A blog about digital government, communications, citizen satisfaction & engagement, GovDelivery, and other e-government issues
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By John Simpson, Engagement Consultant at GovDelivery

Preventing crime is one of the number one goals for public safety organizations. In 2013, we are seeing a shift in public safety groups, many of whom are leveraging the power of local citizens and stakeholders to report criminal activity. This type of interaction helps identify trends and prevent future crimes. Behind this shift is a simple but powerful tool that is driving this engagement: email.

The Sheriff’s Office of Stearns County, MN was looking for new ways to engage and educate the public on information sharing practices that could help prevent and solve crimes. Beyond using new technologies, the Sheriff wanted to be sure they offered clear and easy ways for the public to connect with his Office and interact with employees to help them better serve their constituents.

One of the main crime prevention resources that the Sheriff’s Office wanted to expand on was promoting the submission of urgent and non-urgent tips from the public. An evaluation of the tip submission process found it to be confusing, complicated, and unintuitive.

Stearns County Sheriff's OfficeTo simplify the process and ensure public exposure, Stearns County partnered with GovDelivery to design a new Advanced Bulletin Template for the Sheriff’s Office regular public updates. Embedded within the template, are prominent buttons depicting the different tip submission channels: Phone, Email, or Web. Whether using a computer or a mobile device, clicking on each of the respective buttons now redirects the subscriber to the Sheriff’s Office phone number, email address, or an online tip submission tool.

By regularly featuring an intuitive method for tip submission, the Sheriff’s Office now offers a new opportunity for the public to communicate with county officers through every public bulletin. Just thirteen minutes after sending their inaugural message with the new Advanced Bulletin Template, the Sheriff’s office received a tip from a subscriber. A simple format with a clear, engaging call to action has allowed for the Sheriff’s Office to better encourage crime prevention, empower the public to report information to their office, and ultimately decrease the amount of crime in Stearns County.

While the Stearns County Sheriff’s Office serves as a great example of creating an intuitive solution for public engagement, no two projects are the same. If your organization is looking for better ways to engage the public, contact: EngagementServices@GovDelivery.com.

By Ben Ortega, Senior Software Engineer at GovDelivery

On June 1st we celebrated the first annual National Day of Civic Hacking, a day dedicated to leveraging technology and open data to improve communities.

Hard at Work Hacking at DevJam in Minneapolis

Hard at Work Hacking at DevJam in Minneapolis, Open Twin Cities

Not satisfied with a typical single day event, our local civic-minded techies at Open Twin Cities organized Hack for MN, a weekend-long hackathon and competition where more than 100 techies and other interested parties teamed up and spent the weekend planning, brainstorming, and implementing ideas and tools to improve our communities.

Everyone got together Saturday morning at DevJam headquarters in south Minneapolis after having spent the prior days and weeks discussing project ideas on the web. Each project idea was assigned to a table, and after some opening remarks from organizers and local government officials, participants began to self-organize. People flowed from table to table discussing ideas; some projects never quite got off the ground, and others emerged spontaneously from chance meetings and conversations.

Once the afternoon arrived, tech-heavy teams went right to work crunching data and planning applications. Other teams took a service design approach, thinking carefully about big ideas such as technology access or sustainable development and brainstorming about how to better connect communities, and all the different personas, with available resources.

The teams spent most of Saturday afternoon coding and whiteboarding; the sound of collaborations and talk of the best open data sources hummed at lightning speed. Fortunately for us, the DevJam space (a former café) offered plenty of sunlight and open air, which lightened the intense hacking going on. We even got a surprise visit from an ice cream truck, which gave everyone a chance to relax for a bit.

