A Study on Preview Pane Visibility

Benjamin S. Curtis Digital Strategist

© 2008 - 2009 MicroMass Communications, Inc.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

1.0 Overview 2.0 Testing Criteria 3.0 Preview Pane Sizes 3.1 Yahoo Webmail 3.2 Yahoo Classic Webmail 3.3 Windows Live Webmail 3.3.1 Windows Live – Bottom/Horizontal Preview Pane 3.3.2 Windows Live – Right/Vertical Preview Pane 3.4 Hotmail Classic Webmail 3.5 AOL Desktop Client 3.6 AOL Webmail 3.6.1 AOL Webmail – In Window 3.7 Outlook 2003 3.7.1 Outlook 2003 – Bottom/Horizontal Preview Pane 3.8 Outlook 2007 3.8.1 Outlook 2007 – Bottom/Horizontal Preview Pane 3.9 Combined Results 4.0 Recommendations 5.0 Additional Questions 5.1 I thought vertical preview panes were on the rise? 5.2 What about Gmail? 5.3 What does the future hold? 5.4 How can I make sure consumers receive my e-mails? About the Author

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1.0 Overview
There is a lot of talk in the eMarketing world about how consumers view their e-mails, especially in preview panes. Should your company design for vertical preview panes or horizontal? Should you worry about how an e-mail will look without images? Where is the market going? The problem with most common answers for these questions is that there is little factual data to support the variability of e-mail readers. The standard responses lack foundation or statistical data necessary to glean the answer. The most basic question that should come before any other is, “How much of my e-mail can consumers see without scrolling?” Answering this basic question should fuel decisions for any of the prior questions. Before determining a layout for an e-mail, it is important to understand what the exact visible space in each preview pane is. Or rather, what the consumer will see first. The purpose of this document is to create a solid, fact-based foundation from which your organization can work. Putting aside the common debates about the physical limitations of many e-mail readers, we have put the most popular readers on the market to the test. We will show you the default and optional preview pane views for each of the most popular mail readers, along with the specific sizing and resolutions with which your marketing and design teams have to work. In addition, we will summarize a set of recommendations on how to best build an e-mail that will work with all of them. over 179,000 consumers of large Pharmaceutical Marketing campaigns, and the most common e-mail domains from them.1 Despite its more common use in the B-to-B market, we then added Microsoft Outlook 2003 and Outlook 2007 for good measure. This gives the study another mail reader containing vertical preview panes. The e-mail readers consisted of:

• Yahoo Webmail: 31% • Hotmail Webmail: 12% • AOL: 12% • Outlook 2003: Unknown • Outlook 2007: Unknown
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* Percentages define the percentage of the 179,000 plus consumers who belonged to that category.

We conducted these tests in Internet Explorer 6, which contains a 22.3% marketshare.4 We chose IE6 due to the average size of its viewable window, minus the default toolbars. We then used a resolution of 1024x768, which consists of 48% of users.5 These selections were made to ensure that we came as close to the average consumer’s computer setup as possible, without overcomplicating the test. All tests, other than those done with Outlook 2003, were completed without adjusting the default size of any preview panes. Outlook 2003 was an exception due to its seemingly random placement of preview pane sizes after installation. However, these variations were slight and would not have affected the results of the study.

2.0 Testing Criteria
We chose the following e-mail readers based on a MicroMass Communications-sponsored study of

© 2008 - 2009 MicroMass Communications, Inc.

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3.0 Preview Pane Sizes
The following sections will take you through the different e-mail readers involved in this test.

3.2 Yahoo Classic Webmail
Users have the option of downgrading to Yahoo Classic. Yahoo Classic’s default mail view is to display your list of e-mails with no preview pane. When clicking on a message, the message is displayed in the current window. This is Yahoo Classic’s default methodology, and they offer no alternatives. What’s interesting about Yahoo Classic is that it is the only mail reader in this analysis that does not strip images by default.

3.1 Yahoo Webmail
Yahoo Webmail’s default mail view is to display your list of e-mails on top, with a preview pane below your messages. This is Yahoo’s default methodology, and they offer no alternatives.

