A few things you need to understand about mobile email

There is an excessive amount of information about mobile email and a good chunk of it is pretty technical.

I understand that while you’re trying to learn email marketing, the intention is never to become an “expert” in the field. This is why I decided to have this lesson, so I can give you only a few things you need to understand and not get confused with the overload of information out there in the wild.

Let’s get started…

Fancy pants terminology

You’ve probably heard the term “Responsive.” Just like there are responsive websites, there are also responsive emails.

Fluid vs. responsive

If you decided to dig into this topic before, you might have stumbled across other fancy pants industry jargon like “Adaptive,” “Scalable” or “Fluid.” If you’re like me, that’s when you decided you’ve been walking for too long into the woods and it’s starting to get dark. Maybe it’s time to head back.

You do NOT need to learn all that stuff to make your email campaigns mobile-friendly.

I promise to spare you of all that and just give you what you need to understand.

To explain this, I’m totally stealing the images and a simplified definition from Litmus.



Scalable is what we know as “mobile-friendly.” These are the emails that adapt to any size without the use code. The layout or content is not adapted, it simply scales nice on all platforms.



It uses percentages to resize according to the screen. They don’t alter the layout or content of an email but the content flows to fill space on the screen. This is mostly used on text-heavy emails because you have no control of how text and images play with each other in the layout.



Responsive emails add control of the layout of the text and images through CSS code. Using responsive you can even hide or even swap content between desktop and mobile devices.

This is basically when you see an email display multiple columns on desktop but turns into a one-column when you see it on your mobile device.

Soooo… Which one should I use?

We are going to focus on “Scalable” design for 3 reasons:

  1. It is the easiest and cheapest path to mobile-friendly campaigns
  2. You are not going to need a designer or a programmer

And the third one?

Responsive is NOT always supported

You can consider responsive the newest technology when it comes to mobile email, that’s great, but for the same reason, it is not supported by all email clients.

As of today, only 47% of email clients support responsive email. This pretty much means that a good chunk of your subscribers might not see the email as intended, depending on the email client they use.

Here is a sample of which email clients support responsive design (the list much longer, if you want to see the full version you can do so here).

Responsive support

Did you pick on that? Tell me you saw it…

Yes, Gmail does NOT support responsive design.

Problem? You bet. Gmail is only the top 2 most used email client in the world with a 18% market share and it currently has 425 active users.

Email client market share

And 68% of Gmail users open emails on mobile devices.

Gmail on mobile

While your responsive design could display perfectly on desktop, you’re running the risk with mobile.

Devices versus Apps

One of the big misconceptions about this whole thing of how emails display on different environments, is that we usually think in terms of device, when you should be looking at apps instead.

You shouldn’t be asking how your email email on iPhone, but how it displays on iPhone email app, or Gmail, or Mailbox. Even tough those apps are running on the same device, your email displays differently in each of them.

In this image, you can see the difference between how the same email from Canva displays on Gmail on an iPhone and on the default Mail app from Apple. The device doesn’t change.

Gmail versus Mail on iPhone

There is really nothing wrong with how the email is displaying on either, the point is that you see that the difference is in the app, not the device.

In the following lessons, you’ll learn about layouts, dimension of the elements, fonts, the preview text (very important) and how to learn where your subscribers are opening your campaigns.


For now, I’ll leave you with a little task:

I’m assuming you receive your own email campaigns, go look for the latest one in your mobile and see how it displays. If you don’t get your own emails, send a test and open it on your mobile device.

Oh, and add yourself to your list. 😉