Lyris Connections Blog

Making the Case for Mobile-Optimized Email: The Options

Jul 07, 2014 by

In my last blog, I provided statistics on the growing mobile market and the importance of optimizing emails for mobile. So now that you know you should, here’s how you can!

There are three primary options for making your emails mobile-optimized. Here’s a quick look at how each option works, as well as the pros and cons.

1. Fluid Email Layout

The first option is called fluid layout, meaning the email width expands or contracts depending on the size of the viewing screen. This straightforward approach to mobile optimization is easy to execute: set the width of your email to a percentage rather than having a fixed width. This way, the email effectively flows across whatever screen it is viewed on.

Here’s an example of a fluid email layout…

Econsultancy mobile email

…and how it looks fully open in Outlook:

Econsultancy Outlook email

Pros of fluid email layout:

  • Emails usually look quite good on a smaller screen like a laptop, tablet, or smartphone.
  • It’s easy to do and doesn’t require any action by the subscriber, so it gives the user a seamless experience.


  • If viewed on a large desktop monitor, fluid emails can often expand too much, which makes them hard to read.
  • Fluid layout is not appropriate for image-only emails, and you have to keep the layout fairly simple for it to work best.

2. Scalable Design

Scalable design is an option that features a single “mobile-friendly” layout that looks good on small and large screens. Unique features of this approach include:

  • A single-column layout which is relatively narrow compared to most other emails
  • Large titles
  • Large calls-to-action which are easy to click on mobile devices
  • A good amount of white space
  • A small amount of body copy which can easily be read at a glance

Kitbag mobile email


Pros of scalable design:

  • It gives all subscribers a seamless user experience and looks good in all environments.
  • It’s really easy to do and doesn’t require any complex coding.


  • It limits your design options and doesn’t provide much flexibility.
  • Super-skinny emails can look slightly strange on large screens.



3. Responsive Design

Responsive design allows you to change the way your email looks or is displayed depending on the size of the viewer’s screen. It gives you an enormous amount of flexibility to add, remove, or re-arrange the content of your email so that your subscribers will have the very best experience, no matter what device or email client they read your email on.

Here’s an example of an email…

British Red Cross email

…and the responsive version on a mobile phone:

British Red Cross responsive email




Pros of responsive design:

  • It provides a seamless experience and is extremely flexible.
  • You can change almost anything about the email by using this method.


  • It can be very complex to code.
  • It doesn’t work on every type of mobile device.
  • It will increase the weight of your email due to the extra code that’s used, which sometimes can be an issue because mobile Internet can often be slow.









Despite the cons, responsive design is by far the best mobile optimization option, and Lyris is fortunate to have experts in this area, including our Sr. Strategy Consultant Andrew King. Rather than step on his toes, I’ll share these resources so you can learn his perspectives first-hand:

Recorded Webcast:Making the Case for Responsive Email Design
Recorded Webcast: The World Has Gone Mobile — Have your Emails?
Blog: What I’ve Learned from 100 Responsive Emails
Blog: Not your Average Responsive Email Design
Blog: Email Inspiration: Six Great Responsive Email Designs
Blog: Email Inspiration: Six More Great Responsive Email Designs
Blog: Responsive Email Design: 10 Great Examples

I’ll close with this excerpt from a blog by Lyris Global Head of Strategy Philip Storey, 5 Predictions for Email Marketing in 2014:

Designing for ‘mobile-first’ will become ‘the norm’
A study by Litmus in December 2013 showed that for the first time ever, mobile is the single leading platform for consuming marketing emails, worldwide. I believe 2014 is the year where email marketers will begin to design for mobile-first, even before we design for desktop and Webmail scenarios. For those companies that are yet to dip their toes in the water with mobile design, 2014 will be the year that they go responsive/scalable or skinny, simply because that’s where their prospects and customers are most likely to be opening and reading their emails.

Are you ready to “dip your toes?” In my next blog, I’ll continue to share the expertise of our strategic services gurus with a look at how to get started with a mobile optimization strategy and keep it performing well. In the meantime, download our complementary marketing guide, The World is Optimized for Mobile – Are your Emails? to learn more.

If you have specific questions about mobile optimization, send them in the Comments sections below, or to One of our experts will be sure to get back to you! 

Deb Papp

About the Author: Deb Papp

Deb Papp is Marketing Communications Manager at Lyris. She develops content for lead generation programs and resources, company messaging, event and promotional collateral, and the Lyris website.

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