№2: Email Geeks
This week some email friends will be discussing email development in the age of AI. It’s free, you should check it out. I’ll be listening in.
Since AI’s already on my mind, I organized my thoughts on the event’s main question: Can bots handle HTML email development?
I’d say: yes and no.
The “Yes” part
I think AI can handle the routine, mundane parts of email code. Write HTML for a button that works in Outlook. Generate a CSS reset. Find the missing that closing tag. Create an accessible color palette. We’re either looking up or automating a lot of this stuff anyway, so I see AI as one more (albeit advanced) tool in our toolbox.
I also think AI can get more complex tasks started. Write copy for basic email (which I will then heavily edit and add to). Write an HTML email template (which I will adapt to my needs).
The “No” part
AI needs a lot of direction and hand-holding from a human being because it doesn’t know what to do on its own. While AI can reliably output code snippets and basic HTML, it still struggles to create entire templates (I’ve tried!) or handle complex (real-world) code, especially if it needs to integrate into a larger system.
Geoffrey Litt describes AI as “a junior developer who is very fast at typing and knows about a lot of libraries, but is careless and easily confused.”
There's so much daylight between the basic HTML document generated for the joke website and the front-end code I write every day. - Josh Comeau
Over time AI will improve, but for the foreseeable future I think humans will be needed to massage AI’s output and tie it all together into the larger system.
Simply put: AI needs help from someone who knows what they’re doing.
Folks who lean too heavily on AI will miss out on learning the fundamentals of what good email design / copy / marketing actually looks like. They won’t be able to massage an AI’s output because they won’t know how.
That's why I think email geeks will be around for a while, even if OpenAI thinks our jobs are exposed.