Short answer: no, of course not. However, they could have used a little human common sense rather than rely on responsive design alone to make their emails more relevant.
Let’s back up. As an avid, if not talented, photographer, I subscribe to emails from Adorama and B&H Photo, two large photo retailers based in New York with a well-earned reputation for value, service and selection. Really, you CANNOT find a better place to buy cameras and assorted equipment than those two.
Yesterday, I received this email from B&H:
They remembered Mother’s Day with a large graphic pointing to their Mother’s Day sale items. How nice.
I opened the email first on my Android smartphone, where I saw this:
Same email, but markedly different effect. While the Mother’s Day graphic looks like a separate module in the desktop email (above), it looks like a header on a phone. So it looks like B&H thinks the beloved mother of my children really might want a Toshiba Canvio Cast Wireless Adapter. Spoiler: she’s actually getting perfume.
Sure, we’ve been hearing for years now that responsive design–code that adapts a web page to the dimension of the screen it appears on–has become a must-have for web and HTML emails. True enough. If your email looks like junk, people won’t read it.
That said, designers should also eyeball the design on a phone to make sure it doesn’t communicate that differently. Making the Mother’s Day graphic a bit taller would have made it stand out more. Maybe even some copy along the lines of “other great deals for this week” might have helped the email read more clearly.
Or these designers should start preparing to apologize now to their wives and mothers.