Litmus - Email Testing and Email Marketing Analytics
Email Marketing tips from Litmus. Litmus is a web-based email creation, testing and analytics platform empowering marketers, designers, & agencies to confidently deliver a superior subscriber experience. Litmus provides instant email previews and quality assurance tools across all major inbox providers, browsers, and devices, and features comprehensive analytics to build & optimize email campaign.
Litmus Live is right around the corner. The London conference is less than a month away and tickets for Boston and San Francisco are selling fast (so get yours today)! The agendas for all three cities are live, and we are so excited about some of the themes cropping up in this year’s conferences that we just had to write a post highlighting them.
Curious what you’ll learn about at Litmus Live 2019? Here’s a preview of a few of the major topics and some of the fantastic speakers and their sessions.
Join us for Litmus Live
Join the brilliant minds who are tackling the biggest challenges in the industry and get the insights, real-world examples, and practical takeaways you need to elevate your email marketing.
Every company needs to innovate or risk being left behind. While innovation means different things for different industries, email offers a unique medium for brands to experiment and invent compelling new ways to engage with customers.
Litmus Live has always been at the forefront of email innovation and this year’s no different. Discover how industry leaders are using design and development techniques, combined with cutting-edge strategy, to stay ahead of the pack.
Effective Storytelling with Data Visualization Heidi Olsen, Bumped Cities:Boston, San Francisco
Email marketers have more data than ever when it comes to subscribers. That doesn’t mean we’re putting it to work, though. By innovating how we think about data and, more importantly, present that data to subscribers, we can tell effective stories that inspire subscribers to engage with us. In this session, Heidi Olsen will walk through various datasets and how they can be leveraged through visual design, HTML, CSS, and even animations, to create more innovative emails for our subscribers.
How do you foster innovation in email? Mark Robbins, Salesforce City:London
Everyone talks about innovation, but how do you actually approach building innovation into your email process? In this talk, the godfather of interactive email, Mark Robbins, will discuss different approaches to growing an innovative email practice and how to find inspiration for email marketing in unlikely places throughout your life.
Google’s AMP4Email has been on the tip of everyone’s tongue since its announcement last year. We even talked about what it might mean for email designers during The Great Interactivity Debate at Litmus Live 2018. This year, one of our original panelists and member of AMP4Email’s early adopter program is back to discuss AMP in a dedicated session. Join Seth Weisfeld as he dives into how AMP has been driving innovation for Pinterest and how email marketers can leverage AMP for their own email programs.
Scaling Your Email Team
As email goes omnichannel, we’re all working with more people than ever, in-house and out. Things can get confusing and work can get lost in the shuffle. But growing an email team doesn’t have to be painful.
By being more thoughtful, rethinking process, and revisiting tools, we can all help scale our email teams (and our careers in the process). Learn what it takes to scale an email program and prepare your team for your next stage in growth.
How Playing Dungeons & Dragons Builds Better Email Teams Jonathan Pay, Holistic Email City:London
Every team member has strengths and weaknesses. The key to a truly effective team is understanding them and establishing a team dynamic that takes advantage of both. In this session, Jonathan Pay from Holistic Email combines two of his passions (D&D and email) to show you how a classic role-playing game can be used as a tool to examine teamwork and build a party that finally comes together to work towards the same goals.
Email geeks work hard to be the experts in our field, so it can be tough to feel torn between serving internal leadership versus what subscribers want. But with more emotional intelligence, we can effectively serve both, streamline our own workflows, and feel really good about it throughout the process. In this session, Kait Creamer covers tactics like listening to understand, giving before you get, and using data to support or challenge a perspective. You’ll come away with new skills and ideas to put your EQ to work to serve team members, stakeholders, and subscribers alike.
Using Google to Build an Email Content Management System Genna Matson, DEG Digital City:Boston
Managing all of the content and data sources a team needs can be daunting. But many marketers already have access to tools that can help them leverage that content and data in their emails. See how DEG Digital’s Genna Matson uses Google to create an organized and maintainable CMS for email marketers, keeping teams sane and in sync in the process.