Default behavior of not displaying images Default behavior of not displaying images

RESULTS

• Default Viewable Area: 797x84 (with images) • Other Viewable Areas: None • Default Preview Pane Placement: No Preview • Other Preview Options: None
After the user tells the reader to display images

RESULTS

• Default Viewable Area: 622x192 (without
images), 622x255 (with images)

• Default Preview Pane Placement: Bottom • Other Preview Options: None
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3.3 Windows Live Webmail
Windows Live’s default mail view is to display your list of e-mails with no preview pane. When clicking on a message, the message is displayed in the current window. This is Windows Live’s default methodology; however, they do offer other preview pane options.

3.3.1 Windows Live – Bottom/Horizontal Preview Pane
This preview pane is an alternative option the user may choose.

Default behavior of not displaying images Default behavior of not displaying images

After the user tells the reader to display images After the user tells the reader to display images

RESULTS RESULTS

• Default Viewable Area: 797x3 (without
images), 797x23 (with images)

• Default Viewable Area: 785x210 (without
images), 785x238 (with images)

• Default Preview Pane Placement: No Preview • Other Preview Options: Bottom, Right
© 2008 - 2009 MicroMass Communications, Inc. 5

3.3.2 Windows Live – Right/Vertical Preview Pane
This preview pane is an alternative option the user may choose.

3.4 Hotmail Classic Webmail
Users of Windows Live have the option of downgrading to Hotmail Classic. Hotmail Classic’s default mail view is to display your list of e-mails with no preview pane. When clicking on a message, the message is displayed in the current window. This is Hotmail Classic’s default methodology, and they offer no alternatives.

Default behavior of not displaying images

Default behavior of not displaying images

After the user tells the reader to display images

RESULTS

• Default Viewable Area: 513x171 (without
images), 513x219 (with images)

After the user tells the reader to display images

RESULTS

• Default Viewable Area: 795x230 (without
images), 795x260 (with images)

• Default Preview Pane Placement: No Preview • Other Preview Options: None
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3.5 AOL Desktop Client
AOL Desktop Client’s default mail view is to display your list of e-mails with no preview pane. When clicking on a message, the message is displayed in a pop-up window. This is the AOL Desktop Client’s default methodology, and they do not offer other alternatives. We measured based on a maximized window, as this is a common practice for users of 1024x768 displays.

3.6 AOL Webmail
AOL Webmail’s default mail view is to display your list of e-mails with no preview pane. When clicking on a message, the message is displayed in a popup window that is smaller than the actual screen resolution (which was 1024x768 for this analysis). This is AOL Webmail’s default methodology; however, they do offer other alternatives. We measured based on a maximized window, as this is a common practice for users of 1024x768 displays.

Default behavior of not displaying images Default behavior of not displaying images

After the user tells the reader to display images

RESULTS

• Default Viewable Area: 907x316 (without
images), 907x316 (with images)

After the user tells the reader to display images

RESULTS

• Default Preview Pane Placement: In Window • Other Preview Options: None
© 2008 - 2009 MicroMass Communications, Inc.

• Default Viewable Area: 687x474 (without
images), 687x495 (with images)

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• Default Preview Pane Placement: Pop-up • Other Preview Options: In Window
3.6.1 AOL Webmail - In Window
This view is another display option provided by AOL Webmail. It is not a preview pane; it allows the user to open the e-mail within the current window, rather than popping up a new window.

3.7 Outlook 2003
Outlook 2003 is a very common e-mail reader on the market. While much more common in the B-to-B realm, we felt we should include it despite the overwhelming trend toward Webmail readers in the Pharmaceutical consumer-based marketplace. Unfortunately, Outlook 2003’s preview pane size seems to vary from installation to installation, so we were forced to use what was currently displayed on the test system.

Default behavior of not displaying images Default behavior of not displaying images

After the user tells the reader to display images

RESULTS

After the user tells the reader to display images

• Default Viewable Area: 672x323 (without
images), 672x348 (with images

RESULTS

• Default Viewable Area: 411x412 (without
images), 411x461 (with images

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• Default Preview Pane Placement: Right • Other Preview Options: Bottom, No Preview
3.7.1 Outlook 2003 – Bottom/Horizontal Preview Pane
This preview pane is an alternative option the user may choose. Despite not being the default for Outlook 2003, this seems to be a more commonly used view.

3.8 Outlook 2007
Outlook 2007 is the newest release of Outlook from Microsoft. While similar to Outlook 2003, it handles e-mail in a different way. Yahoo, Hotmail and AOL have all dedicated themselves to making eMarketing difficult, but Microsoft has raised the bar with its latest release. Outlook 2007 now uses Microsoft Word to parse its e-mails, meaning that while it will show images by default, it will not display even the most basic HTML, such as CSS positioning or background images. Luckily, like 2003, Outlook 2007 is a much more common platform in B-to-B, and does not affect our consumer population as much as the major webmail readers on the market.