By Sunday afternoon, the crowd had thinned out a bit as teams began to run out of gas, but nine teams powered through and presented their projects, which drew inspiration from a variety of community needs and data sources:

  • A system to find your polling place using SMS
  • Connect Me Minneapolis, a system for cataloging and discovering community technology assets
  • Solvabl- a website for tutoring and mentoring high school students interested in developing technical skills
  • An open Wi-Fi database for community Wi-Fi finding and geolocation use
  • Code For Neighbors- a localized neighbor directory/alert system
More Hacking at Hack for MN Event

More Hacking at Hack for MN Event, Open Twin Cities

I was honored to serve on the judging panel, especially since we were able to award prizes to every team that made it to the end of the hackathon.  Prizes included meetings with local government officials or software entrepreneurs to determine next steps and subscriptions to GIS tools. All participants also received credits towards tech books, cloud computing and consulting services to continue developing their ideas.

All in all, it was great to see to both seasoned and aspiring hackers alike engaged and working together to tap into the potential of open tools and public data. It’s also inspiring to see development on several projects that have continued beyond the hackathon. It was great to represent GovDelivery as a judge and advisor, and I look forward to many years of hackathons to come.

 

 

Among the vast majority of choices that are available to us on a recurring daily basis, the idea of choosing “correctly” fortune tellercan seem exhausting and never-ending.       “Sushi or that amazing taco salad at that one place around the corner?” “Should I send the kids to public or private school?” “When is the best time to send that email so that I can actually reach a group of 30,000 stakeholders?”

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a little help in making the right decision?

Working as a communications professional in a government organization can be a challenge. With ongoing budget constraints and often seemingly limited digital resources, you may not be quite sure how you can most efficiently and effectively reach specific citizens when you need to. There may be situations where you want to reach a large number of community members, and there may be other situations where you need to reach a specific area that will be affected by a tornado, for example. Particularly in the latter instance, you want to have a system in place that allows your organization to get the necessary information out as quickly as possible, and to as many people who will be affected as possible.

With technology constantly evolving and so many options in social media platforms, you may be wondering, “How can I find what methods will work best for my organization?”

Jennifer Kaplan, Product Marketing Manager of GovDelivery, is hoping to help with tips on what’s next in digital communications, and how you can use technology to leverage resources and data you already have to better communicate with your stakeholders. During this upcoming webinar, she will discuss how you can use social media as a tool kit and the multiple benefits of cross-promotion, with examples from other government organizations who have found ways to effectively use digital communications as a means to save both time and organizational costs.

Register here

Featured Speaker: Jennifer Kaplan
Product Marketing Manager, GovDelivery

Jennifer Kaplan

 

Date: Wednesday, June 19, 2013 
Time: 2:00pm Eastern, 11:00am Pacific
Length: 60 minutes
Cost: Free

The results of a national survey recently released by the Pew Research Center reveals that favorable approval ratings for state and local government continued this year while opinions of the federal government hit a new low. The survey conducted this cell peopleMarch with 1,501 adults from all 50 states resulted in positive ratings across party lines for state and local governments overall, but the lowest percentage ever of favorable opinions for the federal government. Just 28% rated the federal government favorably, down five points from last year’s survey, while 63% had a favorable opinion of local government and 57% looked well on their state government.

The survey provides detailed breakdowns on approval ratings across levels of government, including how a decrease in approval from both Democratic and Republican citizens has hurt public opinion of the federal government. Other ratings centered around the state and local level, where partisan makeup of state government matters but governments get similarly positive ratings across party lines for politically divided state governments. How can government agencies and organizations respond to new information and sometimes-critical public opinion?

Improving public opinion and customer service to citizens at all levels hinges on improving communication and collaboration both within party lines and across them, and within government and externally with the public. The federal government can answer negative feedback by placing a renewed focus on citizen customer service, responsiveness and collaboration. For government organizations at all levels, improving visibility to citizen needs and leveraging new tools and technologies to respond to those opportunities can assist in getting a handle on citizen perception and delivering real-time solutions in today’s world.

