Our Senior Web Developer, Barrie (Baz) Calver knows a thing or two about digital. Here he talks about the challenges of the fast moving digital landscape.
Email is OLD. When I say old I mean ‘ancient’ in terms of the digital world - 1978 to be precise, by V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai - although recent efforts by Raytheon have tried to imply that the inventor was Ray Tomlinson causing some controversy.
So to be designing and building beautiful responsive html emails for this medium provides quite the challenge. The code needs to standup against software spanning 17 years; with Outlook 2000 representing the poor old man that needs help getting up the stairs and the HDPI Smart phones being the spritely teenagers who run up and down the stairs ten times not breaking a sweat.
With all of these platforms to cater for it’s wise to have a clear understanding of the restrictions in place and more importantly the techniques required to navigate around them. Most developers these days wouldn’t touch a table for layout purposes and they would most likely start convulsing with talk of inline style attributes… but with HTML email builds that’s exactly the regressive ‘dark age of the web’ methods we’re stuck with.
But fear not! Light can shine on this world once more; with modern tools to help illuminate the possibilities for responsive html, tested fallbacks and informed design.
Mobile first makes sense for a lot of applications these days and even more so here - with email via a smartphone being the norm for many and statisticsproving it's ahead of desktop by a good margin. Insights like these assist me greatly as a developer but they are essential for marketing and strategic thinking. Content decisions, considered subject lines and campaign timing all rely heavily on data and the intelligence applied.
Having a rapid testing platform is a must - the idea of individually opening a mail on 40 + devices is impractical to say the least - but that’s the simple reality of the situation when it comes to being confident of delivering an effective piece of communications to a large audience.
Keeping things simple is something we fondly believe in at KISS and this approach keeps us on the straight and narrow where emails are concerned.
So… HTML email development has proven to be daunting, with the need for tight responsive emails working over a wider and wider spectrum of devices and desktops. But the difficulties of this work flow can be alleviated by taking a simple approach, using modern tools and making the most of your data; It’s an old school technology with a new school approach.