Tracking and Improving Campaign Performance
Every email comes down to one thing: performance. Even the most beautifully designed and tested campaign doesn’t mean much if it’s not doing what you want it to do. Fortunately, email marketers have more tools and resources than ever to track, analyze, and improve the performance of their campaigns.
See how leading brands track the performance of their campaigns and leverage tools, techniques, and insights to take their businesses to the next level.
Using Data and Personalization, Even If You Lack the Tools Colleen Cardarella, Peak Marketing Communications, LLC City:Boston
Email envy is real, especially when you see highly-personalized campaigns and don’t have the tools to build your own. But, with a little bit of time and a few tricks, anyone can collect the data they need to build segmented, personalized emails for subscribers. In this session, Colleen Cardarella will show you how to put data to work to create happier subscribers, all while tracking your efforts to make the case for getting better tools and resources.
We Know Who You Are: How to Personalize Emails Without Being Weird Robin Curran, Bernie 2020 City:Boston
Whether you’ve been personalizing your emails for years, or are wondering how to take your program to the next level, there are endless ways to send tailored and relevant emails to your subscribers. Drawing on examples from Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, Robin Curran will share insights on creating seamless, personalized emails at scale, with ideas for delivering your own customized content using the data you already have.
How Net Conversion Rate Improves Prioritization, Investment, and Experience Andy Li, LinkedIn City:San Francisco
There are a lot of things to track in email. Beyond opens and clicks, email is the gatekeeper for understanding conversions and it’s important to understand what impact email has on your overall marketing goals. Join Andy Li to see how LinkedIn thinks about email metrics and puts Net Conversion Rate (NCR) to work to prioritize email content and invest in creating better experiences for their subscribers.
Join Industry-Leading Experts at Litmus Live
These themes are just scratching the surface of what you’ll learn from the world’s brightest minds in email marketing. Join us in London, Boston, and San Francisco and level up your skills, and career, in 2019.
From the first campaign idea to hitting send, getting an email out the door involves a multitude of steps, tools, and stakeholders. But what’s the secret to keeping the moving pieces together to shape a well-oiled email marketing machine? It’s building a bulletproof process!
It’s easy to underestimate the power of process. Sure, “process optimization” doesn’t sound all that exciting. But every week, we talk to dozens of brands about how they get campaigns out the door and work as a team, and if there’s one thing we learned from all those conversations, it’s this: If you’re looking to scale your email program, getting the process right is crucial.
A lot of moving pieces: This is how our email workflow at Litmus looks like.
A watertight email process keeps projects moving quickly, helps keep stakeholders in the loop, and ensures high-quality output. A broken process, on the other hand, can be damaging to your program—and your team.
How do you know if your workflow needs improvement? Here are a few telling signs that show your email process needs some love.
1. You discover errors in your emails—after the send.
Mistakes happen. Email is so complex, turn-around times so short, and frequencies so high that it’s impossible to avoid mistakes completely. We are all human, after all. If they happen frequently, however, that’s an indicator that your email process is failing you.
Consistency and quality go a long way in maintaining your brand’s reputation and building trust with your subscribers. A well-designed email process has the checks and balances in place to catch errors before the send and includes a QA step that ensures each email that hits a subscriber’s inbox meets your brand’s quality standards. In most cases, a large number of mistakes means that a brand’s QA process is flawed—or doesn’t exist at all. This doesn’t just open up room for errors but can damage the relationship you built with your subscribers.
Catch issues before you send with Litmus
Litmus Checklist gives you a guided check of the critical elements that impact email performance. Preview your email in popular apps and devices, validate that links, images, and tracking work, and create an incredible email experience every time.
Most teams simply have a lot of people involved in the process. 61% of marketers need approval from three or more people before hitting send, 15% need sign-off from more than five reviewers. In an agency setting, juggling feedback from internal teams and your clients adds an additional layer of complexity.