While the Pew research sheds light on citizen opinions, a recent GovDelivery survey identifies trends within government including collaboration, customer service, mobile government, big data and cybersecurity at the local, state and federal levels. Over 400 individuals in U.S. state and local government organizations and over 200 individuals in U.S. federal agencies and departments were surveyed, and the results are enlightening for any government organization looking to enhance their work with the public. The top trends that will impact government organizations at every level include mobile government, customer service and collaboration:

Mobile Government and Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD)

For government organizations, mobile access to government information and services has become more important than ever on both internal and external fronts. Internal access to applications and data through employee’s own devices can improve responsiveness to citizen needs and reduce costs to provide devices to government employees. External information distribution through mobile technologies and applications is on the rise, too.

A survey by Foresee in 2012 reported that one-third of citizens accessing federal government website are logging in from phones or tablets, and utilizing mobile technology can be critical for communicating time-sensitive messages and alerts. While more than half of GovDelivery’s survey respondents listed mobile/BYOD as a top trend, only 39 percent at the federal level said their agencies were currently addressing the issue. Especially in light of a new mandate from the Digital Government Strategy for federal agencies to enable mobile access to priority customer-facing services, federal government needs to find new ways to engage with both citizens and internal employees to maximize collaboration and improve customer satisfaction.

At the state and local level, organizations face similar challenges in implementing internal mobile access through platforms like BYOD and cloud computing and sharing information with mobile-enabled external channels like SMS and mobile apps. Mobile technologies are being embraced by government employees and citizens at a fast pace, creating opportunities for communication and generating new requirements for processes and policies just as quickly. Getting a handle on mobile and personal devices is becoming a requirement for all types of government organizations that prioritize customer service and collaboration.

Renewed Focus on Citizen Customer Service

As citizens’ perspectives shift on the federal government, the federal organizations have felt the pressure to prioritize quality citizen customer service. Focus around customer service has led to the Digital Government Strategy mandate around improving customer service through digital technologies; however, only half of the surveyed federal government workers reported using social media to communicate with the public. Meanwhile, over 60% county and state employees and almost 80% of city employees are using social media to share information. The federal government can capitalize on this untapped opportunity by turning to social media, SMS, email and apps to deliver integrated communications and customer service in the coming year.

State and local agencies working with lean budgets and close relationships with constituents and taxpayers need to put communication with customers first. Prioritizing customer service through digital channels like social media, email and text messaging facilitates broad communication with citizens and helps these organizations zero in on “low hanging fruit” to improve service levels. All types of government organizations benefit from improvements in collaboration when determining how to best deliver customer service.

Heightened Levels of Collaboration Fueled by Tools and Technology

New digital tools and technologies; increased demand for productivity and efficiency improvements from government organizations; and a new generation of individuals entering the workforce have converged to enable new levels of collaboration in government. Federal government agencies are now driving collaboration both internally with other agencies and externally with citizens through new tools, policies and processes.

Collaboration for local government employees can involve working between local, state and federal organizations to implement programs and drive critical priorities like public safety and public health. While most individuals at the state or local level feel that collaboration is being addressed by their organizations already, there is still room for improvement in utilizing new technologies like social media and other digital channels.

Inter-agency collaboration is expanding to include internal communications, working behind-the-scenes with other agencies and combined efforts on communication with the public. External collaboration is now taking place on social media channels, interactive communities and public forums. To take advantage of many of these new technologies, government organizations need to identify and implement new technologies while establishing policies and processes to manage communication and interactions with the public. These efforts will ultimately enhance and enable broad collaboration with stakeholders in the digital age and help increase customer satisfaction.

The good news for government organizations at every level is that information about citizen concerns and industry trends is more available than ever. The most recent news on public opinion and trends affecting government work reveal that these issues are all tightly related. Implementing mobile solutions for government; focusing technology and social media implementations around customer service; and improving internal, inter-agency, and public collaboration are all part of the solution for government organizations working on initiatives to better serve the public.

