When the Myst video game originally came out, it quickly became the top selling video game of all time and held that record nearly a decade. Besides its accessible story and setting, it's approach to the technology it used made it very intuitive for players to interact with and allowed reaching an audience beyond just gamers.
The creators used a program called HyperCard which allowed them to add hotspots to an image or 'card' that the player can click on to bring up a new card, giving them the impression that they are moving around in the rich mysterious world it portrayed. So simple, yet so powerful.
The web and email
The web is built on a similar platform, made of hyperlinks that go from one 'page' to another. Its code is built on HTML, used for a page's structured content, and CSS for how that content looks. This framework has been around since the web's early days and is still used today. Custom-designed emails also use the same framework.
Some years into the web going mainstream, a web standards movement pushed it forward by essentially giving us a common language to use for the type of content we interact with. Email development hasn't really embraced this approach, probably because it's not necessary for it to do so. The web has a series of more complex, dynamic pages while an email is a stand-alone static page.
The language of email
There is however, a common language around email content that has developed throughout the years. Mainly based on the reason that an email is sent out: transactional, promotional, behavioral, etc. When we built Blocks Edit's capabilities, we based them on the language we were using around an email's content structure: header, footer, sections, regions, components, images, text, etc.
Email is all about communication and content. And its platform and approach stand the test of time. It works because it's based on a model that is intuitive and accessible for us to use.
Limitations and possibilities
While some view this underlying technology for email as limited and behind on capabilities, it still works for its intended purpose. Some people see limitations, others see opportunity to be creative. There is no such thing as a completely blank canvas, there are always limits. Even a blank canvas has a certain material it needs to be made of that is a specific size and allows for only certain things to be used on it. An email client is our canvas, HTML and CSS are our paints and the tools we use for our content act as our paintbrush.
Having a limited set of variables:
- Keeps things simple and more efficient
- Makes it easier to focus development work and tools around it
- Allows for developing a template system to do more with our current assets
- Allows making processes more efficient
- Reminds us to pay attention to the content
"An email client is our canvas, HTML and CSS are our paints and the tools we use for our content act as our paintbrush."
There's a reason why email is still one of the most effective digital marketing strategies today. And for those that embrace its limits instead of fighting them, it can also be very impactful. The way Myst used basic interaction to push what video games can be and create a piece of immersive art, a well-crafted email can be built in an artful way to reach beyond its medium.
Start crafting your next email using the intuitive Blocks Edit interface. Sign up to use it for free, see it in action, or request a demo to see how it can work for your organization.