Responsive Design is catching a lot of buzz lately, and for good reason – it’s super cool and adaptive within a continually expanding mobile universe. Responsive Design can make a webpage shrink or expand to the device it’s being viewed on instantly through the use of CSS3 @media queries in the HTML coding.
Lately, however, much of the buzz is about applying these media queries within email code to generate responsive emails. There’s one giant catch that many articles of late seem to smooth over….
Why NOT to use responsive design in email
Responsive design doesn’t work in Android within their native email client, Gmail. 50% of US mobile phones are Smartphones according to a report by Chetan Sharma Consulting and of that 50%, 61.6% are Android OS as of July 2012 ComScore figures. So responsive design isn’t yet optimal for a full email rollout.
Effort to get responsive design going
As stated by Jordan Cohen in his article Go Mobile, or Go Home, “The effort required to code an email for responsive design can be intensive, and support for media queries is spotty — many marketers complain of breakage when their designs are viewed in unsupported email clients and web browsers.”
Let’s not miss underscoring his point that “effort” equates to “additional budget needs” for coding time. If you have an Apple OS-only mobile base or wish to target them exclusively, then rock on with the responsive design. If not, don’t be discouraged – all hope is not lost!
What can you do to optimize email for mobile?
You may be wondering why all this hype for a technique that isn’t truly optimal is such a popular subject of late. It’s topical due to the continued increase in mobile usage and simply, it’s shiny and has amazing potential to be über cool for email… someday… when it can work across all major platforms. The question then becomes – what CAN be done to optimize emails for mobile delivery across all platforms?
The shiniest object worthy of the email marketer’s affections is live content which has more technological power behind it than responsive design for email.
According to Jordan Cohen, ”… marketers can create device-specific versions of email templates and render them on the fly based on which devices recipients are using when they open email.” Sure, Jordan’s biased as he’s the VP of Marketing at Movable Ink – but he’s definitely not wrong.
There are actually a few options out there that can really help in the battle to mobilize.
The only downfall to live content is the need to create multiple email versions designed for the most popular devices. If resources and budget are available, it’s certainly worthy of a test.
Low budget Mobile Email optimization
If resources and budget aren’t available to check out live content, then sometimes the ol’ standbys are the way to go. From creating mobile optimized versions of email – essentially, doing what needs to be done for live content without actually using live content – to using simple design techniques to create mobile-friendly emails. Check out Optimize Your Email for Mobile by Mike Hotz for recommendations. Neither of these methods are optimal, but they’re both realistic within the limitations of a tight budget.
Mobile optimization is not a cheap endeavor, but it’s also not crazy expensive. The data speaks for itself as to why it’s important to mobilize emails – more and more people are using mobile devices to review their inbox. Check out this fancy and fabulous mobile infograph from Litmus to backup these wildly true claims.
Clients and marketers alike are accustomed to the low prices of working with email; however, to play with the big dogs, some coin needs to be dropped. How you choose to do it can vary, but make the wisest choice based on facts, not simply because it’s shiny.