The pixel width of email blasts

My colleague Kathy asked me what the design width of email blasts should be. I had to admit I had no idea. So I did a little research in my inbox, measured my recent html email blasts and notifications and here are the results. Pixel width is approximate, I might be off a pixel or two. All widths are in pixels.

  • Starbucks: 736
  • Newegg: 652
  • Amazon: 663
  • Gap: 703
  • B&N: 665
  • LinkedIn: 590
  • PayPal: 600
  • Apple: 600
  • Peachpit: 636
  • Netflix: 541
  • Twitter: 712
  • At&T: 592
  • UPS: 588

There you go, Kathy. Email designs are between 541px and 736 with an average width of 637 pixels.

How to perform a card sort

One of the more elaborate techniques of researching information architecture is card sorting, a tool for examining how users group topics. It will help the information architect to figure out what the taxonomy of a website should look like and determine a dominant organization scheme. It also helps with taxonomy or labeling content. Ultimately we do want to know how people are searching for specific content and where they expect it to be.

There are two major methods for card sorting that can be used:

1. Open sort: participants can group cards without any constraints, according to their own classification.
2. Closed sort: participants can group cards according to pre-established groups.

Both methods can be done offline and online. In an offline mode, pages can be represented by index cards that display the title and a brief description of the page. In this method you are one-to-one with the participants, which allows to explain the process and the rules. It will also give you the most feedback and thus great qualitative data.

In an online mode, a software program like optimalsort can be used to do the same, but feedback and guidance options are limited. However, you could set up a GoTo Meeting with screen share to mimick a traditional card sorting exercise.

Card sorts will give both qualitative and quantitive data. You will gain insights in how participants think and perceive certain items and you’ll be able to create a clear taxonomy for a large group of users.

A typical card sorting exercise would take about 3-4 weeks. Allow 1 week for preparation, 1 week for the actual exercise, and 1-2 weeks to analyze and report results. Of course the timeline may vary by the size of the project.

However you want to perform your card sort, it will give great insight into how users approach the content matter on your site.

Screen sizes and user agent trends

This week had me looking at log files for various websites I worked on. These websites are both B2B and B2C with the majority of users originating from North America. A few obervations:

1024 x 768 is no longer the most commonly used screen resolution. This surprised me somewhat, but here in North America 1280×800 seems to be the dominant screen resolution nowadays. Granted, it’s followed very closely by 1024 x 768, but larger resolutions combined make up for a larger share. 800 x 600 seems to be completely wiped out.

iPhone screen resolutions total about 5% of all users. That means that 1 in every 20 visitors uses an iPhone to look at these websites, more than Android clients (about 2%). iPads are not a significant percentage yet, except on one site I checked where they had a 3% market share.

IE is still the dominant browser, making up for almost 55% of the browsers. The majority of IE versions used is IE8. Firefox is second followed closely by Safari (Mac, iPhone) and Chrome.
Chrome on Mac is no more than 3 %.

IE6 is still around With 5% percent of the total users, this group is as big as all iPhone users. So 1 in every 20 visitors is using IE6. Scary.