But it’s not just the number of people involved that makes collecting reviews and approvals hard. It’s also a question of how you do it. If your review and approval process involves tracking changes, progress, and sign-offs through a blizzard of emails, group messaging, paper mockups, and voicemails—generally without insight into what others have suggested, changed, or commented on—you’re likely wasting too much time in this step of the process.
Streamline your email review process with Litmus Proof
With Proof as your centralized tool for collecting feedback, you can improve collaboration, get better visibility, and cut review cycles.
Mundane, repetitive tasks slow down your team and introduce room for error. So if you and your team are doing a lot of manual work on repetitive tasks, it’s a sign that your email process needs improvement. Brands that do email right find ways to replace manual work wherever possible—that boosts productivity, leaves less room for errors, and saves time and money.
Your team codes every email from scratch or inlines code by hand? You do a lot of copy and paste work to get your code from a code editor to your email service provider to your testing tools? This means there’s room for improvement.
Litmus seamlessly integrates with the tools you use the most
Litmus works seamlessly with your email service provider and the collaboration tools your team relies on—so you can get more done, faster.
4. You don’t know how your emails render on your subscribers’ devices.
Email rendering is complex and changes without warning. Unlike web development, where a handful of browsers impact rendering, the heavily fragmented email landscape causes every email to have more than 15,000 different potential renderings. The challenge is to manage and control that variability through savvy coding and design. And you can’t do that if you’re not testing the rendering and functionality of every email you create.
Ensuring compatibility across clients and devices is one of the key challenges for email marketers—and your email process must be set up to help your team tackle this challenge. If you don’t know how your email renders across platforms or if you only have limited insights into a handful of inboxes that you test manually, you’re exposing your brand to the risk of delivering a sub-par subscriber experience to a portion of your subscribers. Emails that don’t render well and look broken won’t perform—and all the time your team spent on copywriting, design, and development will go to waste.
See what your subscribers see
See screenshots of your emails across 90+ apps and devices to ensure compatibility in all environments with Litmus Email Previews.
5. There’s no time and resources for creativity, experimentation, and innovation.
Lean email teams can get a lot done if the process is right. If it’s not, even well-staffed teams can quickly get stuck scrambling to get the next email out the door, pacing to hit the next deadline. A team that’s constantly fighting to keep their heads above water won’t be happy in the long-term. Plus, it’s keeping your team from one of the aspects of email marketing that’s most exciting: experimentation.
Getting your process right means providing your team with breathing room to mix up the day-to-day tasks with projects that break the routine. This can be a set of A/B tests, experiments with new coding or design techniques, or a chance to design a one-off email that’s different from your standard template. Every experiment—successful or not—provides an opportunity for your team to learn and be challenged.
My email process is broken. What now?
You’ve nodded your head yes to any of the warning signs above? The good news is that recognizing your email process isn’t perfect is the first crucial step to making it better. And we’re here to help. Reach out to a Litmus expert and learn how Litmus can help you streamline your email workflow so you can get better emails out the door, faster.
As email marketers, designers, and developers, we care a lot about how our emails look in our subscribers’ inboxes. But have you ever asked yourself how your email sounds?
More and more people rely on screen readers to help them consume digital content—including emails—so optimizing your messages for screen readers is becoming increasingly important for brands.
With screen readers on the rise, the sound of your email matters
The World Health Organization estimates there are around 1.3 billion people with visual impairments, 36 million of which are considered blind. Many rely on screen readers and the underlying software that translates the interface and content seen on a screen into audio, allowing low-vision and blind users to use modern devices.
“For those of us without sight, computers don’t work straight out of the box. Software called a “screen reader” is needed to translate visual information verbally, so we can make sense of what is on screen. Screen readers open up so many doors, and for example allow us to learn, interact, or shop online.”
Mick Curran, Founder and Executive Director at NV Access
More people than ever are using voice assistants to get news, do their shopping, and, yes, even check and reply to their emails. But too often, brands don’t consider the audible email experience and fail to make their emails accessible to screen readers.
