Why Your Emails Need to Put the Responsive Back in Their Design

  By: Pilar Bower, Senior Email Marketing Strategist at Red Door Interactive Featured in eM+C August 13, 2012
Email campaigns work, period. The question becomes how effective they can be for certain organizations. Some marketers have seen significant drops in conversion rates and incorrectly conclude that emails are slowly becoming irrelevant. Nothing could be further from the truth. It's not that emails are no longer valued by their recipients; they just prefer to view them differently than in years past. Specifically, more and more consumers will read emails using a wide range of devices, including tablet PCs and smartphones. The problem is how the email often appears on these platforms — namely, distorted and unappealing. When this occurs, the consumer experience is compromised and the opportunity to engage is lost. The challenge for marketers is to have their email not only convey a clear message, but be visually appealing on a whole host of devices, including laptops and mobile as well as traditional desktop computers. At first glance, doing so would appear to be cost prohibitive. Designing multiple versions of the same email campaign would cause budgets to rise exponentially and return on investment to drop similarly. That causes most organizations to simply put up with substandard campaigns. So-called "responsive design" solves this problem. To oversimplify, email programmers write in a media query or a piece of software code in the head of an email document code that will employ a certain set of layout instructions when a specific set of criteria is met, such as a screen resolution for a particular smartphone. The email can then conform to the width, height, image size and other attributes of particular devices. It can also hide certain design elements if the device is so small that it would look cluttered even at smaller resolutions. The biggest benefit to this process is the scalability of a campaign to be appealing in a wide variety of formats without an exponential rise in development costs to make this happen. Responsive design automatically provides a mobile-friendly version of email campaigns that can deliver dynamic content to confirm to whatever device the email appears in. Responsive design media queries are compatible with most current web browsers. However, IE versions 8 or older aren't. The same is true for most mobile device browsers. As a prudent practice, it's best to test the email on multiple platforms before executing the campaign to be sure. Another tip to ensure that the graphics are clean on any device is to use a single-column layout in the email design. In cases like this, less is most certainly more. As more consumers communicate electronically through devices other than laptops or desktops, email campaigns need to be sensitive to appearing on a wide range of platforms. Designers once thought of this trend as a major headache that wouldn't go away. Responsive design eliminates that problem for those who use it.

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