Email design is not about landing in inboxes on a single device. Smart brands are calibrated for multi-platform response on laptops, tablets and smartphones. Corresponding direct marketing campaigns are too often static and unable to travel with consumers across platforms.
Smashing Magazine offers a reminder of the challenges that await brands that attempt device agnostic email design: "Designing an HTML email that renders consistently across major email clients can be time-consuming. Support for even simple CSS varies considerably between clients, and even different versions of the same client."
What appears as design genius in Outlook can show up as gibberish on a mobile device. Brands are incorporating principles of responsive web design, which adapts to users' devices and platforms.
Some "Rules" Still Rule
Some industries continue to heed best practices. A financial services firm may not have the benefit of using visual cues to guide consumers through its catalog of services. A real-estate developer, on the other hand, can guide clients on a tour of a residential or commercial property—taking users beyond the preview pane by showing a property as it's being developed.
Multi-platform brands, especially retailers, have an advantage in this age of design rebellion. Banana Republic's email design fashions an outfit, which features its products from head-to-toe. Women are invited to "get this look" via social commerce.
Even Trader Joe's, which bucks the e-commerce trend, designs its emails for responses and appears to have no allegiance to traditional email design best practices. "Deriving perfectly from their brand message and usual linocut/printmaking style, their humorous choice in imagery and type has thrown caution to the wind," says Paoling Che of Inbox Junky. "Now, I really do want some ice cream."
It's responses like Che's that make skirting email design best practices a risk worth taking. Discovering the right visual cues and creating design-agnostic, cross-platform emails can inspire readers to devour messages, positively respond to brands and evangelize their social circles. That is a design rule we all should obey.