The Grumpy Designer: Email Is the Worst

By on Freelance

Web designers are often saddled with the unenvious task of dealing with email. And it’s not limited to just our own overflowing inboxes. We can also find ourselves in situations where we’re attending to our clients’ email as well.

As you may have noticed, email is rife with problems. Between excessive spam, overly-aggressive filtering and a general lack of public understanding, the whole thing is a mess. For designers, it’s hard enough to deal with all of this when it pertains to our own usage. Adding a client’s problems to the mix is just plain chaos.

What’s more, freelancers often set up their businesses in such a way that we’re handling both deliverability issues and managing accounts. Take it from me – you don’t want add the title of “email administrator” to your resume. That is, unless you have a very high tolerance (and preference) for pain.

Here’s my take on some of the more frustrating email-related tasks I’ve dealt with. Hopefully, it helps you avoid getting stuck in the same spot. As a bonus, it allows this grumpy designer to vent!

Web Hosting and Email Don’t Mix

Like many freelancers, I’ve offered hosting services to clients for many years. It helps bring in some extra revenue and also puts client sites on a consistent platform. In turn, I can better manage things like WordPress updates and performance issues.

However, there is an extra layer to offering web hosting that we don’t often consider. The typical email capabilities that come with most web hosting isn’t so great. And, once you’re entangled in this mess, it can take an awful lot of effort to get out.

Depending on your setup, you may be the one creating accounts and dealing with clients who are having problems configuring them. In my experience, people seem to have gotten better at this over the years. But there is still a knowledge gap that can be very time-consuming.

Beyond the basic setup of email software, there are other hurdles. Many times, the email services offered by web hosts are rudimentary at best. I’ve had clients who wanted to use those accounts to sync with an Outlook calendar or function on a point-of-sale (POS) system. These functions are, generally speaking, not part of the deal. This is probably why some hosts are eliminating email from their offerings altogether.

This is not corporate-strength email. Instead, it’s meant for those who only need a simple email address with their domain attached to it.

If I had it to do over again, I’d insist that clients use an outside service unless they were willing to troubleshoot things on their own. It would have saved a ton of headaches.

Woman checking email

Deliver Me from This Spam-Ridden Nightmare

The other aspect of email that sets my brain ablaze with fury is deliverability. Specifically, ensuring that web form entries get to their intended recipient.

When a user submits a form and your client doesn’t receive the entry, you’re the first person who’s going to hear about it. In their minds, something is wrong with the form itself. While this is a logical assumption on the client’s part, it seems to almost never be the reality.

More likely, a spam filter is getting in the way. Sometimes, it’s as simple as asking the client to look for the entry in their spam folder. If you’re extremely lucky that day, they’ll find it.

However, that is rarely the case. Quite often the email is rejected by a filter and is never delivered to the client.

There are usually ways to fix this. Sending form submissions directly through the client’s SMTP server can do the trick. If not, there are email delivery services like SendGrid and MailGun that help to ensure messages get to the right place.

Still, it’s an extra layer of complexity to contend with. And clients who are using outside email services not named Gmail can be near-impossible to please. Certain ISPs and email providers are both unrelenting and unhelpful. That leaves you to try and resolve the issue yourself.

Worst of all, this takes us away from the things we’re supposed to be doing. Email tends to serve as a big, unnecessary distraction.

A large pile of letters

Email: The Unrelenting Trap

As a tool, email is in a bad place right now. And, save for some miracle cure, it doesn’t appear as if it’s going to improve anytime soon. Therefore, the onus is on designers to position ourselves as far away from this dumpster fire as possible.

That may mean helping existing clients to find better solutions. In particular, solutions that require little-to-no effort from us. Maybe that’s just a pipedream, but it’s one worth having.

Meanwhile, those of us who are stuck with it should charge accordingly. If email issues set our brains ablaze, we should at least be able to afford a fire extinguisher.

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