To view the complete list of survey categories and rankings and to learn more how the public sector can act on the top trends in government, download GovDelivery’s white papers below:

Top 2013 Trends for Federal Agencies

2013 Trends for State and Local Government

AdelaideOBrien2In today’s world, government agencies need to leverage digital platforms to provide better customer service to citizens, especially in times of emergency. Organizations with more responsive emergency communications reach the public quickly and effectively during natural disasters and other threats to citizens and property. GovDelivery recently interviewed Adelaide O’Brien, research director of Smart Government Strategies for IDC Government Insights, about the importance of sophisticated emergency communications. Her research on innovative government services delivery gives her deep experience in the strategies agencies can use to develop effective emergency communication plans.

Adelaide answered questions about how consistent use of government communications systems enables organizations to react quickly and effectively in the face of emergencies. Emergency scenarios provide challenges to government agencies that need to provide timely and key information during times of risk and unpredictable network availability. Without effective communications tools, governments are limited in utilizing their vast resources to benefit citizens. Many emergency notification systems are only used once or twice a year, but need to be available, capable and reliable during those emergencies.

An integrated digital communications system including Web, email, SMS, voice, video and social media support is the best way government agencies can prepare for sharing information and monitoring public response during a crisis. Communication tools like social media and email have the power to extend the reach of official government information and in the case of emergencies, ensure citizen safety and aid in community recovery. Instead of one-way information streams and rapid dissemination of incorrect information typical of traditional communication methods, a multichannel emergency communication approach enables interactivity between the public and official information sources.

To find out more about the latest digital strategy and technology solutions necessary for next-generation government agency emergency communications, read the full interview here.

Keeping up with the latest in digital communication tools and strategies can be a challenge in any organization. As a government communications professional, you probably face additional unique challenges as well. 2013 TourBeing able to effectively reach particular groups of people in emergencies, for example, is one situation that can mean the difference between life and death.

How do you keep up? Learning and collaborating with other agencies who are successfully handling some of the same challenges is one way. Recently, we were fortunate to have some of the most innovative and successful government communicators from around the country share their tips on best practices in digital communications at our 2013 Digital Communications Tour.

As a result of the positive response, we’re bringing back some of the most popular panelists, plus a couple new ones, to the last webinar event for the tour on Wednesday. With a open question and answer format, these government communicators will be on hand to answer your questions, from best practices for maximizing direct connections with the public to using communications to drive mission value to what social media strategies have been successful.

“We’re excited to have these government digital communications visionaries share their deep expertise, as well as their most successful tactics for reaching more people than ever before, streamlining complex communications and engaging the public to create lasting value.”
(Scott Burns, CEO and co-founder of GovDelivery)

Register here

Date: Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Time: 12:00pm Eastern, 9:00am Pacific
Length: 90 minutes
Cost: Free

This event is open to all government employees and contractors. To register for this complimentary event, click here.

Many government organizations and agency departments plan and promote special events or seasonal occasions that relate to the constituency they serve and support. Highlighting these events through communications and digital content provides a fun and timely way to interact with the public, and can even serve as a platform for gaining subscribers and engaging citizens long-term.

earthThe Environmental Protection Agency replaced its normal home page with specially designed interactive presentations to commemorate Earth Day. The overlay, which included a stunning photo of Earth from space, was a visually pleasing way to inform the public about Earth Day and related events the EPA was sponsoring. The special home page provided slide shows, links to events for volunteers, and an invitation to send in photos from home.

While the EPA’s Earth Day home page is a great example of tailoring digital content to inform and educate stakeholders on issues that impact an organization’s mission, the organization missed a prime opportunity to offer an easy opt-in for email alerts. An out-of-the-ordinary web element like a special home page or highlighted overlay is one of the best ways government communicators can spark interest from a visitor and subsequently call attention to the proactive digital communications offered by the organization. Techniques such as these can even double or triple sign-ups to subscriber lists.

A sign-up form or link is easy to add on to a specially designed event home page and offers a convenient call-to-action for visitors attracted by special event information. This approach leverages the additional traffic that might result from a special event and also maximizes the long-term impact of the short-term custom content by offering ongoing email updates to visitors with specific interests.

