Why I prefer email development

It’s no secret web developers and designers generally don’t like working on emails. Heck most of us don’t even like receiving or processing email, and often the emails that are “designed” are the ones we send immediately to spam or trash. However there are some reasons why email development can actually be rewarding and easier to deal with.

Here’s why I’ve transitioned almost all of my freelance work to email development:


What??!! I know you think I’m crazy, especially if you’ve ever tried to troubleshoot and test emails on different applications or devices. But considering the ever-changing web standards, frameworks, hardware capabilities and devices, developing for the web has become a bit overwhelming to keep up. Email on the other hand moves at a much slower pace. I know next year, the process for developing an email will be pretty similar as today. That lack of change can be limiting, but also frees me of having to code to the latest advances.

Simpler builds

Pre-processors, post-processors, server configurations, deployment, content management systems, Javascript frameworks, CSS frameworks, minification, concatenation, CDNs, back-end, front-end, APIs, and you name it. Creating a website has become a complicated process. Email development remains mostly static although it can be “simplified” with web build tools like grunt and Sass. That means I can sit down in front of a text editor, bang out HTML and inline CSS, and send it immediately. I love that simplicity!

Short-term projects

I have a full-time gig and a family. I like freelance, but I also like my free-time. Emails rarely take longer than eight hours to develop and often only consume a few hours of my time. Meanwhile websites can take months to finish depending on how much time I can dedicate. I guess it depends on your personality, but I’ve always been a sprinter and not a marathoner.

Instant results

Once an email is deployed through a platform like MailChimp or Campaign Monitor, I can instantly see open and click through rates as well as a bunch of other useful information. These analytics can help determine conversion rates, best times to send, and deliverability of emails. There’s also something satisfying about knowing my email I just developed was “hand-delivered” to thousands of customers at once. This argument can be made about web to I suppose, but I like seeing the mail-list numbers when I hit send. Weird? Maybe.

Fine-tuning my skills

Developing for email is challenging and can be incredibly frustrating. Because the time frame for each email is significantly shorter than websites, I can bust out dozens of emails during the same time period it would take to development a website. This repetition allows me to fine-tune my skills much quicker than I could with developing websites. Ultimately this makes me much happier and more confident as a developer.

So, what do you think ?