Responsive email technology provides users with an optimal viewing experience regardless of device, maximising the potential for user engagement and, ultimately, click throughs.

The internet and all of the devices we attach to it have evolved dramatically over the past decade, yet email has taken a while to catch up. With at least 23 major email clients in use (source: Campaign Monitor) businesses, designers and developers have faced serious challenges designing effective emails that work across the spectrum of desktop operating systems and platforms, nevermind on mobile phones.

Digital life today is all about conversations and these conversations are happening across more platforms and channels than ever before, from social media to apps and traditional mediums like SMS. But email remains firmly embedded as the most pervasive format for communicating with virtually everyone via the internet – and as smartphone adoption increases this will continue to grow.

In 2012 mobiles surpassed desktops as the primary email clients

This is a milestone that changes everything. Users are no longer checking emails at their desk on a large, flat screen or on their notebook. They are reading emails everywhere, all of the time. And time is precious, so wasting a few minutes trying to read an email that is broken or does not fit within a mobile screen is likely to leave your subscriber cold. It’s a surefire way to get a delete, if not an unsubscribe. Worst case scenario you get marked as spam.

Email usage stats

Enter responsive email design

If you’re going to send emails to your subscriber list it is no longer a ‘nice-to-have’ option to offer a mobile optimised version. The solution is here and it’s time for businesses, designers and developers to catch up with what will soon become industry-standard.

Developing emails using responsive technology means that layouts intelligently adapt to suit the viewer’s browser and offer an optimal experience regardless of device. Using HTML5 and CSS3 the dream of a seamless user experience has become a very necessary reality. A reality that is achievable and within the grasp, budget and resources of most companies to implement.

How do emails become responsive?

The workflow for creating responsive emails is identical to that of creating responsive websites. First, your design team will create mockups for the screen sizes of the devices that will be accessing your emails. You may like to get some analytics around device usage on your email lists to help target the majority of your users and focus your efforts. But there’s no better time to future-proof your marketing technology than now, so designing for all major devices is a solid business decision.

Responsive email development should include several best practice elements that will ensure an optimal user experience and the best chance for you to engage customers. These include:

  • An engaging subject line (of course!), this is especially important in a busy mobile phone inbox.
  • A layout that fits the device width, preferably in a single column so users do not need to scroll in more than one direction.
  • A bold and clear call to action.
  • Align text blocks to the left side of the layout (eyetracking research suggests that Western users focus more strongly on the left side of layouts) and ensure that text is sized generously.
  • Use images sparingly in your mobile email.
  • Make use of touch-friendly buttons along with your call to action.

There are many considerations when planning a responsive email user experience and Campaign Monitor have an excellent guide available at http://www.campaignmonitor.com/guides/mobile/

As a business you have an opportunity every time you send out an email. You can make the most of the opportunity and present your client or lead with a beautifully optimised piece of digital communication or you can stick to old ways and hope for the best. The time and effort spent building a great responsive email gives you the best possible opportunity for more click-throughs, engagement and, ultimately, more sales.

Responsive email means that users have a seamless experience when they read your message on their mobile – and perhaps when they read it again on their notebook at home. If the message is readable across devices you’ve already made their life easier. If it is beautifully optimised and consistent on both devices then you are maximising your ROI potential.

Responsive email technology is here. Now is the time to adapt and prosper.