Why Do Emails Render Differently For Different Clients?

email marketing

Sending emails is typically a hit-or-miss situation. You could spend ages crafting the perfect email, but as soon as it lands in the receiver's inbox, it is unrecognizable. Either it is misaligned images, or unformatted links, among others.

A major factor here is that different systems interpret email code differently. So the issues boil down to:

Limited standardization: There are multiple email tools and websites available. And the appearance of a given email will largely depend on which one a client uses.

Points of access: Even when sent the same way, recipients read emails from multiple devices, e.g., Apple or Android, coupled with either desktop, tabs, phones, or laptops.

Each combination of the above could potentially portray a very different rendering.

Such is the everyday dilemma of email marketers. This article will break down key reasons why your emails render differently and provide possible workarounds for you to try.

Key Reasons Why Emails Render Differently

Operating Systems

The operating systems your clients use for emails will significantly affect how they receive emails. Operating systems like Windows 8, Windows 10, iOS, Android can either enhance or limit the capabilities of the email you have designed.

Remember that not all your clients use the same one. One could be viewing it on Windows 10 while another on iOS or an older version of Windows. This variation is ideally out of your control.


Emails will appear differently for mobile-based or computer-based users because of the difference in screen features and functions. So, the recipient's device is a critical factor in email rendering.

An email you tested on a desktop will look significantly different when received on a 5-inch phone screen. It will render differently with varying screen sizes within the same category and on tablets or laptops.

For instance, the smaller the screen, the higher the chances of misaligned images, image quality issues, or even blockage due to security settings. Similarly, the font and color display of an advanced and latest mobile phone would differ from an out-of-date personal computer.

email marketing

App and Web-based Email Clients

Email clients are at the core of email rendering. App-based clients, like Outlook, Yahoo, and Gmail, ideally display emails within their mobile environments.

However, web-based clients are somewhat more complex because they run on different browsers, such as Google, Opera, or Safari, which changes the email display. Gmail, for instance, runs differently on some browsers, which will affect how the targeted email appears to the client.

Email Service Provider (ESPs)

Email Service Providers can delete some parts of your HTML code, causing it to render differently altogether. So, even if you use the same email template for all your clients, depending on their ESPs, the email will render differently to each of them, as the HTML code will vary with each service provider.

For brands that use more than one platform to draft emails, this could cause even bigger problems. There are higher chances of code mixups.

Security restrictions

Some users choose to block media from their emails for security reasons. Consequently, the emails would render differently to the subscribers who have turned off media features than others. For such users, the email can fail to convey its core message to the subscriber and appear incomplete or unappealing.

Pro Tips To Reduce Email Rendering Complications

There are several proven solutions you could adopt to counter email rendering problems.

Understand Your Target Audience

Knowing your target audience is critical in reducing differential email rendering effects. This information can help you format the email to appear similar to at least most of your clients.  

For instance, according to a survey conducted by Litmus, which included both web-based and email clients, Apple holds the largest market share, especially among business users.

So, if this is the case for your clients, you can then draft and format your emails with certainty that most of them with Apple devices will receive them similarly.

Similarly, if your target is younger people, then chances are that they would use mobile phones rather than desktops to view emails.

Limit Sales-focused Emails

The main advantage of marketing emails is to connect with your client's thought processes and attract them towards your product/business. So, your emails should reflect that, rather than appear salesy.

For instance, best practices suggest using fewer images and links since these often end up in the promotions folder for some email clients.

Use Responsive Email Templates

You can use standardized email marketing services, like SharpSpring to construct your marketing emails more optimally.

Such platforms allow you to send emails to your clients with minimal risks of differential email rendering due to their advanced capabilities. Furthermore, the templates are often more responsive across different devices, thus reducing rendering issues.

Email Testing

This is one of the most vital steps to reduce email rendering complications for your clients. Email testing gives you an idea of how they appear on your client's screen.

Before sending, you can check for broken designs, varying fonts, incorrect links, broken or missing images, spelling and grammar mistakes, or any other potential errors. Like Sharpspring’s email tool, most software allows you to even send the email to yourself on different platforms to check.

Whereas this isn't a foolproof solution, it helps in eliminating some variables that may affect your email’s rendering.

A simple checklist you could use (especially for outlook emails)

Before creating an email

  • Collect all content in one place (Images, Test, CTAs, Email Subject)
  • Next decide what template you’ll use for the email
  • Images: Note that hte header images scale automatically to fit width of the email

Creating the email

  • Go to  Emails and click the “Create New Email” button and pick the template decided above.
  • Recommended: Do not delete any sections from the email until you finish creating the full email.
  • Start adding the content into the template sections (! IMPORTANT !) Ensure you use paste without style.
  • If you have inline buttons (buttons between text paragraphs) and the text above and  below the button in separate text objects to ensure it renders correctly across all email providers.
  • When adding links to sites other than “officemanagement.se” (or any other tracked site) we strongly encourage using Media links if you want to establish tracking.
  • If you need  to add new sections use the  “Content and Layouts” sections.

After creating the email

  • Once you have added all the content into the email, now delete all the extra sections.
  • Click the “Send Settings button and ensure all settings are correct.
  • Preview your email first.
  • Note: By default text is “center-aligned” in the responsive mobile view.
  • Once you’re  happy with the pop out preview, send a preview email to yourself.
  • Once you’re happy with the email run a “litmus test” to see what it looks like in various email clients.

Before Sending

  • Always ensure emails are tested
  • Make sure you bring in any unsubscribes


Sadly, there is no permanent solution to email rendering issues even after decades of sending emails. However, understanding how they come about is a great first step. These are some of the key issues that cause emails to render differently for different clients.

Some best practices stated above focus on leveraging best-case scenarios. Designing emails for every possible combination of customer devices, operating systems, and email clients is not practical.

For more insights on how to improve your email marketing, reach out to our experts. Otherwise, get a free demo to see how Sharpsring’s complete automation system can help you improve your marketing.


... and be in the know about marketing automation trends!

About the Author

Priscilla Achieng

Priscilla Achieng is a lead Technical Content Writer at Funnelbud. A Content marketing professional by day, a passionate soccer fan by night, she also provides copywriting and SEO services for businesses of all sizes.