Litmus Live, London 2017

Mike Ragan
6 min readSep 1, 2017


A few thoughts from the latest #LitmusLive conference a few days ago in London. I was lucky enough to be there with some of the ActionRocket 🚀 crew.

Here are the silly ones:

And here are the more serious ones:

Some really great talks, generating interesting conversation points and ideas came from this — which is one of the best things about the Litmus Conferences in general. I was 100% on the Design & Dev track (as always) so here’s my 2 cents (pence):

Highlight reel 📽

Accessibility — this was the overarching theme, which is positive, progressive and inclusive. Over the years it has been many things such as: mobile optimisation, task-runners, interactivity etc and this year was quite focussed on accessibility.

  • Paul Airy, who champions typography & accessibility in email — delivered an excellent talk, replete with small snippets of code to takeaway. His presentation was semantically broken into small pieces and very accessible in itself, super high contrast slides. Very meta.

Read more here: Beyond the Envelope™

  • HTeuMeuLeu (@HTeuMeuLeu) made sense of the mess of alt text, with his trademark illustrative style — weaving a complex web of how alt text is handled in different contexts. It was a very complete breakdown of how fractured the email rendering landscape is, and was a really clear illustration of the challenges in email. If ever I need to explain to someone why email can be a bit tricky sometimes, I just send them any blog post done by Remi. His talk was my favourite — but that’s probably because he showed a slide of the Transformers pixel art email I did a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

Read more here: The Great Mess of Alternative Text — emails by HTeuMeuLeu

  • Mark Robbins (@M_J_Robbins) manages to talk about a lot of things, including accessibility, without it ever feeling confused. The only thing I didn’t like about his talk, was that I wished it was longer. All killer no filler.

You really have to read more here: The Future of Images in Email


A really enjoyable slot was the short rapid fire 5 minute hack section on day 1, where Wilbert Heinen, Mark & Remi talked thru a small code fix or technique. Really cool, thought inspiring and a welcome structure to break things up. There’s a challenge (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻ from Mark here for those inclined: Get off the <table>


Day 1 was super inspiring — from Kathryn Grayson Nanz (@kathryngrayson) dealing with impostor syndrome (something that is very real) to Sam Beddoes giving a very peachy talk on email as art. Which is something I have touched on before here but only conceptually. Sam actually did it. Two thumbs up to him. The idea of generating assets specifically for email is really creative and fun. Tied in nicely with the consideration that email is consistently the most valuable channel.

Another talk I enjoyed was from Vicky Smith — a really engaging and brave take on the idea of choosing a vendor. Litmus got the balance of talks on Day 1 from email as #business to email as #art just right in my opinion. It is a notoriously political area, but it is a huge part of the overall email process. The most telling moment was this question: “how many people use one of these (a few well known ESP logos)?” the many, and “how many people were involved in choosing them?” the few. There’s a large amount of empowerment speak at Litmus in general, it’s about reminding email people they are awesome and the experts in what they do. So this fitted well for me as a session. I think this could cause big changes. What about if the many decide to take charge at work and push decisions about such things? It’s a big dollar, that’s all I’m sayin’.

Cyrill Gross (@cygro) continued to push on from his talk last year on supercharging forms to work in email. Some really great stuff here, but some cultural leaps to be made perhaps.

The overall notion of using the hosted version of the email better is a really good one. The idea of getting the email into the browser to unlock features, by sneaking in a bit of javascript is really clever. The potential for replacing the landing page with an amped up hosted version of the email is intriguing. There’s something that makes me nervous initially about pulling data into a form, but it’s maybe just the fact that it is a form in an email. We send emails with this sort of basic information all the time like name & address. My mind just can’t help but go to the worst possible end-point of name, address, dob, fav subject at school, passwords, pincodes, keys to the castle, list of childhood fears etc. but partially filling a short form in this way can be a clear win. This is one to watch.

Read more here: Using Pre-filled Forms in Email

Gyula Németh talked about pushing some of Remi’s work forward by using a “drop calc” method, which could be something worth looking into. One of the great challenges of email is that the context shifts so much, that having a good knowledge of all possible hacks/techniques can come in handy, especially if you are agency side. There are some combinations of editing, sending and receiving which can warrant completely different approaches — so this info is all useful.

Also a good reminder from Susanne Koenig talking about Lotus Notes in a Responsive World to keep us all grounded and traumatised with the literal horror of Lotus Notes. The stats were a little wooly, but if your audience is Finance or something like that, then it can happen that we would have to consider this. We’ve probably all done this in the past, I know I certainly have, and it wasn’t much fun 😓. These days I we may tend to educate this out, but as mentioned before, context is key. Just don’t cop-out and code up a completely separate version, eh?


Emoji use on the up and up. 💯 Am I doing this right? Just gutted I missed the talk on it. #EmailMemes also on the rise — what a time to be alive. This is all relevant as the keystone of email is communication. The ability to convey information is the juice.

It was a superb conference as ever, I really enjoyed it. Shout out the the entire Litmus crew for being so friendly and organised 😎. See you there next year!



Mike Ragan

Designer & Developer. Some older blog posts here: