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Why We Built Our Own Rendering Engine

Written By Shannon Bailey

May 5, 2022

You probably already know that More Vang has over 40 years of commercial print experience. What you may not realize is that we also have 15 years of software development experience. In the mid-2000s, we expanded our service capabilities into mailing and data, and quickly realized how difficult it was for our clients to use their customer data in print. You can leverage data in different ways: personalize with profile information, audience segmentation, and/or use your data to drive highly customized and timely communications. It’s the latter that is easier said than done—especially when it comes to processing massive print files. To do this, you need a powerful rendering engine. 

What is a rendering engine?

A rendering engine is software that draws text and images on the screen. The engine draws structured text from a document (often HTML) and formats it properly based on the given style declarations (often given in CSS). To strategically use data in printing, we need to merge consumer data (think JSON, XML, or CSV files) into print templates. While there are many off-the-shelf tools on the market—like FusionPro, PlanetPress, and InDesign Server—we found limitations in their data processing capabilities. For some of our projects, we were simply asking these tools to process far too much data and they quickly crashed. 

In 2018, our very own Frank Strube, Chief Software Architect, led a team hackathon to tackle this problem. The outcome of this code-fest was the creation of our very own proprietary rendering engine, able to consume massive amounts of data to populate print templates. Unlike other standard tools, our rendering engine is able to:

  • Compose print-ready PDFs in a matter of seconds, allowing files to quickly move into production
  • Process tens of thousands of records per minute
  • Leverage over 1.3 million open-source JavaScript packages from the NPM repository, which allows us to build more complex templates faster

What does the rendering engine mean for you?

We don’t talk about the rendering engine often, because once programs are up and running, the technology is almost invisible. A file is pushed (or dropped) into our workflow, and then the magic happens. It’s easy to forget that this powerful tool is what makes it all possible. However, understanding the rendering engine and how it works is the first step to knowing how you can leverage this technology for your projects. 

The rendering engine is most useful for ongoing, predictable touchpoints. This can be anything from employee welcome experiences to predefined customer journey outreach to operational communications such as invoices or subscription renewals. Whether you’re working with dozens of records or hundreds of thousands, our rendering engine can optimize the use of your data with the ability to scale. It’s not difficult to see how harnessing a tool such as our rendering engine can bring incredible efficiency to your marketing communications. 

The other benefit of our rendering engine is its flexibility of use and application. Beyond the ability to process massive amounts of data to facilitate print files, it also allows us to more easily work with data in different formats. Every CRM organizes data fields and custom objects in different ways. While the output formats are usually streamlined (XLS, CSV, etc.), the field organization can vary. Luckily, we can map raw CRM data into our rendering engine in a way that minimizes data manipulation. We are able to take the burden of normalizing data off of you, knowing that programming, not human intervention, is the safest way to handle and process data. 

More Vang’s rendering engine is truly the engine behind some of our most creative ideas, products, and services. It is the technology that makes Algorithmic Direct Mail and Banjo automation possible. To learn more about how to take advantage of our rendering engine’s capabilities for your next project, drop us a line.