Email editors and newsletter builder under the microscope27. March 2019
What do email editors and newsletter builders have to offer?
A time-saving tool or a source of additional work?
There are a variety of programs on the market that help marketing professionals create and test attractive HTML emails – for practically any sending tool. We have put quite a few of these editors and builders through their paces for our own purposes. And we would like to share our findings with you: Which tools are useful, and for whom? Do email programmers and marketers truly save time and how? Or does their workload actually increase in certain respects?
External programs are essential for anyone who wants something more powerful than the email editor or templates in their sending tool. Email editors and newsletter builders make marketing professionals less dependent on their sending solution. This is particularly advantageous where multiple sending tools are deployed or there are plans to migrate to a new distribution system. HTML code from editors within content management systems (CMS) can often only be exported to a limited extent, and similarly, there are constraints on HTML code portability between editors. External email editors offer an answer to this problem. Moreover, they allow service providers, such as graphic designers and copywriters, direct access to HTML emails, but not to the sending solution, and therefore to sensitive features such as contacts and reports.
In addition, a tool designed specifically for the generation of emails should theoretically save time and effort. But in reality, the opposite holds true for many programs. What’s more, external editors can help ensure emails are displayed correctly across all clients (for example, Outlook, Apple Mail and Gmail) – or at least the vast majority. This can be a challenge that sending solutions often struggle with. In summary, there are three key advantages for marketing professionals. They:
- Gain independence from the email marketing platform
- Reduce the workload associated with email creation
- Can test how emails will display on various clients
We at Publicare are always on the lookout for editors that can streamline the work of our email programmers and simplify testing. Against this background, we tried out what we believe to be some of the most popular builders and editors, and will describe our findings in greater depth in our coming blog posts. For now, here is a quick overview:
Drag-and-drop solutions such as Stripo, Taxi for Email, BEE free and EMdesigner claim to offer users the ability to produce emails with ease and speed – and with no need for programming skills. In each instance, the user creates a generic layout (or uses an existing template) and tailors each individual module or block to their needs – including layout, headline, text, images, etc. This grants a certain level of flexibility, but also means that adjustments must be made to each individual element. And the greater the number of functions and parameters, the more confusing many of the solutions become. Moreover, they do not truly allow complete freedom. As with anything modular, there will always be some constraints. Plus, the generated HTML code is not always entirely error-free, nor is the process of importing the code into the user’s own sending tool as effortless as is often suggested.
Who are newsletter builders best suited to?
An external editor can certainly be of some benefit to marketing teams without the time or skills to code responsive email HTML. However, due to their many limitations, none of the drag-and-drop solutions we tested would be a truly viable proposition for experienced programmers.
Solutions with predefined HTML templates
Service providers such as Zurb (Foundation) and Litmus Templates (can only be accessed via a Litmus account) are an alternative to drag-and-drop solutions. They offer HTML templates that can be, more or less, fully customized in line with the user’s requirements – meaning there is no need to program the newsletter from the ground up. Instead, users can directly build upon existing templates. While these do not place significant constraints on the HTML programmer, it is easy to quickly arrive at a point where making changes is more time-consuming than freestyle programming would have been. This depends heavily on how made-to-measure the newsletter’s design has to be, and on the required level of quality. Is it absolutely vital that the email is displayed perfectly on all email clients and systems? Or are small errors and inconsistencies in appearance tolerable? A word of warning: even if templates are touted as being “tested”, there is no guarantee that the generated HTML code will work without issue within the user’s sending system. It is therefore important to check for possible problems before getting started.
Who are HTML template builders best suited to?
We recommend this solution only for users who have the email HTML expertise to customize the templates themselves. These templates can save a great deal of time and effort provided there is no need for absolute perfection.
Email editors with previews
Using browser-based platforms (for example Litmus Builder and Email on Acid Email Editor) is a viable option for marketing professionals with good HTML skills who can write their own email code. These solutions are first-and-foremost enhanced text editors. They offer support for HTML programming, just like jEdit or any other text editor for HTML code. However, they go beyond plain vanilla coding aids – i.e. they provide previews, and allow users to test how content will be displayed across multiple email clients. As a result, users can identify client-specific problems and immediately determine if a change made for the benefit of one client has a negative impact on another. Users can start from scratch in these tools or select a template and customize it to their needs.
Who are these editors best suited to?
Marketers who program emails themselves benefit from an integrated preview – a value-added feature that we at Publicare enjoy using. But anyone who does not have strong email HTML skills and understanding of the specific characteristics of the various email clients will be completely lost.
External editors offer many advantages. Which type of solution is best depends on what organizations want to achieve with their email marketing, and how they approach it: the solution must align with the user’s working practices, skills and quality standards.
Externe Editoren bieten einige grundlegende Vorteile. Welche Variante die richtige für einen ist, hängt davon ab, welche Anforderungen man an sein E-Mail-Marketing hat: das Programm muss zur Arbeitsweise, dem Skill-Level und den eigenen Ansprüchen passen.