Is Your Company Ready for Responsive Email?

By Mike Kooiman  |  August 5, 2014

Icon of phone, computer, and tablet

With nearly 50 percent of all email messages being opened on a mobile device rather than a desktop, companies need to take a fresh look at what their customers are seeing. And if you’ve succeeded in getting your readers to open your email, what are they experiencing, and is it enough?

On a smartphone or tablet, an email that is not designed for mobile (with stacks of multiple columns) is reduced to a size that fits the width of the screen. Invariably, a reader will need to zoom in for a more legible size. How confident are you that someone will make this effort, or read it later on a larger screen?

Chances are good that you’ve just lost valuable impressions on half of your opens.

The most versatile solution is a responsively designed format. The proliferation of smaller devices—tablets and smartphones—spawned the invention of responsive web design: the enabling of pages to optimize content for the viewer’s screen size.

Even clean, appealing email layouts are displayed on mobile devices at a size that renders the text illegible. See how it might look if the content adjusted itself to the device. Which of the following phone layouts are you more likely to read?

non-responsive email example screenshot
responsive email example screenshot

Responsive email design is catching up to the web, but there are unique challenges for email. Before you pull the trigger on a new design, you should review some important considerations to make certain you are ready for the transition:

  1. Ask your email service provider if its system supports a responsive email. Surprisingly, some major senders will rewrite or strip crucial sections of your code. Imagine how disappointing it would be to see your beautiful, “bulletproof” email fall apart when you load it into your vendor’s system.
  2. Select the right template. Coding responsive emails is complex, and not all responsive email templates are ready for prime time. You could find that you’ve developed your new design based on code that has critical flaws.
  3. At a minimum, you’ll need to recode. Even if you don’t want to completely redesign your current email, you will need to design narrower versions of it, and re-engineer what’s under the hood.
  4. Allow time for testing. Careful testing will ensure the best display across a myriad of email clients. (And if you’ve skipped #1-3 above, testing will quickly reveal some problems.)

If you’re looking to maximize engagement, the benefits could outweigh these challenges. What’s more, it’s healthy to roll up your sleeves periodically, to review your analytics and reassess your content hierarchy.

Mobile users are accustomed to scrolling down for more content, but there is some debate about the importance of being “above the fold.”

Read next: 4 Must-Do Tweaks in Your Google Analytics Account

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