Megan from MailerLite

Megan12 min readTips and resourcesSeptember 14, 2020

7 ways to get the most out of your responsive email design

7 ways to get the most out of your responsive email design

This blog topic might come as a surprise to you. After all, aren’t email designs responsive when you use email marketing software to build your campaign?

You’re right, when you use an email tool like MailerLite, you just need to drag and drop the content blocks and we’ll take care of the rest! You can rest assured that your email design will shine, regardless of the device and screen size the reader uses. 

However, there are still some important design best practices you can follow to make your responsive emails look even better. What are these practices, you wonder? You’ll find out when you keep reading!


Responsive email design is crucial. Let’s repeat that: it is crucial. Research by Adestra found that when people view an email on their smartphone that’s not displayed correctly, in 70% of the cases, the email is deleted within 3 seconds. That’s an eye-blink or two, basically.

Adestra also found that the majority of emails (61.9%) are read on mobile devices, followed by webmail clients and desktop.

If your email design isn’t responsive, you’re losing (potential) customers.


Responsive email design means that your design adapts to the size of the device screen. Elements in your newsletter are automatically resized or organized differently so the content can be shown correctly on smaller screens.

How does it work? Smart CSS media queries change fixed-width tables and images to make sure the content flows and adjusts from bigger to smaller screens. Don’t worry if it sounds technical, your email marketing tool should automatically do this for you.

In responsive email design templates, all your images, text blocks, videos, etc. will easily adapt to fit different screen sizes. For readers, it means that they don’t need to zoom in to clearly see buttons and text on small screens. All content will be displayed fully.


Use a single-column email design

Though email campaigns that use multiple columns in their design can be aesthetically pleasing, it’s best to keep things simple when styling emails with mobile users in mind. A single-column layout is easy to digest, as each column is dedicated to one topic. When these columns are stacked underneath each other, it’s easy to read through the content.

Tip

Start with your most important content and work your way down. In mobile emails, it’s the hierarchy that counts. If your email gets too long, delete the columns that aren’t really necessary.

The email design from Perfectglasses.co.uk makes use of one-single columns only. This makes it easy for the eye to spot the Shop button, as they’re positioned on the same spot for each pair of glasses.

Perfectglasses.co.uk responsive email design example glasses

Write short paragraphs

The fewer words you can use, the better. When emails contain a lot of text, the reader needs to scroll more to get through the entire newsletter. On mobile devices, the amount of scrolling will be significantly more. That’s why it’s recommended to keep your writing short and compact.

Using fewer images also helps to shorten your email design vertically. Keep in mind that even when you use two columns (for example, a picture on the left and text on the right), you’re saving space on desktop but these columns will stack underneath each other on mobile, making your email longer.

This email from toothpaste manufacturer Bite shows how to keep your text short and to the point.

Bite responsive email design example minimalist light blue

Craft a clear CTA (and buttons)

A clear call to action (CTA) is an overall email marketing best practice, and it holds true for responsive emails too. You have to tell people exactly what you want them to do, whether that’s visiting your online shop or clicking to read the rest of the article. 

Your CTA influences the click-through rate.

The best way to display the CTA is by using a button. Text-links are small, and well, annoying to press on mobile devices. Make sure your button is large and styled in a contrasting color, so it’s easy to spot. Aim for a button that’s at least 40 by 40 pixels. Make sure to test your CTA word length on mobile, to make sure it’s not too long (and potentially takes up two lines).

Good to know

At MailerLite, CTA buttons are designed so the entire button space is clickable, not just the text itself. This makes it easier to press the button.

Lastly, if you have several buttons next to each other (such as social icons), add enough white space between them so users can easily click on the button of their choice.

Check your image and font sizes

Before you deliver your email campaign to your subscribers, be sure to send yourself a test email to see what your images and fonts look like on mobile. You might find that the font is small and hard to read on mobile. Or that your images are difficult to see.

Tip

Opt for an easy-to-read font that is available on all devices, like Arial, Times New Roman, Georgia or Verdana. We recommend a minimum of 14 pixels for the normal text size and 20 pixels for titles. For mobile, 16 pixels is the best minimum font size for normal text.

The email newsletter below from ReadyMag is a good example of fonts, font sizes and CTA buttons that are super clear on desktop, tablet and mobile.

ReadyMag responsive email newsletter example black white yellow

When it comes to using images in email newsletters, make sure they show what you want to convey. For example, if you’re selling bags, check whether the bag details are clearly shown on mobile too. You might need a close-up shot or two. 

In the example below from e-commerce Baggu, you can clearly see what the bag looks like, but this email could use a few additional close-up pictures to see the pattern in more detail.

Baggu responsive newsletter design example pink cta

Add alt texts

In case your images are not displayed, or the reader is visually impaired, it’s good to have alternative texts as a back-up. 