Is your email accessible?
Litmus’ Accessibility Checks make it easy to test your email against accessibility best practices. See how you can improve and make better emails for everyone.
This doesn’t sound right: When emails don’t work with screen readers
Screen readers work by looking at the underlying code of an interface—in our case, an email—and translating it into audio that reads the interface out to the user. For any online content, if your code isn’t complying with accessibility best practices, the screen reader’s audio output may not be usable. But the quirkiness of email development comes with unique challenges for users relying on screen readers.
For example, most email templates are built using HTML tables. HTML tables are still the most reliable way to structure emails and have them display properly across the 90+ email clients in popular use. However, HTML tables are actually meant to be used for tabular data, not layouts. The default for most screen readers is to read each individual table, table row, and table cell out loud to the user.
Let’s look at this really simple email header from one of our own emails. This header relies on tables to structure the layout. If your code doesn’t make it clear that you’re using the table for layout purposes only, the screen reader will assume it’s an actual table. It will literally tell you how many rows and columns there are, telling you each column’s position and content, making it impossible to understand your message.
Here’s how a screen reader will read out our email header, if we hadn’t optimized it for accessibility.
This isn’t very helpful, is it? Now imagine a full email with lots of content that relies on multiple nested tables. Subscribers would have to wade through a lot of markup garbage to get to the actual content. The screen reader’s audio would likely be unusable—and your email’s content would be inaccessible for anyone relying on a screen reader.
“Trying to access content that doesn’t comply with key accessibility best practices is a frustrating experience—and many content creators aren’t even aware that they’re excluding a significant portion of their audience.”
Only in Litmus: Listen to how your email sounds on a screen reader
The first step to optimizing your email for screen readers is knowing how your email actually sounds. In the end, you can’t fix what you don’t know!
That’s why we’ve integrated NVDA, a leading open-source screen reader technology developed by NV Access that over 100,000 people rely on to consume digital content, into the Litmus platform. Now, you have the power to listen to a screen reader recording of your email right within Litmus. As part of our brand new accessibility optimization tools in Litmus Checklist, our screen reader integration lets you check and optimize the screen reader performance of your email when you QA your campaign.
Integrating screen reader optimization into your email workflow has never been easier!
“Giving content creators insights into how screen readers translate their content helps surface the need for accessibility optimization to the people in charge of content creation. NV Access is supportive of more accessible and inclusive content being developed and distributed for blind and vision-impaired audiences.
We are excited to see how NVDA is used by companies like Litmus in this process.” James Boreham, General Manager at NV Access
Ready to start making your emails more accessible?
Accessibility Testing in Litmus Checklist is available on all Litmus plans. Start your free trial and start making your emails better for everyone.
The world is growing, changing, and aging, and the world’s email subscribers are coming along for the ride. More people are accessing email on a wider variety of devices and types of connections than ever before. And email subscribers themselves are more diverse than at any other point in email’s 47-year history.
But what does all of this change mean for email marketers?
Apart from rethinking strategy and tactics, it points to the need for marketers to create more accessible email campaigns that can be used by anyone—regardless of their ability. There’s a misconception that optimizing your emails for accessibility is hard. Getting started with making your emails more accessible can feel like an impossible task, and many marketers aren’t sure where to start.
77% of marketers say email accessibility is a priority for their brand—but only 8% rigidly follow accessibility best practices.
Introducing the Ultimate Guide to Email Accessibility
The truth is, implementing accessibility is easier than you’d think. Our Ultimate Guide to Email Accessibility gives you the tools, tips, and resources you need to create more inclusive emails—one step at a time.
Why email accessibility matters—and the impact it has on your bottom line.
There are currently around 3 billion email users worldwide. None of those users are the same, with different abilities and disabilities—both permanent and temporary—and access to technology that informs how they experience email. If you create accessible emails, you can reach a wider audience than ever. If you don’t, you’re leaving money on the table with every send. We dig into the research and stats that prove an investment in accessibility is worth it.
How to write and design inclusive emails.
