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Thinking Outside the Inbox: Litmus Live 2019 – Part 2

What we took away from Litmus Live 2019

In case you missed it, here is Part 1 of our takeaways from Litmus Live.

After some nice lunch, I had the choice of salmon or salmon due to joining the humongous queues late on. We headed back to the big room for the Design & Dev track.


  • Add role="presentation" to all tables so screen readers don’t treat them purely as data tables.
  • ‘Making’ an email is complicated, so respect how much effort is put in before you ask your team to ‘knock-up’ a campaign.
  • Playing RPG games like D&D could make you a better team.
  • Using maths, or football odds enables you to make better decisions on how to optimise your email subject lines.

Note: These talks had much more content, these are just our takeaways from​ the sessions.

First up in the afternoon sessions, Jay Oram () from Action Rocket graced us with his in-depth knowledge of creating interactivity within email.

Creating Inspiring, Interactive, and Immersive Master Templates

Jay provided so many useful insights into email development there is too much to go through here, so this is what we learned in brief.

There are always tips, tricks and hacks but we learned some valuable insights into taking the functionality and styles of emails to the next level. Here is some of the information we took away from the talk.

You don’t have to be stuck with just images and content. Advanced functionality is available in a lot of the email clients with the usual exceptions such as Outlook. Rather advanced image sliders and interactive quizzes cleverly use checkboxes to boost engagement.

We also went through images and how they can be used. Sure you can add images to emails but Jay took it a step further and looked into using background images and some of the fallbacks. Another way images can be used is in the form of animated gifs and even CCS transitions. Depending on the situation, both can be very powerful tools.

Last but not least, we looked at improving some of the everyday elements in emails such as buttons, rather than having a sharp-edged block with no effects. We looked at rounding the corners and adding simple hover effects to give the user some feedback to their actions and make the style of the email that little bit nicer.

Switching back to the Marketing track, we caught Taxi for Emails Elliot Ross’ () funny, yet informative talk on making the most of best practise in 2019.

How Do You Make Awesome Email in 2019

When Elliot first started you may have thought it was one of the first times he’d presented, but we soon realised this wasn’t the case. He captivated the room with dry humour yet powerful insights for all us email geeks.

One particularly hilarious series of slides was the process of creating an email, which as you can see below is complicated. Initially, it’s simple. Marketer passes the request to the Copywriter, who then briefs the Designer and finally, the Developer builds it. Simple right? Wrong.

Amends get made by marketing, some code then goes wrong, by now the prices have changed as well so the deadline has passed. Content changes again, and so on.

There has been a lot of talk in the email industry recently about accessibility, and Elliot’s talk was no different. He highlighted that people are still thinking of accessibility only affecting those with permanent problems.

Not everyone has to have a permanent problem though, it could be temporary such as a cast on their arm, or situational – a commuter using Siri to read emails in the car. By upgrading your emails with full accessibility you’re not only helping 10% of your database, but you’re also helping everyone else.

From the sublime to the sorcery, entering the dungeon that was Jonathan Pay’s talk…

How Playing D&D Builds Better Email Teams

You may think of Dungeons & Dragons as a game played by sweaty nerds in a basement somewhere, but RPG games are quite popular due to recent pop culture such as Stranger Things.

By playing any sort of RPG game with a complex story that requires players to work together to overcome, Jonathan believes it creates a team that has a deeper understanding of each person’s strengths and weaknesses.

The elements of D&D can apply to office life, with Game Masters being Managers and the Players being staff members, each with their own skills and experience that come together to create a close-knit team. Jonathan is saying that developers are rogues here, but being a designer I’m happy with the wizard analogy.

He also added that it doesn’t have to be D&D or an RPG game, doing something that everyone can take part in once a week or once a month can bring teams together.

After the Ask the Expert and networking period, everyone gathered for the final talk of the day presented by Parry Malm () of Phrasee.

Conversions Get a Goal. Opens Wins the Trophy.

And I won some Litmus socks, for my brazen tweet…

Parry began by talking about football and how he doesn’t like it or understand it, but he loves Fantasy Football because it’s all down to…maths.

He continued with betting odds, showing that if you decide to bet on which team wins, your return is low as it’s relatively easy to guess. However, betting on which player scores the first goal has a higher return because your choice has turned from 2 to 22.

How does this apply to an email I hear you (and the rest of the audience) say? Well, Parry went on to say that opens, clicks and conversions act in the same way. Conversions are ‘king’ as that means sales, which means revenue. But if you don’t have a compelling subject line, you won’t get opens, and in turn, any clicks and finally no conversion.

Most ESP’s offer subject line testing, with clicks usually being the winning metric to choose the best one, as that’s what gets people to the site. But as you can see from the graphic above on a sample database of 200,000, opens are a more accurate metric to identify which subject should be the winner.

By focusing on opens, Parry explains, we can start to predict how many clicks can be achieved and therefore how many conversions. By using complex algorithms, Phrasee has developed a tool that can help you identify which subject lines will have the biggest impact, read more in-depth research into this here.

We had a great time at Litmus Live and took away plenty of new things that we can use to improve our clients’ email marketing as well as our own.

Already looking forward to next year!