#MeetTeamBacke: Kyle Hildreth

Coding emails for a multitude of devices

Senior Application Developer Kyle Hildreth has been with Backe for four years. While his programming skills are diverse, one of his specialties here is building marketing emails. He was kind enough to chat with me about coding emails for different user platforms.

Moss: Emails obviously can look a lot different on a desktop compared to a phone. But it’s a lot more complicated than that, isn’t it?

Kyle: Absolutely. The way emails display can vary a lot depending on the environment – on iPhones versus Android phones, for example, or on Outlook for desktop versus Apple’s desktop Mail program versus browser-based email platforms, and so on.

Some ways of coding emails just don’t work on certain platforms. So we try to make them display well on as many platforms as possible, especially the ones your audience uses most.

Moss: Is there a way to anticipate how your emails will look on different devices?

Kyle: Yes. We use a simulation program to preview our emails on as many browsers and email clients as possible. Usually there’s at least one environment where things don’t look the way we planned. Then we try to fix them. It’s a matter of trial and error.

Moss: What if an email just won’t look right on every platform, no matter what you do?

Kyle: Then you have to make a judgement call. Like, if your email looks great on everything but Yahoo, and only 3% of your audience is using Yahoo, maybe you can live with that small percentage of users having a less-than-optimal experience. With that said, I’m a perfectionist, so I really try my best to make sure an email always looks good, regardless of the platform!

Moss: Which email applications are the trickiest to code for?

Kyle: All versions of Outlook. Outlook doesn’t like background images, or curved objects, or gradient screens. So, to get those emails to display the way you want, you have to build their layouts using Vector Markup Language (VML) within tables. That’s kind of an “old-school” skill, a lost art. But for what we do here, it’s very valuable.

Moss: What are some common technical errors and coding pitfalls you see in other people’s marketing emails?

Kyle: People often include too many images in their emails. In fact, a lot of emails just consist of one big image. That’s an easy way to make them look good on a desktop … but then on a phone, the words are too small. Personally, I try to use images only when they’re absolutely needed, to keep emails as readable and responsive as possible.

Also, many times when I open an email on my phone, it’s just a scaled-down version of the desktop layout, and it just doesn’t render or view correctly.  Make sure to have a mobile-first mentality, or at least take the mobile user experience into consideration.

Stay tuned to Backe social, where we unravel the mysteries behind an ad team’s every day work – from design to strategy to social media and more – in our #MeetTeamBacke series.

Backe is a digital marketing and brand communications agency, focused on creating smart, beautiful and strategically driven work. We build communities, relationships, and meaningful connections.