Hey all!

So we (Litmus) just sent a 2016 Year in Review email. You can view the email here: https://litmus.com/builder/2c72caf

We have received a few emails and tweets about the email being "broken" or feedback that we "didn't test." It's probably not surprising that we take testing really seriously and tested this email thoroughly—sending it was not a mistake.

Yes, this email was tested. The design choices made in this email were intentional.

With that in mind, and knowing that there may be a perception that this email appears "broken" in some legacy email clients, we wanted to create a discussion around the strategy and techniques behind the email.

In the spirit of innovation, we increased the scale of this email to be 1440px at its widest - the widest email we've ever sent at Litmus. We wanted to be big (literally) and bold with our design to highlight our end of year stats. Creating an email at this scale presents several challenges in developing around email client quirks and requires certain tradeoffs.

For Outlook desktop email clients (where media queries aren't supported), we decided to stick with the 1440px wide design. Ideally, we would have built a targeted ~800-1000px version for Outlook, but were under a tight deadline and decided to stay with the original 1440px design. This meant that many Outlook users would not see the entirety of the email initially and would need to resize their window to see the email in its entirety. Frankly, we didn't anticipate that Outlook users would assume the email was broken. Sending this email provided a lot of insight about how our users respond to expectations about email width. Outlook desktop users amount to ~13% of our audience, which is our third most popular client behind Apple Mail (~33%) and Gmail (~32%).

The email was sent without some Outlook.com fixes as well (my personal fault on that one - the only true mistake in this email) but the Builder link above shows the email with said fixes. End users for the final send simply saw the fallback hybrid stacked structure. Not to discount those users, but luckily Outlook.com only accounts for ~1% of our opens.

Since we have a limited audience, we decided not to support international webmail clients, such as Mail.ru and Web.de, with limited CSS support - those clients received the fallback hybrid stacked structure and accounts for less than 1% of our opens.

For any email client that supported media queries (such as Apple Mail and Gmail), the email was fully responsive and looked great from a small 320px mobile view up to the complete 1440px view. It even looked great on mobile email clients that don't support media queries like Gmail App Android (Non-Gmail Account). Our intention was to experiment with an innovative infographic-in-email format. Our goal was to focus on our core audience by creating a progressively enhanced experience for most - while still trying to account for solid fallbacks for the rest of our audience.

So, what are your thoughts on our approach?

  • What constitutes an email being "broken" for users?
  • Is having a 1440px wide design inherently "broken" for users?
  • Is an email like this worth the experiment?