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Responsive Email Design

The Challenges of Responsive Email Design- Understanding and Navigating Them

Struggling to grasp responsive email design? This blog will help iron out the wrinkles!...

Gone are the days when people used to access their emails exclusively on their desktop computers. The rapid advancement of technology has ushered in a stunning array of devices, which, while physically being significantly less intimidating than their desktop counterparts, are just as efficient, if not more, at replicating their capabilities. Phones, tablets, and wearable devices are now ubiquitous, making it imperative for email marketers to take them all into account while designing and developing their campaigns. This is where responsive email design comes into the picture. 

Formulated nearly a dozen years ago by web designer Ethan Marcotte, responsive design refers to the practice of designing content such that it remains accessible and engaging across devices of all types and screen sizes. While Ethan had initially envisioned this philosophy for the realm of web design, it gradually started finding immense appeal among the email community, too. Despite its necessity and popularity, however, responsive email design, more often than not, breaks out cold beads of sweat on developers’ foreheads, so complex are its asks. If you are just starting to learn the ropes of this technique, this blog will prove to be a timely read for you. Today, we discuss in detail the many challenges that one may encounter while practicing responsive email design and how you can overcome them. Excited to find out more? Dive in!

The Need For Responsive Email Design

Before we delve deeper into the complexities of responsive email design, it is important for us to first wrap our heads around its gravity. Let us take a look.

  • 47%– that’s how many emails are opened on mobile devices. This is a statistic that you can afford to overlook only at your own peril. Given the perpetual rise of mobile users, this number is only destined to go upwards in the years to come. Practicing responsive email design, thus, is absolutely non-negotiable under these circumstances.
  • Helps you deliver a better user experience. Subscribers, irrespective of the device with which they are accessing your email, should be able to derive the same experience from it, something that you can only facilitate by delivering responsive email templates. The last thing you’d want for your subscribers is to bounce from your emails simply because they are frustrated with how it appears on their devices. 
  • Increases your engagement numbers and decreases your unsubscribe rates. Subscribers find it easier to interact with and navigate through emails crafted with a responsive framework. Naturally, this makes them look forward more and more to your emails. All of this ultimately contributes to boosting your ROI.
  • Allows you to steer clear of legal issues. By making your emails responsive, you are automatically taking a significant step towards making your emails accessible. Several international policies and legal frameworks make it binding for businesses to make their communication accessible for people with visual, cognitive, speech, auditory, and physical disabilities. Should you fail to comply with them, you can invite an endless torrent of disputes and an unenviable brand recognition in the process.

Challenges of Responsive Email Design

What are a few roadblocks you might come across while practicing responsive email design? Let’s find out.

Handling Content Density

Representing email copy on a smaller screen is a department that puts email developers in an incredible fix. Broadly, they have two ways to go about it:

1. Shrink the font size to accommodate it all in a limited space.

2. Stick to a legible font size and have the content spread out.

Now, neither of these routes is very user-friendly. While the first way requires users to repeatedly zoom in to their screens to read the content, the second approach calls for them to scroll multiple times to consume the content in its entirety. Out of the both options, the second one is definitely better, but it demands some degree of effort from the reader nonetheless. 

Of course, you can always attempt to keep your email copy as crisp as possible, but given the extremely limited screen real estate mobile devices offer, you are bound to find yourself in a pickle every now and then. 

Besides content arrangement, link placement is also going to cause some headaches for you. If you are showcasing multiple products, including all of their links and CTAs will most certainly be a challenge. If, solely for the sake of visibility, you are thinking of placing them all above the fold, we strongly suggest you to reconsider. Take a step back and visualize how clustered it will make your mobile-version email. That can’t possibly draw in readers, right? Highlighting a couple of your most sought-after offerings above the fold is alright, but if you have several links, you will have to be pretty smart about placing them throughout your email.

Factoring in Latency 

Latency, in the context of mobile devices, refers to the time taken by them to transmit and receive a message. High latency is what we popularly address as lag. At some point or the other, your mobile users will fall prey to bandwidth (volume of data sent) and latency issues. As a result, your emails will suffer, too, even without any fault on your own. If a user attempts to open your email in an area where the connectivity is poor, they wouldn’t be able to engage with any visual component of the email (images, GIFs, CTA button), eventually deriving a poor user experience. Matters get even trickier with tablets because, depending on the model, they may or may not have a cellular data connection of their own. So, someone who’s viewing emails on such a tablet has to rely on an external data source. And if that source isn’t reliable, your emails will fail to make an impact, no matter how mindfully they are curated.

Dealing with Multiple Design Considerations

Various factors defining your email’s design language, such as images, typography, and color contrast, to name a few, will render differently across different devices. Additionally, users’ screen sizes and the brightness levels on them need to be taken into account. All of this can make the entire process of design curation extremely difficult. 

Devoting More Time to Development and Testing

As we already mentioned, tons of factors have to be taken into consideration to ensure your email is responsive. It is no surprise, thus, that the development and testing of responsive emails demand much more time and resources compared to non-responsive ones. Monitoring their performance is also an uphill task because it requires you to glean data from different kinds of devices and analyze conversion and click behavior by category. Only when you have all this data at your disposal can you optimize the performance of your responsive emails. 

Responsive Email Design Best Practices

The challenges presented by the responsive email design process can be pretty overwhelming, but it is important not to succumb to them. Responsive emails drive brilliant results and promote accessibility, so instead of conceding defeat to its various difficulties, we must find a way to work our way around them. Listed below are a few tips and tricks that will certainly help you with that.

  • Always look to use single-column layouts. Doing so will allow you to keep issues commonly associated with multi-column layouts at bay, such as overlapping columns, shifting images, and overflowing texts. Moreover, single-column layouts are a great solution to the content density issue. Irrespective of whether your content volume is high or low, it automatically becomes much easier to navigate when presented in a single-column layout.
  • Add media queries. This will allow you to create different layouts for different devices. However, while doing so, you first need to check which email clients support them. Android Gmail app IMAP, Outlook 2007-16, AOL Mail, and Windows 10 Mail are some that don’t. If the majority of your subscribers use email clients that don’t support media queries, you are better off not using them.
  • Pay attention to the length of your subject lines. Ideally, they should be between 25-30 characters for mobile devices and no more than 60 for desktops. 
  • Preview and test your emails before sending them out. Check how your email is appearing across different devices and environments and whether every single element is holding up how it’s supposed to be before you hit on that send button. 
  • Adopt a mobile-first philosophy. When you design your emails keeping mobile devices in mind, you are very likely to tick all the boxes required for desktops, too. 
  • Convert links to clickable buttons wherever possible. Mobile users may find it difficult to interact with links when presented in a cluster. Hence, doing so will allow you to deliver an improved user experience. 

Wrapping It Up

The journey of mastering the art of responsive email design can be pretty turbulent, but you must embark upon it. Today, the presentation and accessibility of your content are just as important as its quality; practicing responsive email design ensures that your emails get the spotlight they rightfully deserve. 

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Rohan Kar

Rohan Kar works as a Content Writer at Email Uplers, An engineering graduate, he was quick to realize that his calling lied in other pastures. When not writing, he can be found participating in elaborate movie marathons or aggressive book circle discussions.



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