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Nerding out with TEDC14 day 1

4 min read

As a Senior Art Director at Jacobs & Clevenger, one of my responsibilities is email design and development. Though email is just one aspect of my job, it's a channel that is constantly evolving, and it is essential to integrated marketing. So when I found out about "The Email Design Conference" by Litmus or #TEDC14 for the Twitters out there, I thought "this is a conference I NEED to attend." Fortunately, Jacobs & Clevenger also agreed, and now my coworker (a developer) and I are in Boston.

Day 1: We arrive at TEDC14

TEDC14 started off with 2 optional workshop offerings: intermediate and advanced. Since we're both pretty email savvy, aka "email nerds", my coworker, Mike and I opted for the advanced workshop. We arrived at the Seaport World Trade Center at noon to register and enjoy lunch. There's nothing I love more than free conference swag, and TEDC14 did not disappoint. We received our name tags, conference shirt and tote bag with cool goodies such as tattoos, buttons, itinerary and a fortune cookie (it's all about the unique touches). We then sat down at our family dining style lunch and mingled with other conference attendees. To give you an idea of the credibility Litmus has in the email community, one of the attendees came all the way from Israel. I know there's no way I'd get on an international flight to attend a conference, unless I believed in the credibility of the host. After some good networking and coffee, it was time to get into the main event: the advanced workshop.

Diving into the TEDC14 advanced workshop

The TEDC14 advanced workshop began with understanding how to structure and style live coding. Our first presenter Fabio Carneiro, Email and UX Designer at MailChimp walked us through setting up an HTML file with the correct structure and styling needed to create a cross-browser, responsive email. I would love to say I'm able to type fast enough to keep up with the training, but alas I had to give up about 20min in. Mike, on the other hand, is a coding genius and kept up through the end of the workshop. Since I couldn't keep up with the coding, I focused on note taking and following along with the completed example. Fabio is an engaging speaker and kept what could become rather dry material, fun and alive. Such quotes as "I don't design for Lotus Notes because...I just don't like it," and "If you don't include unsubscribe links in your email, please lower your head and leave now" made this section fun and kept the crowd responsive. After a brief Q&A and a much needed coffee break, it was time to begin part two of the workshop.

Advanced workshop part 2: Email client targeting

The second part of the TEDC14 advanced workshop was presented by Kevin Mandeville, Desinger/Email Hacker at Litmus. Kevin walked us through ways to target specific browsers for different functionality when programming emails. For example, we went over how to hide an image specifically for Gmail, and how to enable a background video for WebKit only. The key message is that it's not about getting an email to work the same way in every browser, but to target elements to work better within specific browsers. While a little dryer than Fabio, Kevin provided easy to follow examples and encouraged great dialogue.

Key takeaways from TEDC14 Day 1

The advanced workshop was packed with great information for both designers and developers. Some key takeaways I got from the workshop are:

  • Think mobile first when designing/programming an email
  • Set your styles in your <head> tag first, and then implement into your inline styles
  • Target specific browsers to display information in the best way for that browser
  • It is possible to override browser styling issues with queries and CSS
  • Think "grid"
  • Know your audience and target specific browsers
  • Use CSS styling for buttons vs images

So far TEDC14 is off to a great start. I am excited to see what the next two days bring. Maybe there will be another free t-shirt. Stay tuned, as I will cover the rest of the conference in a future article. You can also follow updates about the conference on Twitter. Either follow the hashtag #TEDC14 or follow me on Twitter.

Tagged: Email design

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