Email templates: custom coded vs email builders

Aug 5, 2019 | Email marketing, Email production

We do the comparisons to bring you the best email template creation options. Template builder vs ready-made email template vs custom-made email template. Which one is best?

Tessa MacTaggart

Creative Director
So you’ve established your client’s goals, your email list is refined and you’re ready to start your email marketing campaigns!  However, you find yourself at the crossroads of email design & coding. Do you use:

  1.  an email template builder,
  2.  a ready-made email template,
  3.  or a custom-made email template?

No matter the size of the business or mailing list, it’s one of the most important decisions to get right, at the beginning of the campaign.

The wrong choice could be a spoke in the wheel, leaving you with a design:

  • that’s not on brand
  • does not speak to your audience
  • is possibly too fancy (or too basic!)
  • might not render well on devices
  • could be difficult to update

– all resulting in the brand losing credibility and trust with their audience.  And leaving you sweatier than a cowboy writing a love note.

Know your options

For a start, let’s explain what a “Email template builder”, “ Ready-made email template” and a “Custom-made email template” is and explore each one’s pros and cons.

1 - Email template builder
Email template builders (also known as drag and drop editors) certainly have their place in the market and we’ve found them to be incredibly helpful in keeping costs down for organisations such as non-profit, small businesses who love to DIY and of course bloggers.

Mailchimp has a built-in email builder which makes it a popular favourite as it starts with a free account with limited sends – a great place to start when your client is testing the waters of email marketing.

Other email builders are stand alone and then integrated with email sending platforms (ESP). Make sure the editor you choose integrates with the ESP you plan to use.

Pros Cons
Cost effective Limited customisation
DIY Limited export functions, or integrates with limited number of ESPs
Easy to use.  Grid based, drag and drop interface Cannot customise to follow exact brand guidelines
Works well on all devices Emails can look very generic
Quick turnaround time No support for free accounts
Online documentation

Best advice here is to keep your layout simple: we’re talking about single columns or predictable responsive behaviour (which doesn’t always order things on mobile in the way you intended)

2 - Ready-made email template

A ready-made or pre-made email template has been designed and coded with placeholder text (think lorem ipsum) and images.  It’s a set framework which only needs you to populate it with content and images.  All you need to do is simply google “buy email template” and you are flooded for options.

Be sure to purchase your email template from a credible source with a good reputation.  How can you be sure you’re not buying a lemon? One way to tell is to investigate the reviews and find out if there is sales support offered. If you find a high percentage of complaints and unhappy customers then it’s a no-go.

This option is great if you have an experienced html digital designer on your team who will populate your template with text and images as well as your own email send platform.

Pros Cons
Cost effective Limited customisation
Design and think-work done for you Code could be difficult to adjust
Works out of the box – already render tested* *Even though this template has been tested, when last was it updated – devices and email platforms are ever changing.
Huge selection Huge variety can be confusing
Quick turnaround time Could be costly to customise in order to follow brand guidelines
Visually attractive Can be difficult to change something in the framework (adding/deleting sections, stacking order)
Fewer people needed for production You still need a digital designer to populate content and images.
Might not work on your bulk emailing platform
3 - Custom-made email template
A custom designed template is tailor made for your brand – so it’s truly something unique.  Here you have the opportunity to work with a team of experienced marketers, designers and coders to design and develop a template which fits your campaign marketing requirements exactly.   The more costly option but yields great results.

Pros Cons
Tailor made and on brand Pricier
Unique More people involved in production & higher level of skills required
Coded to render well on all devices Can be longer turnaround time
Highly customisable

Read about our approach to email newsletter template creation.

Ultimately, it will depend on your client’s budget and marketing needs. We use a great mix of all three and I learn something new from each option every time I use it – email is an ever changing industry.

Get your Rodeo on!

Now that you know the pro’s and con’s – how do you know which is the right choice?  Use this handy checklist to see which option is best for your client:

I hope the above guided you into making a confident choice for your next email campaign, but if you’re still not sure, why not get in touch and chat to us or leave a comment below.  We’d love to hear from you!


Are you interested in a thoroughbred custom template?  We have a highly qualified email marketing team packed with designers, coders and campaigners.  We’re no cowboys, we take the “pain” out of “campai(g)n”.

Shoot us an email today 


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