On special days or events such as Earth Day, agencies like the EPA can turn new visitors looking for event-specific information into stakeholders by asking them to subscribe. Be sure to offer updates on a variety of topics, and consider a category of updates for subscribers interested in special events or holiday-related information in particular. Taking advantage of times of peak interest in your department or agency’s website can result in big wins in subscriber numbers and stakeholder engagement.

Has your department tied subscription sign-up opportunities into promotions for special events going on in the community? Share your tips on turning one-time special event visitors into lifetime stakeholders in the comments.

g-cloud

By Kathy Kyle, Digital Communications Consultant at GovDelivery

GovDelivery was recently awarded a G-Cloud III framework contract for its Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) cloud-based solutions, making it easier for government to reach more people.

G-Cloud III is important as it continues to enable UK public sector departments and organisations to easily access centrally negotiated deals and transact online. Government is investing in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure to achieve economies of scale, deliver flexible and responsive systems, deliver faster business benefits and reduce costs, and enhance customer service outcomes. And the G-Cloud helps them procure these technologies more quickly and efficiently.

Since GovDelivery has always developed cloud-based solutions, we have more than a decade of experience helping government organizations transform their communications. We currently support over 55 UK clients at the central and local government levels, managing proactive digital communications for GOV.UK, FCO, MOJ, DSA, Met Office, Parliament, VOSA, HA, FSA, MHRA and more. Our local government clients are using GovDelivery solutions to achieve cost savings through channel shift, driving residents to cheaper online channels where appropriate, and reducing avoidable contact. Local authority clients like Central Bedfordshire, Southampton and Suffolk rave about reaching 20 to 30% of their target population, increasing online traffic to high-values services by 35%, and generating immediate, cashable savings. One client estimates an annual cost savings of £100,000 by reducing phone call volume alone.

The common denominator for these clients? They all recognise the importance of reaching their stakeholders, and they understand that with proactive digital communications, they can transform online visits to transactions that demonstrate a return on their digital investment. GovDelivery clients achieve channel shift and cost savings through a single platform that links their existing communication channels to email, text messaging, RSS and social media (and soon, voice messages). Suffolk County Council achieved cost savings and accolades (2011 UK Digital Excellence award winner post-GovDelivery implementation) for their proactive messaging and on-demand alerts. Our clients at Central Bedfordshire realised significant cost savings after implementing GovDelivery; they report estimated reductions of up to 100 phone calls per day and continuously improve services by measuring results. Watch their video testimonial and learn about Central Bedfordshire’s comprehensive channel shift programme.

Summer is quickly approaching, and this is an ideal time to implement GovDelivery. With three months of highly publicised events and activities across UK boroughs, counties and cities, past experience dictates that our clients will generate large subscriber numbers and with proper cross-promotion, also increase subscribers across other high-value services.

Those who promote their GovDelivery service all summer will reap the benefits of increased subscribers across multiple services. By the time the leaves change and autumn rolls in, inclement weather will be the main driver for GovDelivery subscriptions. West Sussex County Council experienced an increase of nearly 1500 subscribers on one cold, blizzard-like Sunday afternoon due to weather and referrals from other local authorities and Met Office subscription links.

img_whitepaper (2)For central government, it is always ideal to promote online services, share emergency travel alerts, or launch a public safety campaign. The Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO) recently launched its travel alerts on GOV.UK using GovDelivery, and we are working together to keep UK travellers informed and safe when travelling abroad.

For local authorities, this means opportunities to leverage community events to cross-promote services and a chance to connect with referrers in the GovDelivery network. Local councils that would normally send alerts and updates about cultural events and library services will take advantage of the busy summer event season to feature and promote high-value service areas like rubbish and bin management, school term dates, highways and road works, inclement weather alerts, or even sign residents up for online portals.

As a quick and efficient cost-cutting measure, local authorities might also consider GovDelivery’s Transactional Messaging Service (TMS), new to the G-Cloud III framework, which allows organizations to send fully automated, targeted, one-to-one messages to citizens about council tax statements, benefits information, registration, and key notices. Our clients are achieving efficiencies both through postal savings and channel shift by driving their audience to online channels to complete electronic transactions with government.

