There are a lot of email editing tools out there. Visual email editors are the most commonly known, but are only a subset of them all. There are also code editors focused on emails, and form-based email generators. We're going to take a look at visual editors only, editors with a point and click interface for building and editing content in your emails.
Simplified email editor with template options
This editor usually comes with an email service provider. Its template options are simplified to common layouts and basic design options. Any design customization requires working around their format, which is usually pretty limited.
Complex email editor you build from scratch with
This editor generally has a bunch of options that most likely need a professional designer to figure out as it involves a lot of tooling (defining hex code values for colors, setting font properties, spacing and margins, etc) which overwhelm the interface. Many editors have layout options to work off of, or a pre-designed template gallery.
Email editor that uses your own custom template
This editor has code that you add to your HTML to enable editable content. You then import your HTML into the editor to get the interface to build and edit content with. This allows for the most customization in your design.
While simplified and complex editors make up the majority of visual editors, the custom template editor is a newer breed that's starting to expand, perhaps as a response to the need for more customization.
Which one is better?
That depends on what your goals are:
- Simplified editor - if you want a basic template, an ESP’s editor may be a fine option, though your email may end up looking similar to what a bunch of others use. It's the lowest cost, but also the most design-constrained.
- Complex editor - if you want more customization, this requires more work on your end, or working with a designer. It's usually a higher cost because of the extra work involved, but you get a more original design.
- Custom template editor - if you want a completely custom, branded template. It's the highest in cost as it requires a designer to hand-code the initial HTML template, but offers the most design flexibility.
It comes down to your available resources and the level of design customization you're going for. For simplified and complex editors, it's about which has the most customization features. With a custom template editor, you just need essential editing features as the customization is inherit in the way the template is designed and coded. It allows editing just the necessary content, while maintaining the best possible design quality, which should be the ultimate goal.
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A good custom template editor
So if customization for a custom template editor is built within the template design, what features should you look for?
- Template code should be simple and flexible to work with so you can easily update and maintain updates for your template
- The editor interface should be very intuitive for your team to use, without requiring any coding on their part
- Collaboration should be baked in so anyone can go in and build, edit, and review content for your emails
- There should be some remote connection to your image servers/platforms to dynamically include images in your code
If you currently code your emails, then the potential benefits to using a custom template editor are huge, saving you many work hours preparing content and producing an email. It solves the same problem as simple and complex editors, reducing the back and forth of writing and reviewing content, and eliminating having to code every email. But it does so around your template, instead the editor's template system.
You also get the aspect of content portability. Both simplified and complex editors tend to tie you into their system, making it difficult to take your content out. Custom template editors typically allow you to export your email code and content so you can use your emails with any ESP.