Drag and Drop Editor VS HTML Email Coding

The question so many of us ask ourselves when it comes to email creation – do I use a drag and drop editor or have a custom hand-coded HTML one built for me? There are so many drag and drop editors now on the market, all promising to do exactly what you want for next to nothing. So why would people still choose to pay to have an email created by a team of designers and developers? I’ve taken a look at the pros and cons of each to see if we can solve the answer to this burning question.

Drag and drop editors

Creating a responsive email is a very technical procedure which requires in-depth knowledge of HTML, CSS and an understanding of email rendering methods. Using a drag and drop editor lets you create emails using a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get), which are incredibly easy to use and require no coding knowledge. You can simply add in your content by literally dragging and dropping into place, without worrying about what’s going on under the bonnet.

Not only are they easy to use, but also very cost effective. If you’re on a limited budget or are a new start-up and want to get your marketing messaging out there quickly, this might be the ideal solution. Many drag and drop editors are free of charge to start using, which means you can try a few of them out first to get a feel of which one works best for you.

Sounds good so far, but does that come at a price?

Unfortunately the downside to many drag and drop editors, is that they can be very limited and restricted with what you can do with them. The editor you’ve picked might not allow you to reposition or change certain elements within your email, such as the fonts and colours. It can be very frustrating if you want to do something as simple as adding a button in the header section, but the editor doesn’t allow you to do that. 

You could also end up with a mass produced ‘one-size-fits-all’ style email, which gives off the impression you’ve not invested much time or money into your email marketing. You also risk not setting yourself apart from the competition if your email looks exactly the same as everyone else’s.

HTML email coding

If you’re very particular about your brand and have a clear vision for your email marketing, you’d be better off having your emails designed and developed from scratch. That way, you can map out exactly how you want your email to look, use all your own brand colours and fonts (where supported) and have everything where you want it to be. You can be in total control of the look and feel of every aspect of your email, which is where the hand-coded approach has the main advantage over a drag and drop editor. 

Won’t that be more expensive?

Of course, going down this route requires some investment, but then if it’s quality over quantity you want then you’re going to get your money’s worth. With it being custom built, your email will be a unique one-of-a-kind design, which looks much more professional against competitors and makes you stand out from the crowd. 

Due to the complexity of your design, it might take longer to build due to the amount of testing involved, however, having a team of professional email designers and developers doing the work means you won’t have to worry about how it looks across all the different email clients and devices. 

Companies who provide a hand-coded email service usually have a strict Quality Assurance (QA) process in place, so everything looks and works as it should before it’s sent out to your subscribers. This in turn, will ensure a positive overall experience for them when they receive your email.

Remember who’s at the receiving end

Speaking of subscribers, they can be a tough crowd. You’ve only got a few seconds to grab their attention, so what you’re sending them really needs to spark their interest. The inbox is a very crowded place and if you don’t have something that sets you apart, it could be a complete waste of your efforts. 

Interactive or kinetic elements as they’re sometimes known, are a really fantastic way to inject some fun and excitement into the email. It’s a great way to keep your subscribers engaged and get them talking about your brand. With a drag and drop editor having so many limitations, it’s highly unlikely it will be able to provide anything interactive, whereas with a hand coded email, you can do almost anything you want (subject to certain email clients)!

The importance of brand continuity 

Another key point to mention is trust. Many brands have clear guidelines – specific fonts, colours and imagery which means that without even seeing their company logo, you can identify them from those elements alone. If you create an email campaign which doesn’t have those essential brand items included, you could risk losing trust in your subscribers. 

It’s important to create a seamless customer journey from email to website to ensure that you maintain your brand identity throughout. Having an email hand-coded, allows you to be in control of the design right down to every last detail, whereas a drag and drop editor could restrict you to the point where your emails end up looking nothing like your brand.

Check out our Email Design Checklist blog for more tips and tricks!

Why choose a drag and drop editor


  • Cheaper
  • Easy to use
  • Ready to go – no waiting around


  • Basic/limited functionality
  • Restrictive
  • Mass produced
  • Code quality varies depending on provider

Why choose HTML email coding


  • Tailored to suit your needs – styled to match your brand
  • Looks more professional – sets you apart from others/competitors
  • Fully render tested and QA’d
  • Maintain a seamless customer journey – maintain trust
  • Able to include interactive/kinetic elements


  • Requires greater investment
  • Takes longer to produce

My concluding thoughts

It seems that while a drag and drop editor is quick, easy and inexpensive, it can also be fairly basic and somewhat restricted when it comes to doing exactly what you want. 

If you want something which is designed to meet your brand requirements, set you apart from the competition and maintain your subscribers’ trust, it might be best paying that bit more to get it done by the professionals. 

With it being custom built, not only will your emails be fully tested, but you can also use more of your imagination and include some interactive content, which a drag and drop editor just isn’t capable of doing. 

If you’re interested in finding out more about how we can design, build and manage your own email marketing campaigns here at 1973, please get in touch.