First posted to www.letsrethinkeverything.com Nov 06, 2015.
About a month ago I posted a blog on Why You Should Think Mobile First For Your Email Marketing so this article is how you can specifically go about that. Thinking mobile first for your email design is, unfortunately, not a simple task and surprisingly enough the reason for that is a failure on Google's part. Justin Knoo wrote a great article on that topic over at TechCrunch, "Gmail We Need to Talk" but the skinny of it is that Gmail does not support media queries which act as a switch for triggering CSS styles based on a set of rules. So without media queries you can't change images and font sizes based on browser size. That makes emails opened in Gmail not look as elegant as you designed them. Sam Beddoes over at Action Rocket illustrates this perfectly in the below animated gif.
You can, however, build your emails to be fluid using standard CSS techniques and that is illustrated perfectly by Nicole Merlin of Email Wizardry. So what does all this mean for your mobile first email design? Gmail is not the dominant email client, according to Litmus, but it does matter and until Google gets their act together you have to design in a fluid manner and be mindful of font size and try and stay away from text on images and such things as image maps.