Read Time: 3 min

7 Tips for Creating a Functional Email Experience


Functionality is all about quality assurance. Or put another way, it’s about eliminating friction that can degrade the effectiveness of your messaging, erode the email experience, and ultimately damage your brand image.

Read on to learn why functional email experiences matter–and how to make sure you’re delivering them.

 Why is a functional email experience important?

Creating a functional email experience requires a sustained effort because of the patchwork and non-standardized environment that is email inboxes. Unlike the web, there are no standards for email coding support. So CSS coding that works in Apple Mail may not work in Outlook 365 or Gmail, for instance. And support is subject to change without notice.

The email environment is further complicated by the number of devices that can now read emails—which currently include desktops, laptops, tablets, ebook readers, smartphones, and the Apple Watch, which recognizes watch-HTML. And thanks to the Internet of Things, email reading devices just keep expanding.

Seven steps to functional email experiences

1. Ensure emails display appropriately

Do your emails appear as you intend across mobile, web, and desktop applications that your subscribers primarily use?  Litmus Email Analytics can help you determine where your subscribers are most frequently opening your emails. Then, use our email testing tools to verify that your emails are displaying as intended in those email clients.

2. Confirm that text is legible

This is especially important in uncontrolled lighting environments where mobile rendering often takes place. For example, if you don’t use at least 13px font sizes, iOS will auto-adjust anything under that size, often breaking navigation bars.

3. Make sure links are spaced far enough apart

They should be able to be accurately clicked with a mouse or, more importantly, tapped with a finger.

4. Proofread all email content

Read—and re-read—your emails before sending. Also, it never hurts to have a second or third set of eyes look over it, as it’s more difficult for you to catch errors if you wrote the text.

5. Use fallbacks

Any special email functionality needs a good fallback for when that functionality isn’t supported by a particular email client. Using advanced techniques, like HTML5 or CSS3, should have proper fallbacks in place.

6. Check your links

Test that the links your emails take subscribers to the intended destination. You can manually click on all of the links in your email to ensure they are going to the correct landing page (and that they are being tracked), or save time with Litmus email testing.

7. Align landing pages with wording and images from the email

Being consistent with your email copy helps subscribers know they’ve arrived at the right place to continue the interaction.


How do you measure functionality?

Clicks are a primary gauge of determining functionality in email messages. If your emails have broken links and images or have text that’s too small to read on mobile devices, you will find that those clicks suffer.

This post originally appeared on August 3, 2015. It was updated on August 31, 2022.

Ensure your designs come across right

Broken emails lead to less conversions. Preview your emails across 100+ email clients, apps, and devices to ensure an on-brand, error-free subscriber experience. Every time.

Chad S. White

Chad S. White

Chad S. White was the Research Director at Litmus