Responsive Emails: Common Design Challenges and Opportunities

— May 11, 2017

With the growing use of mobile phones and smart devices, it is necessary that the emails you create are compatible across all these devices and you do not miss out on any engagement opportunity. With iPhone, iPad, and Android making up the bulk of the mobile’s market share, it is essential to make email a more native-web experience.


A research collation from Emailmonday shows that more emails are read on mobile than on desktop email clients. The Radicati Group “Email Statistics Report, 2014-2018” states that by the end of 2018, worldwide mobile email users are expected to total over 2.2 billion. This clearly shows that whatever email you send needs to look good and render well on all devices, be it desktop, mobile phones or other smart devices.


As an email marketer, your job is to get subscribers to open and click through your emails, without sacrificing on the content quality or brand continuity. Think Responsive Email Design!


5 Key Responsive Email Design Challenges


While most email marketers strive for responsive design, here are the 5 key challenges that the email designers face while designing a responsive email.


1. Showing data on small screens


If the copy of the email is convoluted and complex, there may be issues in replicating it on the smaller screens. For this, it needs including screen appropriate content dimensions that will require the user to scroll multiple times to read it all, which may result in increased effort level for the user.


2. Responsive sketching of design elements


When the same email has to render across multiple devices and platforms, you need to focus on the sketching and prototyping of design elements. The design elements of the emails must be rearranged depending on different device resolutions and dimensions.


3. Adaptable icons and images


The background images, icons, typography and contrast choices must be taken into consideration while designing responsive emails as users have variant levels of screen dimensions and brightness on the small screens. Images need to be flexible to allow users to view them on various pixel density devices and the designer needs to make sure they don’t look poorly scaled up or blurry on any device.


4. Rich user experience and fast loading


Striking a balance between creating a rich user experience and the fast-paced nature of Internet is one of the biggest challenges. Responsive emails suffer from slow loading times if they are built using more images and background images. This means losing business, as majority of mobile users leave after few seconds of not getting what they expect.


5. Longer developing and testing time


Designing, developing and testing a responsive email takes longer time as compared to regular emails. That’s because a lot of aspects of the email need to be taken care of. To study how your content performs on desktops, tablets, and phones, you need to analyse the click behaviour and conversion by category. This means you need more data to test your emails across devices and optimize content and performance.


Overcoming the Challenges


These challenges can be looked up as an opportunity to generate increased value for your emails. To overcome these challenges, rethink your email type, content and frequency and identify the key priorities from a business perspective.



  • A safe option to design an effective responsive email would be to design it for the lowest common denominator and email clients supporting least CSS and HTML features. Advanced features can be added later.
  • Design it for mobile devices first where the screen space is minimum and then add necessary content to expand it for a desktop version.
  • Use of CSS3 for mobile compatibility works the best as it allows slower loading speed and better UX experience.
  • Allowing Retina images on mobile also provides a better view on high-resolution mobile/tablet devices.

Wrapping Up


The layout of the emails can be changed depending on the width of the screen by extensively using CSS3 media queries. Many ESPs offer ready-made email templates that are responsive. Get in touch with the Monks for more details on designing responsive emails. Monks design and code beautiful, responsive email templates.

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Author: Kevin George


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