You don’t have to be a coding expert to create more accessible emails. By writing and designing simpler, more subscriber-friendly emails, you can open up your content to a wider audience, all while providing a better, more valuable experience for your subscribers. We walk you through key accessibility guidelines for email design and copywriting—and show how you can put them into action for your campaigns.
How to optimize your email code for accessibility.
Developing an accessible email doesn’t require fancy coding techniques. This guide breaks down the simple, well-established principles and coding tricks that ensure your email campaigns can be accessed from a variety of devices and assistive technologies.
Accessibility is more than just improving the experience for a handful of subscribers—it’s about improving the experience for everyone. Use these insights to get your team on board with email accessibility and start making more inclusive email campaigns in no time.
Are you happy with your current email approval process? If you’d jump to improve the way you do things now, you aren’t alone. According to our research, 23% of marketers find their process too burdensome, simply because there are so many people involved.
The truth is, email reviews and approvals can be painful, time-intensive processes. But email is a team sport by necessity—you need to make sure each email meets the requirements set by the various stakeholders. You might get all of your feedback via email, or through Slack, or in Google Docs, or even all three. Marketers spend an average of 3.9 hours on getting an email reviewed and collecting approvals.
“I’ll get individual Slack messages from each stakeholder with feedback—and sometimes, there will be discrepancies with feedback that I need to follow up with separately.”
“I’ve received feedback from a client forwarding me the email proof I sent from our ESP and making in-line edits.”
“I have some clients who leave feedback via email, some with a Google Sheet, and I even had one give me feedback over the phone during a status call.”
“One of my stakeholders will take a screenshot of the test email, drop text boxes where edits are needed, and send that to me in a Slack message. Sometimes, I don’t see the feedback in time.”
If you’re finding yourself nodding along to those scenarios or even having a little eye-twitching, email-related anxiety, we have great news: There’s a better way. Litmus Proof, your centralized tool for providing feedback on email campaigns, is here to be your silver lining. It sure was for our own email team:
GET STARTED WITH LITMUS PROOF
Litmus Proof is currently available on Litmus Enterprise plans. Find out how Litmus Proof can streamline process and talk to a Litmus expert to get started.
If you consider yourself new to Proof, we have some tips and tricks to make sure you can take full advantage of every feature and streamline approvals.
Invite any of your stakeholders to leave feedback on your campaigns
What happens when you send an invite to Proof out to someone who doesn’t have a Litmus account? Good news: Proof is a fully collaborative environment where you can invite everyone involved in your process—internal or external—to review your email. Anyone you add as a proof reviewer to your account comes at no additional cost. You simply need to add their email and Litmus will send them a notification.
Alternatively, you could create a share link—this makes review easier if you use other collaboration or project management tools like Asana or Slack (which Litmus also has integrations with).
The limits are endless with Proof Reviewers
Since you can add external stakeholders to your proof with a share link or an email invite, we don’t want to restrict how many people you can include. You can add an unlimited amount of Proof Reviewers to your accounts, helping you easily get feedback from clients and external stakeholders, especially if you’re working on multiple projects or have multiple clients. The good news is that reviewers outside of your company only have access to proofs you’ve included them on—they won’t be able to see other proofs or other parts of your account.
All of your feedback in one place
One of our favorite parts of Proof is its consolidation of feedback across all stakeholders. Gone are the times of chasing down stakeholders and clients across multiple emails. Not only does this help keep all of your feedback in one place, but it also speeds up the approval process.
Litmus Proof has helped us improve our workflow substantially. The ability to invite everyone into one environment and to see all feedback and comments in one place, really made us realize how much of a pain point this was for us before.
-Jon Gerber, Director, Marketing Automation at ThomasARTS
Reviewers can tag each other with questions, respond quicker, and see each other’s comments to collaborate and resolve feedback. If you have two stakeholders who disagree with each other, they’ll be able to see each other’s feedback within Proof and find a resolution together in one place. Plus, we provide a timeline of each proof so you can view any and all comments—as well as an audit trail of when the Proof was created, version dates, and date of comment resolution—so you can always look back on older comments from different stakeholders or clients.
