As a contractor I get to work with a lot of different companies – each with their own opinions and processes (or lack thereof). I have clients that have no QA in place (as they didn’t even know that it won’t look the same everywhere), to ones that seem to test on every single device and app out there, wanting to get the email pixel perfect in every one. What I rarely see is a happy medium.
To be honest, from my point of view, the companies that don’t test are easier to deal with – I have the opportunity to go in and either educate them about rendering in different email clients, or if they’re not interested, I can do the testing I need to do to feel ok about myself behind the scenes without them knowing. It’s the clients that want the email to look identical in every email client and app that are the bigger issue. It can be very hard to explain once these viewpoints are in place, that email is ‘alive’ and is not going to be the same everywhere.
I’ve seen teams agonise over copy for the body of the email, arguing over the tiniest, and often irrelevant, details. I’ve had html builds sent back to me over tiny “rendering issues” (ie It doesn’t look the same in Outlook 2013 as it does in the gmail app on android as it does on the yahoo app on the iPad). I’ve watched on as someone suddenly calls for an email to be stopped from going seconds before the scheduled time because someone thinks the spacing between paragraphs should be 5px more, or to swap the word ‘really’ for ‘very’…
And it’s these little issues that see delays in emails going out. Or in the case one recent client, and email not going out at all as it had a very time critical deadline, and because of debate over spacing between blocks it missed it.
Often these issues arise when emails are designed ‘by committee’ – ie far too many people are getting involved in the process. I would say typically, it’s smaller, newer, companies where the senior management have not yet learned to let go, and are still far too involved with the minutiae, and are basing things on their own likes and dislikes rather than listening to the experts, or at the very least testing, and listening to those results.
As much as I want an email to look good on as wide a number of email clients as possible, there comes a time when good enough is enough. While you’re focusing on things like this (that Joe Bloggs on the street is never going to notice) you’re probably missing some much bigger issues – it’s time to take a look at your priorities. 5 pixels here or there is not going to make the difference between someone clicking or not.
My rule of thumb, if you wouldn’t bother spending time A/B testing it, don’t agonise over it.