What's an Email Design System—and do you need one? This webinar is your introduction to the power of Email Design Systems. Watch the recording now. 

More and more brands embrace Email Design Systems to make it easier for their teams to send on-brand emails at scale. But what exactly is an Email Design System and what makes it different from an email style guide or a template? What are the best tools to manage an Email Design System? And how do you even know if your team needs one in the first place?

In this Introduction to Email Design Systems webinar, we gave the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about Email Design Systems—and we’re excited to make the full recording available to you.

You’d love a copy of the slides? Get them as a PDF or create an editable copy in Google slides

Plus, we wanted to touch on some of the fantastic questions you asked during the webinar. Let’s dive right in!

How do I get buy-in from my team for an Email Design System?

Elliot Ross: If you want all team members on board for a new Email Design System, it’s crucial to involve them early in the process. Take the time to understand what they want out of an Email Design System and what pain points they have in the email creation process. Maybe even do a workshop where you put all your email templates up on a wall and, as a team, decide what modules and designs are crucial to your brand—and what you might want to drop. 

If everyone on your team had a chance to chime in early and feel like they are part of the process, getting their buy-in comes naturally. Plus, you’ll make sure that you can really cater to your team’s needs when creating your new Email Design System.

And how do I get leadership buy-in for an Email Design System?

Lexi Clarke: If you’re looking to get senior management on board, show where your team is struggling today—and how an Email Design System could help you improve:

  • Show how an Email Design System can help you become more efficient: How long does it currently take to get an email out the door? How many people are involved? How would this look with an Email Design System? Try to quantify the impact an Email Design System could have on your team. 
  • If you’re struggling with brand consistency, show examples. Do the emails your teams are sending look like they’re coming from different teams, or even different brands? Bring real-life examples of how your team is struggling with consistent branding across campaigns, and show how an Email Design System could help you create a more consistent brand experience across all touchpoints. 

Do I need HTML skills to create an Email Design System? What if I can’t code?

Elliot: Having a well-coded email is the foundation of any great campaign, so that’s why well-written HTML is a core part of your Email Design System, too. 

That doesn’t mean that you have to do it all by yourself though. If you can’t code, you can work with a freelancer or an agency—like the great team at ActionRocket—to design and code email modules that fit your brand, look great in all email clients, and are easy to edit. 

Remember that while setting up your Email Design System will require HTML knowledge, its ultimate goal is to empower more people on the team to create high-quality email campaigns, even if they don’t have any email HTML experience. 

What's the average time it could take to get a design system up and running, from kick-off to full set up?

Lexi: It depends on how complex your Email Design System is going to be, but to give you a rough idea: For most clients we work with, setting up an Email Design System takes between 4-8 weeks. If you’re working in a large organization with many stakeholders involved in conceptualizing, reviewing, and approving modules, then getting an Design System up-and-running can take longer. 

How do I account for new trends like Dark Mode in my Email Design System? 

Paris Fisher: An Email Design System makes it a whole lot easier to update your code base—whether that’s to get your emails dark-mode-ready or to account for any other code adjustments you’d like to make. 

Let’s say you’d like to update your design to better render in dark mode. Rather than having to update each and every template your team might use to create emails, you can focus your optimisation work on the modules in your Email Design System. Once those are updated, your changes will automatically trickle down to all future emails your team will create. 

Elliot: Taxi can really help in this process, too. If you have already made a load of emails, and then you need to update the HTML, you can update the code behind your Email Design System in Taxi, and every email you’ve already made is updated automatically. Whether you need to adjust your code to fix a new rendering issue, make changes to optimise for dark mode, or add a new module to your Email Design System, your emails will inherit those changes automatically. 

If I’m just getting started, how many modules should an Email Design System include?

Lexi: This really depends on how complex your email designs are—and how much flexibility you’d like to give to your team. For Belmont’s Email Design System (we chatted about this example in the webinar, you can jump right to that part), we got started with just ten modules.

A good way to find out what exactly you need is by running a workshop with your team. Look at your email designs and what can (and should) be translated into modules. In general, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that more modules equal a better Email Design System. Always keep in mind that the more modules you have, the more effort you need to put into keeping them updated. Instead, think about what the most crucial email elements are—and how you can design those modules in a way that they give your team the flexibility they need to achieve their goals. 

We’ve an Email Design System in place but sometimes the team modifies pre-designed modules and the emails just don’t look great. How can I stop that from happening?

Paris: This is a really common problem. Even the most beautiful templates and the most well thought-out Design System are worth nothing if your team doesn’t stick to them.

To get to the core of this problem, remember that your templates and pre-designed modules are only one part of your Email Design System. The other—and just as crucial—piece of the puzzle are the detailed instructions on why, when, and how you should use them. If your team regularly makes changes to modules or don’t use them as you intended, that’s a sign that some more guidance might be needed. 

There are a few things you can do to ensure your team actually uses your Email Design System: 

  • Find out why your team doesn’t stick to your pre-designed modules. The next time you see an email that isn’t on-brand, chat with the people who created it. Did they not know how to use the modules? In this case, you’ll have to work on improving documentation and training to make sure your guidelines are easily accessible to your team. Or was it a deliberate decision to change a module because the existing one didn’t allow the team to achieve their goal? In this case, you might want to adjust or add to existing modules to give your team the flexibility they need.
  • Implement a tool that prevents team members from making mistakes. The most fail-proof Email Design System is one that just doesn’t give campaign creators the option to go wrong. You don’t want your campaign team to change button colours or font sizes? Just don’t offer those options in your email editor. If you’re using a tool like Taxi, you don’t just set your email modules, but also have full control over how your team can use them, what can be changed in the email editor, and what can’t. With that, team members who’re creating campaigns simply can’t go off-track—and you can rest assured that every email is on-brand and complies with your design guidelines. 

Does Taxi support Kinetic or Interactive code?

Elliot: Yes! We’re very particular about supporting whatever type of email code you want to use—whether that’s code that supports interactive elements, or VML to make things work in Outlook. 

We were frustrated by other tools that change code in some way, adding things or breaking it unnecessarily. In Taxi, you as the designers who code the Email Design System have complete control over your code and how it changes with content. So when it comes to kinetic code, you could do things like add items to a carousel, and change how they are shown in Taxi, or you could update a hamburger navigation.

Does adding Taxi Syntax bloat my final code?

Elliot: Taxi Syntax is the code that you add to the email HTML in your Email Design System that specifies what is and isn’t editable in Taxi, and precisely how it can be changed. For example you can do things like specify that if a call to action button doesn’t have any text on it, then the code for the whole button is removed. It’s pretty powerful, you can see more about it here. What’s key is that Taxi Syntax creates the email editing experience your campaign team sees when they build an email, but it never impacts your final email HTML or bloats your coat. 

We wanted to make sure that it doesn’t conflict with the HTML that recipients see—so all Taxi Syntax is removed when you export an email from Taxi into your sending tool. 

Do you need a helping hand with your Email Design System? We’re here for you.

ActionRocket is the specialist studio for all things email and CRM. Helping you create your Design System, from planning to design, build, and training. Reach out →

Taxi for Email is the leading tool for managing Email Design Systems that teams will actually use, empowering your team to easily send on-brand emails. Learn more →


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