Email template production in the current times is a rather tricky affair. On the one hand, you need to exhibit a refreshing sense of creativity to ensure you don’t end up becoming just another email in your subscriber’s congested inboxes (a fair assumption to make at a time when approximately 347 billion emails are exchanged daily), on the other, you also need to have a robust standardization framework in place to avoid falling behind your requirements. As you can already imagine, this is a balance that’s not particularly straightforward to achieve. However, there is something that can help you ace your walk on this tightrope- an email design system.
As the name suggests, an email design system refers to a set of standards adhering to which businesses create reusable components with the aim of achieving brand consistency with their email templates. It functions as both a style guide and a library of building blocks. It is not surprising, thus, that an email design system is an integral part of the majority of business’ email production workflows out there. What comprises an email design system? How does it benefit you? What should you keep in mind while designing one? Are there any downsides associated with it? It is precisely all these questions that we aim to address in this blog. Dive right in and find out!
Components of an Email Design System
Normally, an email design system consists of:
- Brand assets like icons, logo, and imagery
- Brand colors
- Email modules like partials and code snippets
- Content blocks (headers, footers, and CTA buttons)
- HTML email templates
Standards, which are defined to govern the usage of these elements, could be:
- HTML comments across templates and modules, reflecting their usage.
- Documentation shedding light on implementation decisions and design logic.
- Training that continuously emphasizes the guidelines informing the implementation of the email design system.
Why Should You Have an Email Design System?
Let’s take a look at the benefits that one can avail of by having a sound email design system in place.
Accelerates the Design Process
Since an email design system supplies you with the elementary units as well as a design framework, the time taken to put together a template, or a campaign for that matter, is reduced significantly. Especially during high-traffic junctures, such as the holiday season when email production volume reaches its peak, an email design system can prove to be absolutely invaluable (imagine having to design every single template from scratch during this period!). The more a business grows familiar with their design system, the more they stand to streamline their email production process.
Frameworks, by nature, often tend to be a little rigid, for they aim to achieve efficiency through standardization. In the case of an email design system, however, this is not entirely true. Here, having pre-built, reusable components at the ready empowers designers and developers to indulge in novel attempts without having to worry about time constraints. If it works, hurrah! If it doesn’t, you have an extremely reliable failsafe in place to begin with. Moreover, it also prevents your team from coming to a complete standstill on days when your designers and developers are unavailable. By utilizing components, even teammates with minimal editing experience can assemble basic templates and keep the show running. Your email design system also doubles up as an excellent reference point for non-email departments of your business- it becomes easier for them to communicate how they want their campaign to be when they have a strongly fleshed-out springboard at their disposal.
The modular aspect of an email design system enables brands to scale up their email production volumes rather effortlessly. Be it adding new modules or building new campaigns altogether, with an email design system, you never have to worry about contending with a blank slate. No matter how complex your blueprint is, you can easily achieve it by effecting incremental changes to your core blocks. And the best part? Once finished, this new complex design ends up becoming a building block for another more complex requirement. Besides, an email design system makes executing universal changes across a campaign incredibly hassle-free.
For your brand to make an impact and foster a dialogue, it must have a distinctive brand personality. And one of the non-negotiable aspects of curating a memorable brand personality involves maintaining brand consistency. Should your email marketing campaigns fail to be true to a uniform brand guideline, your subscribers will never be able to associate a unique voice with your brand. An email design system makes it easy for you to churn out branded email templates in a flash, Not just with respect to visual brand assets; an email design system also makes certain of a consistent email code across your email templates. As a result, the QA process gets remarkably expedited.
Different aspects of your email- copy, design, code, QA- are all handled by different individuals. In the lack of a defined process that ties all these units together, inconsistencies are bound to creep into your email campaigns, eventually laying waste to its impact. In a smaller team, you can still hope to curb the margin of error to a certain extent, but micromanaging the several discussions and transactions characterizing a bigger setup is near impossible. The wisest course of action, therefore, is to formulate an email design system that will streamline the operations of all these various sectors, enabling you to improve your accuracy by leaps and bounds.
Things to Keep in Mind While Creating an Email Design System
Now that you understand the benefits of an email design system, the prospect of creating one for your business has, all of a sudden, become highly tempting, right? Well, we’ve got you covered! In this section, we talk about a few things you should take into consideration while formulating your own email design system. Take a look!
Examine Your Current Email Campaigns
Reviewing your existing email marketing programs will help you understand two important factors:
- The type of emails you are sending out.
- The structure of your email template.
Knowledge of the composition of your email inventory and elements that are common across your templates are extremely vital starting points and should compulsorily inform the creation of your email design system. Additionally, it’ll give you a clearer idea of what’s working in favor of your campaigns and what’s not, allowing you to craft a system that will take care of the follies of the past, giving rise to future campaigns that are optimized on all fronts.
Explore and Discuss
The formulation of an email design system should absolutely be a collaborative effort. As mentioned earlier, since different disciplines are involved in bringing an email template to life, it is only fair that all of their considerations are factored in while creating the design system. Along with taking the opinions of your team members, make it a point to research the design systems of the best in the business to understand the direction in which you should be moulding your efforts.
While laying down your email design system, it is crucial that you define some non-negotiable guidelines; ground rules that need to be followed at all times. Don’t view this as an affront to your creativity; rather, look at it as building a steady spine that will be able to successfully accommodate your experiments in the long run, successful or otherwise. In the absence of certain fundamental principles, your design system risks being all over the place and will most likely fail to provide your designers and developers the clarity it is supposed to. For all the core components of your design system, namely email modules, visual designs, and documentation, specify a set of boxes that must be ticked off without fail, no matter what the campaign is.
Change is the name of the game when it comes to email design systems. With new trends altering the email landscape periodically, your design system must be updated accordingly to reflect the same. The best design systems are those that are dynamic and which continuously look to improve themselves by absorbing all the latest and relevant developments around them.
A Glance at the Flip Side
While an email design system offers plenty of gains, it has certain limitations we must take stock of, too.
- In a larger setup, the email design system tends to be created by only a select few, which consequently ends up curtailing the creative freedom of the others involved in the design process.
- An email design system demands continuous and rigorous maintenance.
- Occasionally, the documentation in the design system might fail to offer the relevant context to someone referencing it from outside your organization.
- Sometimes, a trend might end up being so disruptive (Apple’s MPP, for instance) that it will be impossible for your design system to accommodate it, forcing you to create a new one.
Wrapping It Up
Notwithstanding a few unavoidable pitfalls that an email design system invites, it is something that every business must consider setting up in place on the grounds of the sheer efficiency they promise to introduce into email design and development processes. We hope the insights shared above will help you create a dynamic and robust design system for your brand.