Responsive email design: Crafting a custom user experience

Responsive design has been applied to websites for years to craft a custom user experience for both mobile and desktop, and at last it’s transitioning to emails, a long-overdue enhancement to the otherwise stiff, inflexible tabular platform emails are built on.

The ‘unresponsive’ problem & the ‘responsive’ solution

Without responsive design, mobile email clients do their best to tweak desktop-size emails for mobile display, but each platform has a different strategy and sometimes versions even have their own sub-strategies! iPhones compress the email, text and all, to fit onto its screen resulting in microscopic text and buttons so small they’re difficult to target. Android phones shrink the email, but not as much as the iPhone resulting in the user having to scroll around to see the entire email. Windows phones shrink the email and images to fit the screen much like iPhones, but enlarge the text so it’s easy to read – a good strategy on the surface but a nightmare for developers as they watch their careful designs crumble before their very eyes.

Up until responsive email design, that was all we could do. No more. Responsive design has opened the door to a whole new world of great user experiences for emails that will engage them in new and better ways. Two column layouts on desktop seamlessly merge into single-column layouts on mobile, images scale appropriately, button-size is maintained, and text is scaled as desired to ensure the best experience no matter where they check their email.

In the example below, the two column layout on desktop changes to a single column on mobile, the text wraps around the image, and the headers and links change colors, just a glimpse of what can be accomplished with responsive email design.

Responsive Email Design

No compromise

Fortunately, developers don’t have to compromise compatibility with older email clients in order to take advantage of responsive email design since older clients simply ignore anything they don’t understand, including CSS media queries.

It’s effective

Responsive email design, though still in its infancy, already has a track record of proven results. One company with a large mobile audience started using responsive email design and saw a 9% increase in mobile opens and a 10% increase in click-through rates.

The future of email is here. It’s better for businesses and it’s better for customers. You can’t beat a deal like that.

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