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Not Using Responsive Design? You're Not Alone


By Ken Magill

With all the talk of responsive design—where an email or website is designed to provide an optimal viewing experience across a range of devices—one would think it would be common by now.

One would apparently be wrong.

Depending on the device, only 2 to 4 percent of retail websites use responsive design, according to a recent study by email software provider Bronto.

Of the 106 retailers’ websites in the study, 2 percent were responsive designed for the iPhone, 3 percent for the iPad, 2 percent for the Android and 4 percent for laptops or desktops, according to Bronto.

Also, just 8 percent of the retailers in the study used responsive design in their emails, according to Bronto.

This comes at a time when nearly half of all emails are reportedly opened on mobile devices.

However, it’s not that the retailers in the study are ignoring mobile.

According to Bronto, 67 percent of the retailers’ websites in the study implemented adaptive design for the iPhone and 66 percent implemented adaptive design for the Android.

According to Bronto, the difference between responsive and adaptive design are as follows:

Responsive Design: Emails and websites that are designed to be responsive will expand, contract and rearrange based on the space available to them.

Adaptive Design: Adaptive designed sites will detect the device that the person is using and serve a design specific to that device. Unlike the one-size-fits-all Responsive Design, each site is its own unique design and usually looks significantly different from the desktop experience. Adaptive Designs rely on two-way communication. A device tells a site information about the device and the site “adapts” by sending an appropriate version. The inbox does not have this two-way dialog. An email is received and the email client “responds” by rendering the code to the device. This means it is not possible to have an adaptive email.

For further clarification, according to TechRepublic contributor Ryan Boudreax in an April 2013 blog post:

“The distilled definition of a responsive web design is that it will fluidly change and respond to fit any screen or device size. The condensed definition of an adaptive design is that it will change to fit a predetermined set of screen and device sizes.”

Under the above definitions, adaptive design doesn’t apply to email.

According to Jim Davidson, Bronto’s manager of marketing research and author of Bronto’s study, one of his goals was to help marketers differentiate between responsive and adaptive design.

“A lot of people throw these terms around interchangeably,” he said. “It’s hard to use one without the other.”

He said he also wanted to get past the buzz over responsive design and illustrate what’s really happening.

“You may feel a ton of pressure to do this, but look at the landscape,” he said.

However, he hastened to add he’s not dismissing responsive design, especially given the upward trajectory of mobile email activity.

“It’s a tool you can use and the barrier to entry is pretty low,” he said.”If you don’t have responsive design, you can still have an email that functions and looks pretty well, but if you can make it better why not try it?”



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Terms: Feel free to be as big a jerk as you want, but don't attack anyone other than me personally. And don't criticize people or companies other than me anonymously. Got something crappy to say? Say it under your real name. Anonymous potshots and personal attacks aimed at me, however, are fine.

Posted by: Jim Morton
Date: 2013-11-19 19:29:01
Subject: The bottom line on responsive

I just finished writing a series of articles on responsive email design. The final article in the series chronicles my personal observations on working with responsive design. My conclusions were a little different from the ones listed here. The first article can be found here: