From Responsive Website to Responsive Email Design

For those who don’t know, responsive web design is a technique used to ensure your website is optimised for optimal viewing on all devices. The design ‘responds’ to the screen size and displays a format that is suited to that specific user.

There continue to be more and more mobile devices used to search and browse the internet. Rather than traditional laptops or office computers, many people now use smartphones and tablets to browse and generally seem to prefer the ease of use. The age of mobile web access seems to be here to stay and it only grows more popular as time goes on.

But what about email? Do the same principles apply?

Principles of Responsive Website Design

Responsive web design is not new technology per se, but an idea comprised of new web design techniques and slightly modified coding methods to allow a website to be viewed equally well on any device whether it be mobile, tablet or PC. There is no longer a need to create two or three different versions of a website in order for it to accommodate mobile devices. Responsive websites adjust to the device being used.

What most people don’t seem to know yet is that the same technology can be applied to emails.

When I read that last sentence back to myself, I can see why some of you out there might be thinking; so what? Well this little graph (below) should encourage you to read on…

This graph was created by the team at Campaign Monitor – an awesome email marketing platform (and a global leader in their industry) that we use ourselves and for our clients. It shows trends in how emails were accessed from mid-2011 to mid-2012; whether from web-based email clients, mobile-based email clients or desktop-based email clients.

As you can see, in this period we saw usage of mobile email clients soar; going from obscurity to the largest overall segment. Desktop clients (i.e. Outlook) still remain popular, while web-based clients (such as GMail) are rather surprisingly the least popular. Why could this be?

  • First and foremost, it is simply a fact that accessing emails instantly via one swipe action over a device that lives in your pocket is easy: Much easier than any other method of accessing emails.
  • When people are on a desktop machine, they seem to prefer the ease of using a desktop icon for a local program (such as Outlook etc) rather than having to open a web browser, click a bookmark, login etc etc.
  • Most people use mobiles out of work now. Therefore, most desktops that are used to access emails will be in a workplace; where Outlook and Lotus Notes (now called IBM Notes) still reign supreme.

Spam Filters

So what can we deduce about spam filters for email marketing? It seems pretty obvious that spam filters will increasingly include responsive email design as a must when emails are accessed from mobile devices. It stands to reason that a usability feature that offers so much value will eventually become ‘standard’ practice.

Furthermore, with the advent of retina screens (very high resolution) on most modern mobile devices, it is also likely that so-called ‘retina-ready’ (i.e. high definition) email designs will be better for getting through spam filters on mobile email clients. The best way to deliver retina-ready emails is using responsive design techniques.

Posted by Paul

Paul is our Head of Marketing and strategy specialist. He has worked on award-winning campaigns for household-name brands, SMEs and public sector organisations since 2003.

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