Default behavior of not displaying images

Default behavior of displaying images, and improper parsing of HTML.

RESULTS

• Default Viewable Area: 564x496 (with
some images) After the user tells the reader to display images

RESULTS

• Default Preview Pane Placement: Right • Other Preview Options: Bottom, No Preview

• Default Viewable Area: 743x166 (without
images), 743x232 (with images)

© 2008 - 2009 MicroMass Communications, Inc.

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3.8.1 Outlook 2007 – Bottom/Horizontal Preview Pane
This preview pane is an alternative option the user may choose. Despite not being the default for Outlook 2007, this seems to be a more commonly used view.

RESULTS

• Default Viewable Area: 781x199 (with
some images)

3.9 Combined Results
Below is a combined chart of the results from each e-mail reader. The bolded resolutions are the resolutions that should be focused on for a pharmaceutical consumer-marketing campaign. Outlook 2003 and 2007 are included for comparison purposes, but are not bolded due to their probable low use in this market versus in B-to-B communication. Again, other than with Outlook 2003, these tests were all conducted without resizing the default preview panes. See Figure 3.9a. Default behavior of displaying images, and improper parsing of HTML.

Figure 3.9a

{
Default Viewable Area With Images 622x192 797x84 785x210 795x230 907x316 687x474 411x412 564x496 Default Viewable Area Without Images 622x255 None 785x238 795x260 907x316 687x495 411x461 None

Combined Results }
Default Preview Pane Placement Bottom No Preview No Preview No Preview No Preview Pop-up Right Right Other Preview Options None None Bottom, Right None None None Bottom, No Preview Bottom, No Preview

Reader Yahoo Yahoo Classic Windows Live Hotmail Classic AOL Desktop AOL Webmail Outlook 2003 Outlook 2007

Other Viewable Areas None None 797x23 (no images), 797x23 (with images) 513x171 (no images), 513x219 (with images) None None 672x323 (no images), 672x348 (with images) 743x166 (no images), 743x232 (with images) 781x199 (with some images)

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4.0 Recommendations
From the above preview pane size results, you could surmise that designers and strategists should structure their e-mails to contain the most relevant calls to action within the top 638x86 pixels. This would allow your calls to action to be seen in every viewable area of the most popular Web mail readers’ default views. Those with vertical preview panes may lose out on some of the right-hand information, but those users seem to be less numerous in this marketplace. If you were really concerned with what would be visible in every occurrence, you could focus on the top 401x86 pixels, or organize your e-mail so that the most valuable information is on the top left, and the second most valuable on the top right.

platforms above, to ensure high consumer quality no matter what reader consumers choose.

For making your HTML e-mails more reader-friendly, you’ll have to keep in mind what they will look like when stripped of all their visual flair. Designer education and comprehensive testing is the key to accomplishing this.

5.0 Additional Questions
There is a lot of talk in the e-Marketing world about how consumers view their e-mails, especially in preview panes. Should your company design for vertical preview panes or horizontal? Should you worry about how an e-mail will look without images? Where is the market going?

We recommend that you not confine yourself completely within these numbers, but instead be sure that a significant enough portion of your CTA fits within this area. Use the visible area to give your consumer a reason to scroll down.

5.1 I thought vertical preview panes were on the rise?
As you can see, our recommendations skew toward the use of horizontal preview panes. As for the debate over designing for vertical preview panes or not, consideration of all preview panes is important. However, there is not a driving need for the pharmaceutical—or any other consumerdriven— marketplace to focus heavily on them. There are currently only three clients that support this technology:

For instance, if you have a “$40 off” offer in your Conversion program displayed as a callout, be sure that enough of that callout is visible in the top left 638x86 pixels to be identifiable. You don’t need the whole callout, just enough for the consumer to be able to comprehend its meaning. For a newsletter, ensure that the most valuable parts of your Table of Contents are plain text and fit within this area. These methods will entice the user to display the images associated with your e-mail, and continue reading. Constantly keeping track of how mail readers change, and feeding that information to designers so these problems are covered during the initial phases of an e-mail campaign, is important for any marketing department or agency. We also recommend testing every e-mail produced in the

• Outlook 2003/2007, which is used primarily in

the business environment or by professionals, not as frequently by consumers

• Thunderbird, a Mozilla-based competition for • Windows Live

Outlook Express geared toward more tech-savvy consumers.

