No intro this week. Between Halloween and an otherwise busy two weeks, it was all I could do to get this one out on time. Heck, I almost included words as images in this issue 😬 Please don’t judge me too harshly…
In this issue: Tech’s blind spot, email code, and immersive worlds.
As a product designer, most of my time is spent in apps like Google Docs, Figma, and Github. Apps that are polished, streamlined, and… honestly kinda bland. Efficiency is great when we’re tryin’ to get something done, but what about when we want entertainment and a bit of dazzle? This is where immersive internet worlds excel.
My buddy Neil recently wrote about immersive internet worlds: sites that use a combination of graphics, motion, 3D, and sound… and generally break conventional rules for websites.
Even though my day job is to design boring and predictable software, I make a point to visit immersive internet worlds. Places that remind us of the “design rules” we’ve imposed on ourselves in the name of capitalism. And remind us how some of these rules can be bent, and others can be broken.
Last week I helped an engineer on my team code their first HTML email. There was a learning curve, as you might imagine. Afterwards, the engineers asked me how I would have approached this particular project. Here’s how I described my approach to email code:
Can we not?
First I try to simplify the design. I’m looking for ways to reduce the amount of code (and the number of things an email client can screw up). Even if something is possible, sometimes the juice isn’t worth the squeeze.
Ex. Do we need to do 3 columns when 2 will do? Can we remove the buttons with icons in them. If recipients can get value from the email without background images, can we omit VML for Outlook?
Have we done this before?
Many of us have our own collection of tried and true components. I reach for Cerberus first since I’m so familiar with it and I know it works. This is where email design systems come in handy.
Who knows best?
Sometimes it’s appropriate to seek out help from a specialist. Folks in our industry are very generous in how much they share in the form of blog posts, Github repositories, and code snippets. I keep a certain folks in the back of my mind, and look up their public artifacts when the situation calls for it.
Ex. Mark Robbins knows a ton about accessibility, Heidi Olsen’s done a lot of data visualization in email, Rémi Parmentier is great at targeting specific email clients.
Who can (actually) help?
When all else fails, the Emailgeeks Slack is a consistent lifeline. These are my people. A place where I can ask the most obscure email question and have a quality response in ~20min. Nothing else compares, and I say that as a former Stack Overflow employee!
I recently read Dave Karpf’s Tech futurism's blind spot. As a tech worker, his essay really hit home.
The world’s largest tech companies have entered a hardware arms-race, jockeying to see which company will become the dominant player in the metaverse. Does anyone really believe that the race will be won by whichever competitor pumps the least carbon into the atmosphere while manufacturing the next generation of internet-enabled devices?
Damn that stung.
In my 20 years of tech, I’ve never heard someone in leadership express concern about the climate. Not only am I NOT helping solve our planet’s greatest problem, but my industry is contributing to it. Reading this brought on feelings of helplessness, frustration, climate grief.
Thankfully Dense Discovery No. 211 arrived shortly after. Kai usually includes a few bits about climate in issue, and this one mentioned A Matter of Degrees, a podcast mini-series that discusses what individuals can do personally, professionally, and politically. Things beyond voting or recycling or using plastic straws.
It’s first time I’ve heard fulfilling answers to the question ‘What can I do to actually make a difference?’.
This week I came across System.css, a design system for building retro Apple interfaces. In the spirit of immersive worlds, I gave it a spin designing this email.
That's all for this issue. See you in two weeks, when the World Cup will be upon us! ⚽️ ⚽️ ⚽️