If email marketing is the heart of your business communication, the email design is its soul!
There is a lot more to effective email marketing than just building your list. You can’t discount the importance of aesthetics in digital marketing. Content that pleases the eyes surely goes a long way towards earning customer trust and recognition, especially when we are dealing with mediums where customers have such a short attention span. People receiving your emails scan it before indulging in it, and eye-catching email designs steal the show!
When you are competing with over 293 billion emails sent and received each day, it takes a lot of effort to offer something unique that others don’t. As an email marketer, you absolutely can’t overlook the fact that visual cues in email designs are vital.
Every email campaign, just like every business, is different! There’s no one-design-fits-all philosophy. That leads us to the options we have when it comes to template designing. You can either go for i) pre-built ESP email templates or opt to design ii) custom email templates. The dilemma of choosing the right one is hard to decode, however, the least we can do is to evaluate your options. You need to look at both options in a neutral way and list down both the best and not-so-attractive elements for you to decide your pick. Let’s start with understanding each of the options a little better.
What is a ‘Pre-built ESP template’?
Pre-built ESP templates are the ones readily available for businesses free of cost or with small nominal charges. These email templates are pre-designed for users to drag and drop their branding elements as and when needed. ESPs offer various formats of pre-built email templates that can be used for different email marketing purposes.
Here’s an example of a reusable ESP template that works on “drag-and-drop” principle.
The pre-designed ESP email templates are preferred by a variety of businesses for the benefits they offer. Check out what they are.
- ESP support and Compliance
The most effective factor to consider when choosing the type of email design is its ESP compliance. Different email clients work differently and thus rendering issues are something that we, as email marketers should always keep in mind. When you choose a pre-built email template for your campaign, the compliance issues are taken care of. These templates are tested for rendering on most email clients and work well with them.
- Cost Factor
When you’re just starting up with your business, are on a low budget, or don’t wish to spend on HTML developers, pre-built templates are your answer. ESPs, in most cases, have a free template library for their clients. You simply need to choose your preferred template, customize branding elements, and you are ready to send. Even if the templates are paid, they come at minimal charges.
- Quick TAT
Coding an HTML template from the scratch requires design framework, concept, action-trigger elements, and above all, an experienced HTML email developer. The process is time-taking. On the contrary, built-in designs are pre-made, conceptualized, and ready to use. It gives the quickest turnaround time (TAT) for the marketers who are on the go.
- Wide Range
ESPs understand the diverse requirements of a business to indulge into various email marketing campaigns. Each campaign demands a different design and approach. The pre-made email templates by ESPs come in a wide range, catering to distinct campaign requirements. You need to simply browse through the categories and select the type.
- Hassle-free without any need of technical skills
Pre-built templates are designed in a way that they don’t require advanced development skills. People with basic UI/UX understanding can easily customize the required aspects on their own.
In spite of the mentioned benefits, people still opt for custom made email templates. Here’s why…
- Lacks the essence of branding
Pre-built email templates are easy to use but lack the personal touch. If your marketing agenda is also to create a brand identity and not just promotions, these templates aren’t for you.
- No freehand while customizing
Pre-designed templates come with a limited scope of adjustments. Apart from basics like colors, text, and images, you aren’t allowed to add elements in these templates, and even if they allow an advanced level of customization, it comes for a price.
- Difficult to adjust code
When you want to add or change things into a pre-designed template, the coding part can be difficult to understand for many. And in any case, if the codes get changed, the entire template goes haywire. You would need a developer then to come out of any mess.
- Disruption due to customization
Though these templates are rendered and tested, even a minor change in the code calls for testing. You cannot take the risk of sending them without checking.
What is a ‘Custom Email Template’?
A custom email template design is when you conceptualize, code, render and test an email template, all on your own. Unlike pre-built templates, custom templates are not pre-designed. You create your own email design framework, add the elements you wish to put, choose the color palettes, pattern, images, and decide the overall flow of the email.
Apart from the designing aspects, you also choose the marketing aspects like CTAs, icons, and links in the template. You either do it yourself (if well-versed with the coding part) or hire an HTML email developer to design it on your behalf.
Take a look at this example by Boden and see how they have customized the template to match Christmas vibes, rather than using a templatized email.
Custom email templates might sound a little daunting at first but not until you check out how useful they are. Let’s start…
Your emails should be anything but common! When you go for custom email designs, you design every aspect there is, the way you prefer. Ready-to-use templates are available for all losing its exclusivity. If you wish that your emails carry a recall value, custom made is your way!
- Highly personalized and tailor-made
Amidst the cluttered inboxes, tailor-made emails that represent your brand identity can go a long way. When you code your own templates, they are personalized, carry uniformity, and have a unique aesthetically appealing design that stands out.
- For repurposing of one-off campaigns
Email templates can be created in two forms, for multipurpose use and one-off campaigns. When you have your emails designed in-house, you can dedicate the templates for designated campaigns. This way, promotional emails can be differentiated from occasional emails, and so on.
Pre-built templates may be tested at first, but as you make changes, the compliance is compromised. When you design your HTML or CSS code from the beginning, you can be sure of its compliance as the final outcome always comes tested.
- Comparatively Pricier
Custom email templates are built inhouse or by dedicated HTML developers. The price for expertise and experience is sure to be considered and thus, it might turn out a bit pricey than pre-built designs.
- Takes Time and resources
As these templates are developed from scratch, the TAT might not be as quick as pre-designed ones. To overcome this shortcoming, you can outsource or consult email template designers that can handle and incorporate your unique requests in time.
Compare the Benefits and Drawbacks Carefully
The ready-to-use templates come in standard formats and basic designs, while custom made templates, as the name suggests, are highly customized and portrays brand identity. However, ESPs like Mailchimp, Salesforce, Marketo, Braze, HubSpot, Campaign Monitor, and many others provide creative liberty with pre-built free email template libraries, depending upon your email marketing plan.
You need to decide whether a pre-built or a custom-made email template will suit your style. Choose the path you want to explore for your email marketing campaigns, or you can enjoy the best of both worlds too.