And out of these three, only Outlook 2003/07 defaults to this behavior.

© 2008 - 2009 MicroMass Communications, Inc.

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5.2 What about Gmail?
We get asked this question all the time. Gmail is a very popular webmail reader from Google. Gmail’s usage is low in the Pharmaceutical consumer marketplace, as our study showed only 6% of consumers were using Gmail. This is great news for advertisers. While the idiosyncrasies between HTML processing for Yahoo, Windows Live and AOL are vast, Gmail takes things to a whole new level and post-processes almost everything it receives. This makes it very difficult for an agency to create an HTML-based e-mail that looks the same in Gmail as it does in other mail readers.

5.4 How can I make sure consumers receive my e-mails?
The best way to ensure that consumers receive your e-mails is to encourage them to add your e-mail address to their address book. This can be done with a simple line of text near the top of your e-mail. There are many benefits of convincing consumers to do this:

• Your e-mails are white-listed and will go
straight to the user’s inbox

• In most readers, images are displayed by de-

fault, making the e-mail more visually appealing rates can be tracked without the user having to click a “display images” button

5.3 What does the future hold?
From our experience with users, we see an increasing amount of people change the default setting for Outlook 2003/2007 from the right preview pane to the bottom. Is this statistically significant? Of course not, but it seems to be a common behavior. In addition, most LCD monitors on the market today have default resolutions of 1280x1024, or their widescreen variants. Computer manufactures are now shipping their machines to match, meaning for every new computer purchased, more viewable area is attained.

• When images are displayed by default, open

Keep in mind, regardless of whether your e-mail is displayed properly by default, the two items that will convince a user to open an e-mail the most are the subject line and a friendly from address. Stay away from generic subjects, and use that space to call out the most marketable part of your e-mail.

References
1 Statistical analysis was conducted on 179,384 consumers in October of 2008 on marketing campaigns for large-tier Pharmaceutical companies, spanning multiple indications. Results of this survey show that the fourth place in the list of mail domains was less than 7%. Subsequently, any webmail reader other than Yahoo, Hotmail or AOL would be used less than 7% of the time in the surveyed campaigns. All participants were recorded as having valid e-mail addresses with no record of a hard bounce. All Yahoo and Hotmail percentages assume that all participants use those respective Webmail readers, which is likely the case. 2 Statistics contain all AOL usage, including both the software and Web-based mail reader. 3 Even if Outlook 2003 or 2007 was used by every other mail domain surveyed, which is not the case, it could not pertain to more than 48%, or the remainder, of the audience. 4 Statistics sourced from W3Schools (http://www.w3schools.com/browsers/browsers_stats.asp) on October 15, 2008. 5 Statistics sourced from W3Schools (http://www.w3schools.com/browsers/browsers_display.asp) on October 15, 2008.

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About the Author
Benjamin S. Curtis, Digital Strategist
Benjamin Curtis has an extensive technical background ranging many markets, and has worked in the Internet technologies sector for over 12 years. Ben joined MicroMass Communications, a pharmaceutical marketing agency, in 2000 and is currently employed as a Digital Strategist. Prior to this role, Ben led the agency’s Web Services group, where he was instrumental in planning, implementing and managing numerous brand-marketing campaigns. For more information on how MicroMass Communications can help you with your eMarketing needs, please contact Benjamin S. Curtis at ben.curtis@micromass.com, or visit www.micromass.com.

About MicroMass Communications, Inc.
MicroMass personalizes brands. Founded in 1994, MicroMass is a relationship marketing agency with unrivalled capabilities in using behavioral science to gain and apply deep consumer insights. The company’s approach is founded on the belief that understanding the critical factors that influence individual behavior and creating a dialogue that addresses those factors is the best way of building enduring relationships between customers and brands. Unlike traditional agencies that are “siloed” or structured by discipline, MicroMass brings together under one roof the expertise and services for building sophisticated, multi-channel programs that span the full relationship marketing continuum. We are one team—integrated strategically, but able to apply specific nuances depending on the channel we believe will be most beneficial for the brand and its customer. Headquartered in Cary, N.C., with a second office in Morristown, N.J., MicroMass is one of the fastest growing agencies in its field. For additional information on MicroMass, visit www.micromass.com.

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