2015 Litmus Email Design Conference: Day 1 Takeaways

Boston is the site of the annual Litmus Email Design Conference and the epicenter of the self-proclaimed email design and development ‘geeks’. The Seaport center plays host to a sold-out conference of hundreds of excited developers & marketers who are eager to learn the newest tips and tricks.

The mood is casual, with several ‘f’ bombs being dropped in the keynote. Animated GIFs referencing Back to the Future and Stepbrothers makeup the majority of the PowerPoint backgrounds. There is no talk whatsoever of what Litmus is doing with their product (you can checkout the booth for that), just engaging, funny and seriously informative content.

The main takeaway of the keynote was that email developers should be proud of what they do. The stigma seems to be that developing for email is looked down upon by web developers. This is mainly because of the many restrictions caused by needing to serve up content to a plethora of email clients and mobile devices. Email developers need to be creative to get around the many limitations and learn to ‘MacGyver’ their code.

Each email client has its own set of challenges and a common theme for the day was that Gmail is a pain in the butt. Gmail does not support media queries, for example, which is a key development technique to achieve responsive email design. Apple mail on the other hand seems to be the complete opposite. Supporting web fonts and the ability to make emails interactive.

There was so much good content from today, but we tried to boil it down to some key takeaways from day #1:

Interactive email is going to change the game

Mark Robbins from Rebelmail gave a mind blowing presentation on what is possible using CSS hacks in email to get into some serious uncharted territory. He showed one example where the recipient of an email was able to modify their shopping cart, change the color of a shirt, and actually check out, all from within the email. Other things like being able to scroll through several hero banners was also displayed. We’re definitely thinking scrolling through images would be a nice feature to include in the Knak templates.

Web font support in email

Let’s face it, web fonts just look much better than standard HTML fonts. The problem historically was that not all browsers supported these fonts. Now, with some clever coding, its possible to achieve the best of both worlds. This means that we can provide some beautiful fonts to the majority of the audience, and still have some decent fallback fonts for everyone else.


In one presentation by Plow and Hearth, they talked about how the use of templates has enabled a very small marketing team to be able to send out 60+ emails per week. What was once actually an impossible task, was being done in the first day of the work-week thanks to their responsive templates.

Email Development is Hard

There are some ‘household names’ when it comes to the email development community. These individuals have been practicing their craft of email development for years. Think of it as someone who makes tailored suits. The same handcrafting, bespoke work is done by email developers in email development. So much time and effort needs to be made so that the email is simply perfect, across devices and clients and ‘fits’ each person perfectly.

We’re looking forward to day #2. Now, time to party!



Pierce Ujjainwalla has years of experience as a CEO, entrepreneur, and marketing leader. He has lived in the marketing trenches at companies like IBM, SAP, NVIDIA, and Marketo, and he launched Knak in 2015 as a platform designed to help Marketers simplify email creation. Visit his personal blog, Unsubscribed!, for more of the insight he’s gained as founder and CEO of Knak.

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