With constrained budgets, dwindling resources and pressure to generate cost savings, GovDelivery is key to driving proactive messaging, achieving channel shift savings, and ensuring government achieves customer service goals. We are the engine that drives over 1.7 million UK residents to the relevant online activities that make their offline lives easier.

Contact us to learn how you can procure our services though G-Cloud III to dramatically increase your reach and impact in your respective community.

 

Kathy Kyle
Digital Communications Consultant
kathy.kyle@govdelivery.com or @bonominiyogini

National Day of Civic HackingWith National Day of Civic Hacking right around the corner (June 1st and 2nd), cities all around the nation are gathering in preparation to collaborate. Citizens, civic activists, entrepreneurs and engineers alike will be joining in the festivities of sorts. If you’re like me, and you’d like to contribute to your community, but aren’t quite sure where to begin, this is a great place to start. This event provides citizens like you and I the opportunity to help create a new and better path for our community through good ol’ brainstorming.

Example topics include EPA Safe Drinking Water App Challenge, Farmers Market Directory and The Census American Community Challenge, to name a few. To find out what topics or agenda your local Civic Hacking event will include, click here.

A civic hacker is defined as “…anybody – who is willing to collaborate with others to create, build, and invent open source solutions using publicly-released data, code and technology to solve challenges relevant to our neighborhoods…” But don’t feel that you have to be a techie to participate (I for one, am not); the event is about finding solutions on improving the community together.

There are many locations already set up throughout the U.S. If you don’t see a location close by, you still have the opportunity to set one up in your neighborhood. The event has already morphed into a few different theme options that you can choose from, such as “RHoK-in-a-Box” (or Random Hacks of Kindness), “Brigade Meet-Up”, and “Block Party”. Or you can create your own theme.

To give you a better idea of what to expect, here are some of event goals:

  • Demonstrate a commitment to the principles of transparency, participation, and collaboration.
  • Exercise a government’s interest in using open data and technology, in partnership with others, to address your local community’s felt needs.
  • Liberate open data that can inform better problem solving in every community.
  • Continue to collectively map a national innovation ecosystem and create new access points to that system.
  • Engage citizens in cities with little technology infrastructure to contribute to changing their community through open source, open data, entrepreneurship and code development.
  • Promote Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education by encouraging students to utilize open technology for solutions to real challenges.
  • Encourage large scale partnership and mutual understanding.

group huddleNational Day of Civic Hacking is about joining forces. On June 1st and 2nd, fellow neighbors, local government organizations and private sector companies will address local problems and challenges to find solutions for everyday problems in our community. You don’t have to be a programmer or a city planner – just a citizen with an idea or two on how to improve your community.

For those of you in the Twin Cities, a group of talented and civic-minded programmers have already set up a local civic hacking event. GovDelivery is excited to support these community-building and citizen engagement efforts, and we hope to see you there.

For national information, check out the National Day of Civic Hacking’s website or follow National Day of Civic Hacking on Twitter.

Let me know if you attend the event (or create your own) and what your thoughts are on the experience.

Happy Hacking!

mobileI don’t need to convince you that we are in the midst of a massive shift in the way we access information. The days of desktop dominance have given way to mobile devices. This is especially true for email. With each passing month, more and more people are accessing their email on their phones and tablets. If your emails are not designed to accommodate smaller screen sizes, your readers will become frustrated with your emails and discontinue reading.

In a previous post, I talked about how to create a mobile friendly website using Responsive Design. But, what about email? What can be done about my newsletters, alerts and notices?

Responsive Design for email is not going to be the solution for everyone. First, to use Responsive Design for email, you have know how to code. You have to write CSS code that will scale and re-arrange your emails to fit on mobile devices. This is a specialized skill set that not everyone has. What if you don’t know how to write CSS? How can you make your emails look better without getting a masters degree in computer science?

Second, Responsive Design for email will only display properly on iPhones, with the built-in Apple mail client. Responsive Design currently won’t work with email apps like Gmail or Yahoo Mail. For people viewing their email on a mobile device, which pulls the content from a hosted mail server like Exchange or Lotus Notes, Responsive Design elements will not work.

So what can you do? Although more people are reading their emails on mobile devices, Responsive Design is not currently a great solution.

To get around this issue, and make things easier for you, I suggest optimizing your emails for mobile using solid scalable design principles. Scalable design uses a single column layout and grid system for alignment and proportion. If you don’t know how to set this up, or your system doesn’t allow for this, it’s easy to design your emails, in any email provider, by using some simple tricks.

So, here are my top 10 (easy) tips for making your emails work on mobile devices:

Try to keep in mind how you use your own phone or tablet to look at email. If you think through the steps you take, the fingers you use and the way your device works, it will go a long way in making your emails look good.

1) Single Column
When you put together your emails, a single column is going to work the best. Classic web design prescribes keeping as much as possible “above the fold” to catch a person’s eye. The result was web pages that got wider and wider so that more information could be at the top of the page. With mobile, wide is bad, because most mobile devices are not as large as your 24” monitor. For mobile devices, skinny and vertical is better. It’s much easier to read and scroll up and down than it is to go right and left (or worse, to zoom in and out).

2) Width
Speaking of skinny and vertical, you should reduce the width of your emails to allow for the smaller screens of mobile phones. I would suggest you keep your email width to 450px and definitely less than 600px. This will allow your email to fit nicely on most devices.

3) Text Size
Now that you have a skinny, single column email, you will need to compensate for the smaller dimensions by increasing the size of the font. I suggest you go with 14-16px for body copy and 20-26px for headers. The larger font will allow people to read your content without having to squint (or as I mentioned, the dreaded zoom in and out).

4) Shorten Content
Remember way back in point 1 when I said it’s easier to scroll up and down on a mobile device? Well there are limits. If people have to scroll for 17 minutes to get to the bottom of your email, your email is way too long. Try writing shorter, teaser summaries to your stories and then link to the full story on a landing page or your Responsively Designed website. This helps people get right to the content they want and will drive up your engagement rate. It will also help improve search engine optimization (or SEO) of your site and keep your readers happy by getting them exactly what they are interested in.

5) Buttons
While you are linking to those landing pages, get rid of simple text links and go with touch-friendly buttons instead. For most people it takes pin-point accuracy to actually click on linked text and many times we hit the wrong things if we are a little clumsy or have large fingers. Replacing those links with clickable buttons will help solve that problem; 50x50px to 75x75px should be enough to get the job done.

6) Alt Tags
When using buttons as links, make sure you are putting alt tags in place for people who have images turned off. Also, make sure the alt tags make sense to people viewing your message. Instead of the outline of your button with “mobile_button_2.png” in place of the image, why not try an alt tag that displays something like, “Click here to go to the full article. Please allow images from Central City to improve your reading experience.”

7) White Space
Even though you are using buttons for your links, remember to place ample white space between text, paragraphs, images, buttons, etc. This will help make your emails easier to read and provide more forgiveness so people don’t click the wrong thing.

8) Thumbs
The majority of people use their right hand, more specifically their right thumb to scroll and click on things. Even lefties like me scroll through emails on their phone using their right hand. So, placing your buttons on the right hand side, or in the center, of your emails will make it easier for people to click while using one hand.

9) Subject Lines
Keep your email subject lines short and sweet. Subject lines that are too long will get truncated with smaller screen sizes. I suggest 60 characters or less.

10) Test, Test, Test
Just like a pool, it pays to test the waters before diving right in. Send a test email to several different email clients and look at them on several different devices of varying sizes. You will be amazed at how different one email can look. Try to find a design that looks good for all devices and email clients. If you can get that right, you can be confident that people will have a positive experience interacting with your emails.

There you have it. 10 simple tips for making your emails look great on mobile devices without using Responsive Design. If I’ve missed any you can think of, put them in the comments section below. For more great tips, check out our new white paper, “Integrating Email in Government Communications.

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