What You Need to Know About Responsive Design and Why It’s Now Critical for Email

Originally published in collaboration with Teradata on the Teradata blog.

Any marketer who has tried to reach out to customers with an email newsletter knows just how easily even the most painstakingly-crafted design elements can go awry when opened on different devices (smartphones, tablets, laptops, etc.), each with its own unique preferences for settings, browsers, etc.

The challenge of designing custom content that’s readable on all screens has been an email marketer’s constant headache for years.

But now –at last –it’s time to put away the Tylenol.

Relief, in the form of responsive design, has arrived. Responsive design is a smart coding technology that automatically adjusts layout based on the device used for viewing.

Let me tell you more by inviting Sean Shoffstall, Creative Director for Aprimo Creative Services, to join in on the conversation.

Me: Sean, Can you describe this technology in more detail? What is responsive design, exactly?

Responsive design is a hybrid of UX and Code that organizes and delivers content so the end user can see it in the most beneficial layout. This optimal layout is based on where/how the end user is consuming the content. Essentially, responsive design ensures your content is delivered to the consumer where and how they want to consume it.

Me: So, how does responsive design work?

Sean: Like the name suggests, responsive design organizes and codes content dynamically. Your single set of code changes size and layout based on the screen size of the end user’s device. For websites, responsive design code is a mix of CSS and HTML. For emails, it utilizes inline CSS and master style sheets.

Me: That sounds incredibly exciting for marketers! But, in practical terms, what does responsive design mean to the end user?

Sean: For the end user experiencing it, responsive design brings an end to cryptic, difficult-to-navigate emails from merchants. Finally (!), end users will be able to read and consume offers and promotions –no matter what device they’re using.

Me: And what about the organizations leveraging it? What does responsive design mean to them?

Sean: For the organizations leveraging it, responsive design means fewer headaches. But, it also means more investment in UX and template planning . . .  and smarter copywriting and design. Of course, over time, these improved planning and enhanced design capabilities will lead to efficiencies that allow even greater agility with templates.

Me: I know I’ve heard you describe responsive design as a “game-changer.” Why do you think it will have such a big impact on email marketing?

Sean: Responsive design is a game changer on several different levels. First of all, any organization leveraging responsive design will no longer need to develop both a mobile and a desktop email and site.  In addition, all content will be delivered to customers in a digestible format, no matter where they are or what device they are using.

In other words, using responsive design technology marketers can create/script the HTML code so that it automatically adjusts the sizing and look-and-feel of the email or page depending on the end user’s device. As a result, even though you’ve only designed one HTML email or page, you can be confident it will render in an optimized way for a mobile device (smartphone, iPad, etc.), as well as for a web page on a PC.

We ran a test for a B2B client and saw a remarkable 300 percent increase in clicks for a responsive design email –and a full one-third of the conversions came from mobile devices.

Me: Thanks Sean, this is great information! I know that we get a lot of questions as to whether the Aprimo products support Responsive Design. We design Aprimo products to enable email marketing regardless of HTML coding, so they can certainly handle this technology. As you know from reading my blog posts, I think that metrics are king. We highly recommend you use the response metrics (clicks and opens) within the Aprimo Reports to justify the fact that if you spend more time on HTML coding, you can experience a higher ROI.

As fewer and fewer people stay tied to their desktop, it’s becoming increasingly essential to reach the end user at the right time with the right message delivered in the right format. Responsive design is a key part of meeting that goal and creating an experience tailored to customers’ preferences (and devices!).