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Responsive web design

Responsive web design is a fantastic methodology that most web developers should be aware of by now - we’ve been using it to produce fluid, cross-platform websites for the better part of the last three years and it’s widely regarded to be A Good Thing.

It may come as a surprise, then, that relatively few of us in the industry are aware of responsive design for email content. We’ve all been there; your phone buzzes and hums a happy little tune to alert you to a new email being received, and when you check your inbox the html-rich email (despite having a lot of effort put into it) looks terrible on your phone’s display. You need to scroll sideways to read the text, or everything has been shrunk in order to fit. Personally, I tend not to bother trying to read those emails and I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t either.

The end result is that an entire, ever-growing, market segment is alienated to the point where your message is at best ignored, and at worst has a negative impact on the user’s view of your company, especially if you are an internet-oriented business.

It doesn’t need to be this way! Attractive, cross-platform layout of content is what responsive web design is all about, and it applies to email content too.

Is there really a case for this?

According to email analytics & services company Litmus (http://www.litmus.com/) 42% of email opens occur on a mobile, a figure that’s set to rise - Email consumption via mobile has risen 138% in the 18 months ending in March 2013, with nearly 50% growth in 2012 alone. With that many potential users consuming email content via mobile, ensuring that your content is effectively delivered in a platform-agnostic way is practically a necessity.

A brave new world!

There’s more to transitioning from static to responsive email layouts than just updating a css file, of course. You need to adapt your approach to email design, consider how you want the user experience to be, how to emphasise your call-to-action buttons without introducing clutter and generally how to present your message in a concise and attractive manner.

Most of this is old news when it comes to web design in general, although adoption of these practices when it comes to email content has been slow on the uptake. These principles can be carried over to email design fairly easily, but for the fact that from a marketer’s perspective it can be a new challenge to cater to mobile users in this manner. Don’t fret though, sticking to the three tenets of less fluff, less space and simpler graphics will see you through the transition.

On the subject of the transition itself, redesigning and producing new content has a large up-front time cost associated with it and this needs to be accounted for. The upshot of this however is that subsequent content cycles, revisions and updates should be much smoother and streamlined thanks to the improved process you just created, and you can use this prospect of long-term return on time investment to sell the changeover to management if needs be.

A measure of success

So, your company has just launched its latest email campaign, featuring a snazzy new responsive layout. How do you test for success with responsive email design? Thankfully, the clever folks over at DEG Digital have already covered this in their fantastic article & case study on the benefits of responsive email design (http://www.degdigital.com/blog/the-benefits-of-responsive-email-design-a-crocs-case-study/) and I heartily suggest you go and have a read if you want to dig into the nitty-gritty of how to test for success with email metrics. Spoiler alert: Responsive email design wins.

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“Hyvä webstrategia mahdollistaa yrityksen näyttää isommalta, puhua kovemmin ja tavoitella pidemmälle. Siinä hieman ajateltavaa.”