Google announced that it would finally begin supporting responsive design in Gmail last month to much fanfare, but the rollout is not complete.
Gmail has begun implement support for responsive design for some clients, according to Geoff Phillips, senior email developer and specialist at Email on Acid, but he says they are in the midst of the transition and that the rollout is coming in stages.
He discussed the different ways that email developers could design content for Google’s Gmail in the interim in a conversation with Email Marketing Daily.
Until Gmail fully supports responsive design, Phillips recommends that email marketers continue to use alternative designing measures for Google’s popular email client, such as fluid hybrid design. Phillips says fluid hybrid offers a number of advantages over responsive design that depend on media queries, including rendering correctly on Gmail’s mobile and desktop applications.
“People are inundated with email all the time, so they really don’t have the time to figure out what your message says if it doesn’t render properly,” says Phillips.
Some developers rely on media query-based design for creating email marketing campaigns, but this technique doesn’t work with many Android mail applications. Litmus, an email testing company, offers an online list of which email clients do and do not support media queries.
Fluid hybrid, by contrast, basically creates tables of content that can adapt according to the screen size the email is being read on. They expand in size for larger screens and narrow for smaller devices, following a set of rules that developers code dependent on screen width. For example, tables of content might narrow and stack on top of each other on a mobile device so they will be more readable and scrollable.
The two approaches are similar, Phillips says, but "fluid hybrid requires less code and it’s simpler," although he adds that it may not be the right choice for marketers who want absolute control.
Until Gmail implements responsive design for all of its users, however, Phillips recommends that companies continue coding for fluid hybrid design until the end of the holiday season. Once Gmail’s responsive support update is made available everywhere, Phillips says it will open up many options for designers.