in emails.

Key highlights from the study:

* Horizonal navigation bars more visible: The study found that horizontal navigation bars are much more common in emails than vertical ones, which are used by fewer than 5% of retailers. This is because horizontal navigation bars are more likely to be seen in their entirety because of preview panes.

* Fewer links work better: Differences between email and website navigation and the length of time consumers view email generally mean fewer links should be included in email navigation than in website navigation. Rather than loading up a navigation bar with too many links, it is more effective to pick the top five or six best-performing site destinations and include those.

* HTML preferred for nav bars: It is better to use HTML so the links are be readable by the growing number of viewers who block images in emails by default. Currently 28% of horizontal email navigation bars use HTML text, up from just 15% last year.

* Other navigation links helpful: Using navigation links to help email viewers find other parts of a retail site and locate items of interest quickly - such as sales, stores, featured departments and seasonal merchandise is often an effective tactic.

See the report.

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