12 Tips for Better Responsive Design

Posted on by Chief Marketer Staff

By Andre Lejeune

The future of email marketing lies in the ability to adapt to your surroundings. More than half of all emails are opened on mobile devices, a proportion that will continue grow in the years ahead. Meanwhile, at least 50% of your mobile audience will close or even delete an email that isn’t optimized for their viewing.

The solution for email senders is responsive design—a set of techniques and principles that includes media queries, fluid layouts and images, and customized copy that make emails suitable for both desktop and mobile devices. Responsive techniques allow designers to hide, stack, expand/collapse or modify content to optimize email content display on smaller screens.

Here are 12 key tips, tricks and best practices to make responsive design work for reaching mobile customers with messages they want, the way they want them.

1.     Email Layout

Keep the responsive part in mind at all times, especially at the design stage. Start by conceptualizing a mobile design first and create the desktop version based upon it, rather than the reverse. Try to keep your mobile version as sleek and minimalistic as possible; the more images and special designs you use, the harder it will be to reach both mobile readers.

2.     Stick to a single column

To make the process of optimizing your newsletter as painless as possible, you should opt for a single column design. This suggestion doesn’t mean that the multi-column designs won’t work on mobile devices; it will just be harder to make them work on both desktop and mobile

3.     Left-aligned text

Eye tracking research suggests that western users focus the majority of their attention on the left-hand side of email content. Certain operating systems, notably Android, will not scale content to fit the screen, therefore displaying only the left half of an email. From an ergonomic perspective, the majority of users will find it easier to interact with elements in the bottom left/middle of their hand-held screen.

4.     Vertical hierarchy

Reduced screen real estate changes the rules.  Significant CTAs should be placed as near to the top as possible; if they are not seen immediately, they will probably not be seen at all.

5.     Media queries

Media queries are the biggest part of responsive design, letting you transform your email to a slim version on mobile devices. Used by web designers to make their website responsive, they can also be used for email layouts.  Different types of mobile devices can have different types of media queries, which means targeting popular devices according to their screen resolution.

6.     Size matters

Don’t punish fat fingers. Links and buttons should have a minimum target area of 44 x 44 pixels, as per Apple guidelines. Nothing is more unusable than clouds of tiny links on touchscreen devices. Keep font size between 17-21 pixels; the best font size is usually 19 pixels.

7.     Liquefy your design

There are different methods for creating a responsive layout. The easiest method consists of creating a liquid design which will adapt to the width of the device it is displayed on. This implies using percentages to control your layout.  As a best practice, use both: a scalable layout that turns responsive.

8.     Slim down your content

Not every piece of information in the email is of the same importance; some are more important than others. When creating your responsive design, select the “most important” information in the email to avoid overcrowded mobile messages.  And keep content concise: small screens mean it’s more important than ever to engage the user as efficiently as possible.

9.     Hide and Seek

The main objective of a mobile version should be to ensure easy readability. This often means hiding some of the secondary content in your newsletter to keep the focus on what’s most important. By applying a simple hide class to any image, paragraph or entire table that isn’t top priority, it is automatically hidden from the mobile version.

10.  Think in packages

When slimming down your design for mobile users, stop thinking in pages and start thinking in packages. Consider every part of your email as a package you can select to show or not show, which gives you more freedom in designing your email.

11.  Responsive Images

Mobile devices usually load certain items more slowly than a PC, which will leave mobile users waiting when using the same image size is used for the mobile and for the desktop versions. Swap the images to a smaller version when the email is received on the mobile device. And don’t assume images will be seen. The iPhone’s native email app will display images by default, but many clients won’t. If your email doesn’t contain enough text, it might also be picked up by a spam filter.

12.  Test your responsive design

There are numerous free online tools to test your mobile design, giving you previews of the design in different sizes, rescaling your browser to the desired resolution, how to convert your pixel into percentages, and more.

André Lejeune is chief executive officer of Selligent.

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