Finally, the end of clunky formats, unresponsive buttons, and broken links in emails viewed in Gmail is soon to be a reality. Google recently announced via their blog that Gmail will begin to support responsive emails starting sometime this month. This step, which has been a long time coming, lets Gmail users see their emails the way they were meant to be seen, rather than the grotesque, mutilated designs which Gmail often turned them into on mobile devices. It also comes with a few major implications which will have a marked impact on email marketing industry-wide.

Bring on the media queries

Gmail is infamous in the email design world for not supporting certain simple code classes and i.d.’s in the header of a given email’s code, which subsequently forced designers to resort to a more archaic style of coding called inline CSS. With the impending update of Gmail’s coding structure, inline CSS can finally be tossed in the attic with C++, FORTRAN and the rest of the coding antiques.

Gmail will now support the following media queries, allowing emails to be fully responsive:

Supported types

  • all
  • screen

Supported queries

  • min-width
  • max-width
  • min-device-width
  • max-device-width
  • orientation
  • min-resolution
  • max-resolution

Supported keywords

  • and
  • only

Highly customized text

The Gmail updates loosen the constraints of email design in many aspects, display style of your email copy included. You will now be able to organize your text in unique ways such as layering in consecutive columns, without having to create tables. Other small updates such as font-kerning, which allows you to adjust the space in between letters, allow you a bit more customization when it comes to styling your email copy.

Background? Check.

A popular design technique you see more and more in both emails and webpages is the manipulation of a background image to give the page some depth of field. Effects such as adjusting the scroll speed, casting a shadow with the foreground, or blurring the background can give your email design a bit more character. The new Gmail update provides several additional support features such as clip, position, and size which will give you more design options and, most importantly, allow you to scale properly.

Gmail is the most popular email service (besides Apple iPhone, which is an email aggregator that often pulls from Gmail) on the market with 16% of the email client market share (source: Litmus) so this update is massive news for email marketers everywhere. You can read the full list of CSS properties and media queries supported by Gmail here, as well as several other pieces of Gmail-related info at their blog, here.