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State of Email Report: 5 Tips to Build Better Email in 2017 [eBook]

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Check out the 2020 State of Email report for the latest stats, trends, and advice.

As an email designer, it’s your job to build the best subscriber experience, both in form and in function. This means optimizing for an email world that is constantly evolving. It’s crucial to stay on top of the latest updates in the email world, especially when those changes—like new apps and updates to HTML and CSS support—can affect your carefully designed campaigns.

In the 2017 State of Email Report, we round up everything that happened in the email world last year, helping identify major challenges and opportunities that can have huge implications for your email campaigns.

Get your free report →

Here’s a sneak peek of our actionable advice so you can build better email in 2017:

Automate your email workflow

Designing and coding emails often involves manual, arduous editing processes that are not only mundane and tiresome, but can easily leave room for mistakes.

It doesn’t have to be that way. A variety of tools exist for email marketers and developers to streamline their email workflow, allowing you to eliminate the mundane—and catch those costly errors before pressing send.

You can use:

  • Standardized templates
  • Snippets
  • Partials
  • Task Runners
  • Static Site Generators
  • Pre- and Post-processors
  • Shortcut tools like Emmet

Utilize responsive design to optimize your emails, including for Gmail

Historically, Gmail has been difficult to design and develop for. But that all changed when Gmail rocked the email world in September 2016 by adding support for <style>, media queries, and display: none. Better support for CSS in Gmail means faster email production turnaround times and fewer bugs to troubleshoot and fix, especially for a client with so much market share.

You can perform some impressive email acrobatics using media queries. Content can be shifted, hidden, and even swapped out, providing marketers and designers with amazing control over their campaigns.

For example, you can take a complex, multi-column layout on desktop and streamline it into a single-column, easy-to-scan, easy-to-scroll design on mobile—complete with larger text and touch-friendly buttons.

…But you should also make your design work without media query support

Just as the email community began to rejoice about Gmail supporting responsive design in September 2016, Yahoo! Mail dropped media query support from their Android app. (Note that <style> still works in Yahoo! Mail on iOS).

There are a few techniques you can use to make your design work across email clients without using media queries. One is experimenting with hybrid/spongy coding, and the other is the Fab Four technique. Unfortunately, the Fab Four technique doesn’t work with Yahoo! Mail (though it’s a great technique as a workaround for other email clients).

Hybrid coding still uses fluid tables and images but, in contrast to responsive emails, those tables and images are fluid by default. Instead of using media queries to trigger those fluid states on smaller screens, hybrid coding favors Microsoft conditional comments to restrain fluid tables on larger screens. You can see a step-by-step how-to here.

Know your audience

How do you know if it’s worth the effort to optimize with responsive design or with hybrid, or both? Are your subscribers opening in Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, or other quirky email clients? Use data to understand your audience and better target your design efforts.

With the addition of a small tracking code to your campaigns, Litmus Email Analytics generates a report of where your subscribers open your emails. Use that data to focus your testing efforts, identify opportunities for experimentation and progressive enhancement, and ensure your emails look great in inboxes where your subscribers are opening.

Experiment with live content, gamification, and interactive email

When designing and creating email, it’s important to get your message across in an accessible way. But that’s only the first step. To truly engage your subscribers and make your email stand out, you must surprise and delight them with personalized, relevant campaigns.

In addition to creating relevant emails, you can add a little “wow factor” to your campaigns by using some emerging email tactics, including live content, gamification, and interactivity.

Live content

Live content enables email marketers to add personalization to their campaigns in a whole new way. A subset of dynamic content, live content is image, animation, or video-based content that is conditionally displayed in email using data that isn’t known until the message is opened by the recipient.


Gamification can help your emails stand out, increase your reach by making your emails more shareable, and, if done right, can build an experience that will truly surprise and delight your subscribers.

Interactive email

Interactivity is an action taken in an email that triggers an event within the same email. Tapping an arrow on a dropdown to open that dropdown, checking a checkbox, or completing a minesweeper game within an email are all examples of interactivity at work.

Make email better with the State of Email 2017 report

Want even more information and actionable takeaways? Get up-to-date on the latest email updates and advances by downloading the free report today.

Get the 2017 State of Email Report →

Kayla Voigt

Kayla Voigt

Kayla Voigt is a freelance writer