Email Design on Kindle Fire by Anna Yeaman @stylecampaign

Email design on Kindle Fire

Email Design on Kindle Fire

It’s been predicted that five million Kindle Fire tablets will sell in the next six weeks. At just $199, it should at least make a dent in iPad sales. Here’s my quick first impressions.

1. 600px wide

Kindle Fire uses a custom build of Android. Just like other Android devices, it doesn’t scale content to the width of the screen. This means in portrait mode emails are lopped off at 600px wide. You can swipe to see more, but for an extra 50-100px its irritating.

Compare the Kindle Fire (left) with the iPad, which scales content to the width of the screen. With new devices being released all the time, a low maintenance fluid layout is looking more attractive everyday.

600px cutoff


2. No Zooming

Pinching is not enabled in the default email client, which means users can only swipe around trying to remember what they just saw. Nielsen likens it to reading through a keyhole, users find this more work due to our lousy short term memory.

In my mobile email chat, I cover about how Android and iOS scale content, including horizontal layouts. I’d place crucial information aligned left, for Android smartphone and tablet users.

No pinching


3. WebKit baby

Fire uses a WebKit browser called, “Silk”. I’m seeing curved CSS3 buttons, so it looks like we are good to go.  Animated Gifs and media queries are also supported, so that’s one way to get around the 600px cut off.  No HTML5 video though…

curvy buttons


4. Touch screen

Although I can read more copy than compared to a smartphone, I can’t tap links if stacked on top of each other. You’ll still need to rework navigation, tables of content, buttons ect for touch.

When gripping the device, the base of my thumb can overlap the creative. I’ve already triggered a few stealth URLs by mistake. It might be worth leaving a buffer at the edges and bottom where the toolbar is positioned.

Touch screen


5. Degrees of mobility

We recently bought a 10″ netbook with WIFI for less than $300, its the same resolution and roughly the same size as an iPad. Its changed my whole view of, “what’s mobile”. On a recent trip, my husband coded his server while delayed in an airport lounge and I did some Photoshop in the hotel cafe.

There’s no magical cut off point where a device is no longer “mobile”, it’s just a matter of degrees. The smaller a device, the more chance we’ll keep it on us. The Kindle Fire is handbag sized, not pocket, but its much more portable than an iPad.

degrees of mobility


6. Orientation

The small physical size and weight, make it easy to hold in either orientation. I’ll be paying more attention to how my emails render in landscape.

You can also navigate one-handed, though the back button trips you up as its just out of reach of right-handed users.

StyleCampaign horizontal newsletter


7. Silk performance

I’ve received a lot of, “Download complete message” notices at the bottom of the screen. I’ve been viewing these same emails on an iPod for weeks over the same WIFI connection, and not seeing nearly as many download prompts. Could be a fluke, or maybe the Kindle Fire’ Silk – proxy/hybrid? – browser doles out files differently.

proxy browser?

You can buy other email apps in the Kindle store (no access to Android marketplace), I’ve not tried them out. Though most users will stick with the default app.

I’m bracing for a spike in mobile email usage across all devices after the holidays. Smartphone and tablet prices are being slashed, and its the busiest time of year for mobile sales.

Meet the author:

Anna Yeaman

Anna Yeaman

Anna Yeaman is the Co-Founder and Creative Director at STYLECampaign, an email creative agency in LA.

Connect with: Anna Yeaman

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  • Ros
    November 23, 2011 at 7:25 pm

    Thanks for the great field guide, Anna! As always, you’re riding ahead of the email design curve! it sounds like there are a couple of usability hurdles (you’re not the only one who’s been less than glowing), but I’m really glad that this device has seemingly good CSS / @media query support.

  • Marty Goldberg
    November 24, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    Anna – thank you for sharing your wisdom. I want to find more opportunities to work together. and Thanks to Jeff for introducing us in the first place.

    Happy Thanksgiving!
    – M

    • Anna Yeaman
      November 28, 2011 at 12:21 pm

      Hi Marty,

      thanks had a nice break over Thanksgiving! Same here, thanks Jeff.

  • Anna Yeaman
    November 28, 2011 at 12:18 pm

    Hi Ros,

    yeah the 600px cut off gets annoying really quick, guess you can either narrow the width or use @media. Think I’m going to play with a fluid layout next year, as its too much hassle constantly tweaking templates.

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