Hybrid is the answer. Is it the right question?

Nicole Merlin started it. She posted an in-depth tutorial on how to optimise emails without media queries. This prompted email community member Ted Goas to ask the question: why we do all this just because gmail has an embarrassing problem?

This is a valid question and one we also ask ourselves regularly. However, it boils down to this:

It is the “email way” to find workarounds and hacks for rendering problems.

This is for a number of reasons:
1) No coding standards in email.
2) Fractured, buggy and ever-expanding rendering environment in constant flux.

Compounded by:
1) It is in our nature to solve problems.
2) If a workaround exists then it is a possibility. If there is a possibility, that soon becomes actuality.

Compounded further by industry factors:
1) The customer/client relationship. Customer says “it doesn’t look right” Customer is entitled. Customer is always right. We are the producer and supplier. We feel we must do all we can.
2) As a supplier, more products and options (more tools in the box) means problems can be fixed, means happier customers.

At Action Rocket we have a process doc illustrating how we can find the right type of email design and coding techniques before we start work.

Here is a generic version of our internal document for reference:



If you enjoy such charts, you may also like this one.

We recognise that Hybrid is not always the most suitable method of email production in the real world, it depends upon a number of factors like:

  • Complexity
  • Updating/maintaining code
  • Meshing with ESP quirks
  • Audience

Every case is different and we tailor to requirements. But when we have a connected hive of problem solvers combined with this email attitude to code (if it works it flies) the future is hacky.

Perhaps the real question is: can we change the “email way”? Web guys have the luxury of saying IF old terrible browser THEN upgrade your browser. They can draw lines in the sand. We can’t do that in email, short of an elaborate “I am Spartacus” movement against gmail, whereby we all just refuse to cater for it. So the cycle continues.

Of course if code standards existed in email that would cause a paradigm shift…and if gmail supported media queries that would be a huge step in the right direction…and if this, if that. We aren’t holding our breath, we’re getting on with it. It’s what we do.

TL;DR Hybrid FTW, but it’s complicated.