Help settle a debate?
I am currently in the middle of a debate and need the assistance of my fellow Email Geeks!
Which technique do you think is better for creating newsletters in an ESP for clients and/or yourself?
#1 You Code it Yourself
You get complete control over your code and best practices.
#2 You Use the WYSIWYG in the ESP
The WYSIWYG is set up by the ESP so it works with the ESP so you know the code will work, faster, and don't need to know code.
Thanks so much!
To be honest I really think you've answered your own issue. It's very difficult to definitively say one way is better than another, as both have their pros/cons.
If you develop your code yourself you have complete control, you can implement best practices easily and thoroughly and you can develop more advanced techniques a WYSIWYG may not offer. I've seen small marketing teams, or even just an individual have a go at creating email templates via an ESP tool and the results have been pretty sub-standard in comparison to any created by a skilled developer. However, WYSIWYGs were created for a reason, they are accessible to many and if you are willing to compromise on the quality of a campaign in favour of speed, or a reduction in cost (i.e. not hiring a developer) then it makes sense.
Code it yourself:
pros: control over code, ability to implement advances techniques, better understanding of build/implementation process, best practices
cons: need coding experience or will cost to hire a developer, potentially longer timescales
pros: quick and easy, accessible to many (even those without coding knowledge), cheap
cons: lower quality end-product, less understanding of knowledge of the build process, less control if anything isn't working correctly, basic techniques
The short answer is the unsatisfying one: It depends.
Good WYSIWYG Editors can save you a lot of trouble and effort (plus, as you mention, you don't need to know code). For simple, straightforward templates, i would say this is the way to go.
From my own experience though, these Editors (especially those of some ESPs) can reach their limitations very quickly. Some have annoying bugs, others will be slow to adapt to changes made by email providers and with pretty much all of them you will reach a point where you want design something specific that they won't allow.
So if you want to create a simple template quickly and efficiently, use the editor. If you are like me (and probably a lot of people here) and love being creative and cutting edge in their designs, you'll have to code it yoursellf (using Snippets can save you a lot if time building and help colleagues less apdapt in coding).
PS: I'd like to add that by 'simple' i dont mean 'bland'. If you work in B2B, or your Newsletter is more text-heavy, you'll probably prefer a clean, uncluttered design.
You'll always have the chance for cleaner, less-bulky code with coding yourself. If you have the know-how and time to do this, I'd recommend it. With only 102k available in an email, WYSIWYG's have the opportunity to add a lot of bloat behind-the-scenes of the email.
The quality of the WYSIWYG matters as well -- some are better than others. Count my vote for #1.
Personally I prefer to edit my code outside the ESP then add it in afterwards, but that might well be due to the fact I was involved in web design from way before the days of WYSIWYG, same as I prefer to edit our WordPress site using code as opposed to a WYSIWYG editor (most of the time) that said, some of the drag and drop options do make it very accessible for people who don't have a vast amount of experience, though how beneficial that is, is a matter of opinion in itself!
I've never met a WYSIWYG I'd trust completely.
But the others have a point that a good WYSIWYG will save you time. It's up to you how you prioritize time against cool design, potential errors, bloated email sizes, and potentially buggy behavior. To me, that's no contest. I've also been coding my client emails for 10+ years though, so I'm probably biased.
Whichever you choose, you'll always — ALWAYS — want to run tests through programs like Litmus to ensure deliverability and layout fidelity for just about every screen type, email program, OS, browser, etc.