Email marketing technology and tools are becoming increasingly more user-friendly. Nowadays, marketers do not necessarily need to see or understand HTML or CSS to build beautiful emails.
There are fantastic email builders and drag-and-drop template editors, such as the one offered by Smaily. However, sometimes you may need to have an email developed in HTML or troubleshoot directly in the code. Or perhaps you simply would like to learn to code emails from scratch.
That is why it is essential to highlight that email coding and web coding have their own differences. While they are similar, they are not the same.
The main building blocks of Web coding
But, in a nutshell, web coding is coding for browsers. Of course, web development has its own pain points, such as making sure the web pages render well on different browsers and their versions and on different devices.
For instance, Chrome can display a webpage differently than Microsoft Edge. However, web coding has been around for years. There are many guidelines and well-established standards to help the developers.
Email development at a glance
If we say that web development is coding for browsers, then we need to highlight that emails can be opened on a wide variety of devices, email applications, and browsers themselves.
It means that you’re building professional and functional emails for many desktop devices, mobile phones, tablets, and now even wearable tech. And each can have multiple programs or apps that the email recipient can use to open and read their emails.
Email developers are used to the peculiarities of email coding. Still, even the most experienced ones face a challenge or two while coding emails. And, yes, you’ll use HTML and CSS for email building – it’s the same language.
However, coding for email and web can be compared to real-life languages. Languages have various dialects, accents, and pronunciations; they’re not spoken and even written in precisely the same way. Similarly, email coding will not be the same as web coding.
We also need to mention that there isn’t a global email coding standard yet. Different email applications can vary with their HTML and CSS support, making email developers’ work much more challenging.
Be prepared for unexpected results with email coding
Email coding and testing will very likely give you inconsistent and sometimes even surprising results. You should learn to expect various bugs, weird email renderings, or strangely behaving email code.
Email rendering may be so unpredictable! Therefore, if you’re used to pixel-perfect web coding, you should know that email marketing doesn’t really have such a concept! Every device and every email client can understand your email in their own way.
In many instances, email developers need to have their fallback options ready. Typography and fonts are good examples. Unsurprisingly, there’s limited font support in email marketing.
So if you want to be on the safe side, use the main/basic fonts, or have fallback fonts specified. You can read more about the differences in web and email coding font support here.
Write HTML and CSS the “Email Way”
When you’re coding emails, a recommended practice is to use tables, as building emails using tables can prevent you some headaches. Even if tables feel a bit redundant in Web coding, they’re still considered the safest email coding choice.
Unfortunately, div-based emails are often the cause of inconsistent rendering results. In addition, to make it even more fun, if you’re importing HTML into an Email Service Provider, you may notice that the code may be automatically modified during the import.
Making the CSS work can be tricky due to a lack of support. If you’re interested in learning more, there’s a hand Litmus summary of the differences in CSS support between email clients. With email and CSS, it’s important to remember that all code should be in the email template. So, avoid using separate CSS files. You will also find that CSS that is not inlined may be removed. Writing each CSS property separately is also recommended when you code emails.
Images on, Images off
Many websites use various images and graphics to achieve really great results. Unfortunately, with emails, you cannot rely on images too much. Email developers need to consider email size and even text-to-image ratio – these are just a few factors (from many!) that can impact your email deliverability.
Let’s not forget that some email clients will not even display images by default or that users can set their own preferences regarding image display. So, while coding emails, it’s crucial to plan the template layout, code, and images in advance.
Also, while web building is becoming more interactive and dynamic, emails still have limited support, even for simple animated gifs. You can read more about visual elements in email marketing here. Here’s a quick tip for your email graphics: adding the width and height attributes is a good practice – it could prevent some potential rendering issues!
It takes practice
There are many similarities between email and web coding. But you can see that there are also many differences. Sometimes you just have to prioritize devices where you want your email to look best.
There will be times when email rendering is just not cooperating. But with practice, email developers get to know and predict what to expect and what hacks can help troubleshoot the issues.
Testing is a big part of that – therefore, create test accounts, send test emails and see the emails for yourself or use third-party rendering services. And finally, you can always find support if you’re stuck – the email marketing community is fantastic!
And if you’re not sure if you’re up to coding emails yet, use an Email Service Provider that allows you both: to write emails from scratch in code and use convenient email template builders.