Mobile-Friendly, Responsive, and Hybrid Email Designs- Exploring the Pros and Cons

Emails are by far one of the most important and widely used channels of marketing. Over the years, email has evolved by embracing many changes in the email environment and consumer behavioral patterns, especially with the popularization of mobile devices. While a variety of new devices and platforms are prevalent, subscribers have numerous avenues to access content on the go. Given this ardent need, several approaches have been developed in order to match the new design needs. Finally, when it comes to designing an email, things are never easy, as one must ensure a suitable template and relevant graphics without compromising on the user experience.

In this article, we will go through three different types of email designs that help email marketers and brands design user-friendly emails that look great on all devices. We shall also explore the pros and cons of each.

Mobile-Friendly Email Designs

According to the latest statistics, mobile clients account for the most (41.6%) email opens, and emails are always read first on mobile for an average of 25.6% of users. Mobile-friendly email designs ensure that the email is readable across all devices. It is designed by creating a scaled-down version of the desktop version with the text optimized to fit the mobile device screen sizes. They mostly follow a single column layout, contain large fonts, and calls to action (CTA) that render seamlessly on mobile screens. 

Here’s an example of a mobile-friendly email that renders the same on a desktop as well as mobile.

Hybrid Email DesignsHybrid Email Designs- Exploring the Pros and Cons

Source: Really Good Emails

The Pros

The primary advantage of mobile-friendly emails is that they are simple to design and code, which allows you to quickly obtain a mobile-optimized design for your email. Apart from that, the mobile-friendly email can render perfectly across all email clients and devices. 

The Cons

There is very little scope for making the email look creative or innovative, as it needs to follow a single-column layout and some prerequisite design rules (such as large fonts and clickable buttons) to make it mobile-friendly. This also means your emails may look dull, which may result in lesser engagement and conversions.

Responsive Email Designs

Responsive emails are emails that get changed or modified based on specific rules set in the email code. Although the implementation differs, by principle, responsive email design is a direct descendant of responsive web design. One could refer to it as a method for calibrating the size or alignment of images, buttons, and text elements within an email, based on the size of the screen being used to access the content. The idea is to make the same email look equally pleasing and accessible across multiple devices ranging between a phone, tablet, computer, and anywhere else a recipient might access it from. 

A responsive email typically works through a code technique commonly referred to as a “media query.” On being deployed, the CSS media queries prompt the email to check for certain screen size and change the styling of the email according to the stated condition. 

Check out this responsive email example from Vimeo.

Hybrid Email Designs- Exploring the Pros and ConsHybrid Email Designs- Exploring the Pros and Cons












Source: Really Good Emails

The Pros 

The key benefit of a responsive email design is that the designer has a grip over the display of content across devices. Media queries are very powerful and resourceful. When put to desired use, they allow designers to target and adjust the layout and style of the content at a macro level.

The Cons

However, the major drawback of responsive email designs is the time it takes in the overall design and development process. Additionally, these designs are not compatible and supported on each device, which is a downside.

Hybrid Email Designs

Hybrid email coding achieves essentially similar results as responsive designs. It uses a development style that automatically adjusts the appearance of an email to fit the screen size being used to view it. The contrast between the two is that hybrid design is sought to address a couple of key shortcomings of responsive design, most importantly the reliance on media queries. Hybrid emails will also work universally across all devices and email clients.

The Pros

Hybrid design is brilliant with its compatibility and functionality when you need to support virtually across all email clients. In action, since everything happens in the body of the email, Gmail and any future clients that strip or ignore media queries do not pose any limitations. Besides, it allows the addition of media queries for enhancement for clients that support them.

The Cons

While looking at the downside, the hybrid method is a bit complicated when one starts using it on complex layouts. While there are various techniques for dealing with two, three, and four-column layouts, these techniques are not easy to implement. In fact, they are more fragile than the corresponding “target-classes-and-override” approach of traditional responsive emails.

What’s right for your business?

In a nutshell, the hybrid email design edges ahead over the responsive design, as they are more reliable than their responsive counterparts in overall output given, and it shows up correctly across diverse hardware and software combinations.

Whereas, for certain businesses, responsive HTML email templates can be a better choice under certain circumstances. Let’s say if the marketer has a complicated email design or a tight time frame, the straightforward creation of responsive emails might outweigh the potential display issues.

However, when it comes to choosing the right method for your business or brand, you must first carefully analyze where your subscribers are reading your emails. It mainly depends on the devices and email clients they use to access your emails. Based on your analysis, your team’s development capabilities, and your campaign goals, choose the most suitable email design technique for your business.

Author: Kevin George is Head of Marketing at Email Uplers, one of the fastest-growing custom email design and coding companies, and specializes in crafting professional email templates, PSD to HTML email conversion, and free HTML email templates in addition to providing email automation, campaign management, and data integration & migration services. He loves gadgets, bikes, jazz, and eats and breathes email marketing. He enjoys sharing his insights and thoughts on email marketing best practices on his blog