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A Closer Look at Responsive Email Design

4 min

Before you read this post, think of all the devices you use to view your email. Computer – definitely. Mobile – probably. Tablet – more and more often. You view them on small screens and large, vertical and horizontal, with pictures on and off, in different browsers and email clients. Making every message look perfect on all devices might seem like a job for Superman, but actually it’s not. It’s a job for responsive design.

From the editor: Check out the new GetResponse Email Creator and start designing mobile responsive emails in no time.

What is responsive email design?

In a nutshell, responsive email design is a continuation of Responsive Web Design – a special approach that considers the requirements of all types of devices, including mobile, to display a website – or in this case – an email. The focus is on usability and creating an optimal viewing experience. This means it’s always a priority for your emails to look perfect, be easy to navigate, and generate responses.

The layouts for each screen size will vary, but only to obtain the best viewing and navigation possible. Here’s an example. Your newsletter contains two images placed next to each other. If you use the same layout on mobile devices, vertical display will make the images so small you won’t be able to see their content. In responsive emails, the images will be displayed for example – one under another, which will help maintain their reasonable size and newsletter clarity.

responsive - regular layout

Desktop view

responsive - mobile layout

Mobile view

According to a study we did last month, 41% of email messages are now opened on mobile devices. So when you provide mobile-friendly emails, your campaigns are adjusted to the habits of your subscribers.

Wondering what the future holds? Forrester Research predicts that by 2017, 78% of U.S. email users will access their emails via mobile. What’s more, 58% of marketers see smartphones and tablets affecting their email program in the next 12 months, up from 46% in 2012 (MarketingSherpa).

In addition to keeping you up-to-date with customer lifestyles, responsive web design lets you present your content at its best. Think of all the possibilities — vertical and horizontal views, touch screens, different sizes. Although it may take some time to rearrange your visual strategy, it’s definitely worth the effort.

What’s cool about responsive emails

Close your eyes for a few seconds and imagine a perfect email. Content you can view and read easily no matter what or where. Intuitive navigation on any device you use. On small, medium and large screens.

Now when your message is displayed in different screens, the screen resolution is recognized and the whole message is recomposed to fit the frame, with image size also adjusting to viewing conditions. Endless resizing, panning and scrolling gone forever.

Why use responsive emails?

First of all, responsive email design is a way to achieve a better user experience. Customers will appreciate how creative and… yeah, responsive! … your brand is. Who would bother to read a huge wall of black-and-white small-font text if they could easily view a neatly designed, colorful message?

Responsive emails enable your subscribers to access information they want anytime, anywhere and on any device, not to mention all browsers and email clients. What’s more, responsive emails load faster on mobile devices, so you can forget about slow picture uploads or hang-ups.

Best practices in responsive email design

Here are some tips to make your responsive emails flawless!

  1. Design smallest screens. But don’t feel you must constrain your desktop design to the content of the mobile version. Most marketers focus on large screen views, probably because it’s easier to cram a massive amount of content on a 15″ screen than on a 4″. The key issue in responsive web design is to make the message screen-friendly and user-friendly.

  2. Go visible. Arrange vertical layouts as carefully as horizontal ones. Make sure the fonts are legible on all screen sizes and that text layouts don’t get crooked. Down-sized visual content may not make sense, so crop or swap images rather than resize them. Focus on key details and arrange them in a juicy mobile composition.


  3. Be consistent. Direct the links inside mobile emails to mobile-friendly landing pages. Once you decide to go mobile, do it full-time!
  4. Make navigation easy. Don’t let your customers get lost. Instead of trying to fit a category menu or other large content on a small screen, cut it down and put more emphasis on key elements, such as merchandising zones. Make sure all buttons are large and finger-friendly — if “Delete Message” is the easiest button to click, do I need to mention the consequences?

    responsive - picture
  5. Focus your content. It may seem difficult at first, but learn to eliminate any content that’s unnecessary for mobile users. Think of the options they use most frequently. Keep in mind that mobile emails shouldn’t operate like websites but should be teasers that redirect readers to more extensive web resources.
  6. Cater to your customers. Check your statistics and pay attention to customer preferences. What’s most likely to be viewed on mobile? Special offers (discount codes for mobile users) amount to 27%, with vouchers and real-time tracking following them at 21%. When it comes to newsletters, 12% of respondents say they prefer to view that type of email on mobile devices (Edialog)
  7. Respond to customers. Consider giving your customers a unique opportunity to contact you on the spot with a click-to-call button. Use this option only if you can provide immediate response and competent customer support on the other end of the line, otherwise this feature — instead of being a communication icebreaker — could make callers reach their boiling point.

We are particularly excited about responsive emails for one reason – GetResponse team is about to bring you a truly innovative approach to mobile newsletters. Stay tuned and remember to check out our next posts!

How responsive are your email campaigns? Do you plan to go mobile in the near future? Share your thoughts with us!

Michal Leszczynski
Michal Leszczynski
Meet Michal Leszczynski, Head of Content Marketing and Partnerships at GetResponse. With 10+ years of experience, Michal is a seasoned expert in all things online marketing. He’s a prolific writer, skilled webinar host, and engaging public speaker. Outside of business hours, Michal shares his wealth of knowledge as an Email Marketing lecturer at Kozminski University in Warsaw. You can reach out and connect with Michal on LinkedIn.