The Power of Responsive Email Design

The majority of email opens occur on mobile devices, and this trend will grow in the future.  On average, a person receives 124 emails per day, and it’s estimated that the number will increase to 126 by 2019.  Email is used both for work and pleasure; it’s irreplaceable and timeless. Email is even older than the World Wide Web! The first email was sent in 1971 while WWW first appeared in 1989.

Nowadays, email is going through a complex transformation generated by the massive use of mobile devices. Until a decade ago, emails were opened in a desktop browser. These have a few incompatibilities, but a few tweaks were enough to assure a good user experience.

The multitude of screen sizes of mobile devices and different operating systems has complicated the job of email senders.

Crafting a good email that looks great on every screen size is challenging. Currently, there is no unanimously approved approach, but it seems that responsive design will become the norm.

Responsive design has its flaws, but compared to other solutions, it’s the best. Gmail started to support media queries last year, and many developers have claimed that it’s the reference point for widely implementing responsive design.

What is Responsive Design?

What is reponsive design

Responsive design is a term coined by Ethan Marcotte in 2010. It refers to website designs that are flexible with content flows depending on the device’s screen size. In other words, the site adapts the content for each device.

Responsive design has been adopted by all web designers. Without getting too technical, a vital pillar of responsive design is the use of media queries.

A media query checks for the screen size, and the website’s rendering is based on this size.

The snippet below shows paper.jpg as a background for screen sizes that have a maximum width of 500 px.

      @media only screen and (max-width: 500px) {
       body {
       background-image: url("paper.jpg");

Responsive design wasn’t widely implemented in email design because of the email applications’ limitations until 2014-15. In the last two years, however, designers and marketers accepted that responsive design is the best solution for mobile-friendly emails.

Here are three major advantages of using responsive design. Certainly, these can’t be ignored!

Undistorted Emails

An email has no second chance! The inbox of an average person is always full of emails, and yours has only a few seconds to convince the reader.

An email is instantly deleted if it’s distorted or if its design is clumsy. Responsive design lets you create an email that works on any device. Apart from that, it also allows you to put your creativity to work and design a sophisticated and visually appealing email.

Many Free Templates

FREE! responsive email templates

Conducting an email campaign is a time-consuming activity. Luckily, there are many free responsive email templates that can be used to delight your subscribers.

Instead of spending time and resources to design a unique email, you can use a fully customizable template that has been tested and is suitable for your brand.

Similarity to Web Design

Web designers have used responsive design and created various techniques to resolve specific issues. Adopting this design approach is helpful for developers because they don’t have to learn new tricks and techniques.

By now, I believe that you are inclined to use responsive design when sending emails to your subscribers. You must, however, take many factors into account when creating a responsive email template.

It’s not a simple task, which is why I suggest using a template. The following tips are vital for a good responsive email template.

Stick to a Single Column Layout

Email recipients often don’t have the luxury of reading all the emails in their inboxes; some of them are deleted without being opened while others are simply scanned.

Therefore, your email should be easy to scan, and a single column is a proper layout in this case. It works great for handheld devices, and it’s suitable for desktop too. On top of that, this format emphasizes the content.

Place the CTA Button above the Fold

The more clicks your call-to-action (CTA) buttons get, the more chances you have to convert readers. The return on investment (ROI) depends on the CTA button.

Place the CTA button above the fold to be visible immediately after opening the email. The button should be big, bold, and clickable.

There is no magic formula for the perfect CTA button, but A/B testing can help you improve it.

Use a Readable Font or Pair of Fonts

Readable fonts

Sometimes, being classy is better than trying to be original; the fonts used in an email are a good example in this respect.

Choose a readable font and pay attention to its size and test your email before starting the campaign. Make sure that your message won’t strain the readers eyes.

Most email service providers let you preview the email before sending it to subscribers. Additionally, to avoid any issues, send it to a limited number of email addresses and test it for various screen sizes and email applications.

Buttons, Not Links

There are a couple of reasons to use buttons instead of links.

First, a button breaks the text and makes the copy more digestible.

Second, a button is better in terms of user experience. A user clicks a button without intention more rarely than a text link. Third, a button is more visually attractive than hypertext.

Images Make or Break an Email

People have an attention span shorter than that of a goldfish, and it may hurt your campaign if the email loads slowly.

The heavy usage of images considerably affects loading speed. Don’t rely too much on images because some users might disable loading images.

Some marketers avoid using images because of these two reasons. However, it very much relies on the type of campaign and industry.

You can’t send a newsletter for an online clothing store without using images. Once again, through testing, you can find the image usage sweet spot.

Responsive design is here to stay. Designers will push it to the limits sooner or later, and responsive emails will become what responsive websites are today.

Do you believe this scenario, or do you have another vision? Leave a comment and share what you think.

About the Author

Roland Pokornyik - CEO of Chamaileon

Roland Pokornyik is the CEO & Co-founder of Chamaileon’s email content management platform for teams and’s responsive email editor API.

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Kelly Jane
Kelly Jane
Kelly is PeoplePerHour marketing expert. She has a wealth of experience in digital and social media marketing. As a freelancer, she has been committed in helping small businesses grow by offering them agile and result-driven marketing services.
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