Ideally, ALT texts should be added to all images within your email. They describe what’s happening in the picture. Even when the images aren’t shown, people can still get an idea of what your email content is about.

Click here to see where you can add ALT text in the MailerLite app.

Inserting ALT text in MailerLite app

Check widths and lengths

Minimize scrolling within the email design, both horizontally and vertically. The ideal width for images is 600 pixels on desktop, and 320 pixels on a mobile device.

Vertically, try to keep your email as compact as possible. If your email gets too long on desktop, email clients like Gmail will clip your content and display the “View entire message” notification at the bottom. On mobile, readers are likely to lose interest upon seeing how long your message is.

Don’t overuse images, GIFs or emojis

When it comes to images, GIFs and emojis, having a good balance is key. For responsive purposes, it’s actually best to minimize their usage, as imagery can be blocked and using emojis in emails can look different depending on the email client that’s being used to read the email.

Stay away from image-only emails (in general). When images are blocked by the email client or user, your entire message will be gone. Furthermore, although the images will scale according to the screen size, the text you added on the images won’t. Essentially, this defeats the purpose of responsive email design.

For example, below you can see the responsive HTML email by London ceramic company Turning Earths. In the original email (click here to view), the design looks beautiful but in the example below something is missing.

The element showing the upcoming market dates is one entire picture. Should the reader’s email client block images, none of this information is visible. To be safe, it’s better to change the layout or add the dates in text-form as well. Furthermore, on mobile, the image text can become really small and hard to read.

Tip

In the MailerLite editor, you can let people RSVP to an event directly within the email by adding an event email block to your newsletter.

Turning Earth Ceramics image display error example

Want to learn more about design in email marketing? Learn everything you need to know in our design guide.


Now that we’ve talked about responsive email design best practices above, let’s see what that looks like in real emails. Many MailerLite customers do a great job at creating email designs that are easy to digest on mobile screens. Below we’ll share some of our favorites!

Breakfast with Audrey

This email from Audrey Hepburn-inspired online magazine Breakfast with Audrey looks great on all screens. The simple responsive email template uses a single-column layout and its elements are large enough to be clearly visible on every device. The images, CTA buttons, headings and social icons are all large enough so they can comfortably shrink to fit a mobile view without losing readability.

Breakfast with Audrey responsive newsletter example branded

Caroline Svedbom

This newsletter design from Swedish jewelry designer Caroline Svedbom also uses a single-column layout. What’s nice about this email campaign are the repeated, clear CTA buttons and the diversity in the images. The first one sets the mood, the second image shows two jewelry pieces worn and the last one shows the reader what the gift packaging will look like.

Caroline Svedbom responsive email design example

Sole Finess

This responsive HTML email by Australian shop Sole Finess promotes a new model of Nike sneakers. To make sure the details can be clearly seen on all devices, they opted for different images, each fairly close-up. The large CTA button clearly stands out in the email design. A small improvement would be to opt for a slightly larger text font size.

Though you can't see it in the image below, Sole Finess also nailed their email preheader (“Waffle locket included + up to 60% off sale items!”). This gives subscribers a tease of what to expect inside the email. Want to know how to best craft a preheader of your own? Click to read how to increase your email open rates with preheaders.

Sole Finess responsive email design

Harness Magazine

The newsletter below from Harness Magazine works for desktop, tablet and mobile. The dark green buttons are in contrast with the background. The simple design makes this email easy to digest on smaller screens. Because all texts are short, the font size could have even been bigger. This would barely affect the newsletter’s length but optimize the user experience.

Tip

With MailerLite, you can easily insert social media posts from Facebook and Instagram. These embedded posts are, of course, automatically responsive.

Harness Magazine responsive email design

Easy! If you're starting a new campaign, first head to your dashboard and click Create campaign. Then pick a newsletter template from the gallery or start building from scratch. Each design block that you drag and drop into your email template will automatically be made responsive. 

Once you’re ready, click the Preview and test button on the upper right to see what your newsletter will look like when displayed on smaller screens in a mobile client.


Now that you’ve learned more about responsive email design, we hope you see how crucial the design elements are for your email marketing. Responsive designs make your emails readable on all screen sizes and guarantee the best user experience.

Though MailerLite automatically makes all your email designs responsive, these additional best practices will help you optimize your email layout. Things like one-column layouts, ALT texts and shorter, texts with larger fonts will improve your design even further. As a reward, better click-through rates and conversions will follow. We promise!

Did you learn something new after reading this article? We’re curious to know! Comment below with a thumbs up or down.

Megan de Graaf

I’m Megan, Content Writer at MailerLite. You can find me in Berlin, NYC or somewhere escaping winter in Asia. I have helped many start-ups grow their online visibility. Blogging has always been my thing—from running artist fan pages as a teenager to now discovering upcoming talent on Sign This Kid.