Are you ready to improve collaboration and maximize team efficiency?
Marketers spend an average of 3.9 hours on reviews and approvals—cut that time down with Litmus Proof and end email approval anxiety.
We talk to people about email testing day in and day out. The good, bad, ugly, and sometimes frustrating. Most of the smart folks in our community care deeply about sending emails that are nothing but perfect. However, we found that even among brands that care a lot about email quality, some only test their emails infrequently. And when we dig into the why, there are a few myths that we hear over and over again.
We thought that if we’ve heard these ideas so many times in one-on-one conversations, there are probably a lot of people out there who hold these myths as true. It’s nothing to be ashamed about, though. The good news is that you’re here now, and we’re going to clear up some common misconceptions. After all, knowledge is power!
Do you want to create the perfect email experience with every send, in every inbox? Then don’t fall for these myths:
“We work with templates, so we don’t need to test.”
This statement is at the top of the list because it may be the most common—and probably the most dangerous—email testing myth. Templates are wonderful for streamlining your email marketing process and maintaining a consistent style across messages. But while they can reduce your workload before hitting send, they aren’t immune to error.
Although templates keep the bulk of the email’s contents the same, no two emails are identical. Images, content, and subject lines change constantly, and where there’s change, there’s room for failure. Even sending an identical email at different times in the year can lead to problems. Email service providers and spam algorithms are changing all the time, and you’ll want to make sure the same templates look good across all devices and email clients—every time you hit “send.”
Email testing made easy
Get a guided check of the critical elements that affect email performance before you send with Litmus Checklist and ensure you’re sending perfect emails—every time.
“I only work on transactional emails, and those don’t need to be tested.”
Part of the allure of transactional emails is that they seem the most “set-it-and-forget-it” of them all. After all, they’re designed to be created and then automatically triggered when a customer makes a purchase, abandons a cart, or celebrates their birthday.
The only problem is that email clients can drop or change support of critical HTML elements in your email without warning. If you don’t review and test your transactional emails regularly, you may be sending broken emails to customers at critical times.
“We’ve tested this email before and it works.”
I don’t mean to sound like a broken record, but the world of email marketing evolves quickly. An email that looked great yesterday might be broken today. It’s completely unreasonable to expect you or your team to stay on top of all the updates that could affect how your email appears to readers—or whether or not it even makes it to their inbox. That’s why it’s so helpful to use to automatically flag any issues that could get in the way of email success. Little errors, such as broken links or images, can cause major issues at scale.
“Email testing requires manual sends, and I just don’t have time.”
If you’re using a manual process to test emails, step away from the keyboard. There’s a better way. Understandably, you’d be wary of email testing if you’ve only known it as a time-intensive process. However, tools like Litmus run an automatic check on your emails to make sure they look great everywhere and you don’t end up blacklisted on accident.
Say goodbye to manual rendering testing
See screenshots of your emails across 90+ apps and devices to ensure compatibility in all environments with Litmus Email Previews.
“We have great coding knowledge so we know what would break a campaign.”
The best email coders in the world don’t have enough hours in the day to stay on top of the changing email landscape. You shouldn’t have to try to, either. Spending too much time studying the constant, small changes that email clients make would take time away from more important coding projects. Elements such as screen size, recipient settings, and operating systems also factor into the complexity of email rendering. Plus, testing emails isn’t a sign of coding weakness. As an email coder, you have a responsibility to send the best emails you can, and email testing is just another tool in your toolbox.
Email Testing Doesn’t Have to be Stressful
If reading all of these myths and comparing them to what you and your team does has made you panic—take a deep breath. You can’t improve what you don’t understand, and now you’ve reached a new level of email testing mastery. The number of variables that go into each and every email delivery means there are a nearly countless number of hurdles that could pop up in the way of getting your beautiful email safely to your customers’ inboxes.
In this episode of Delivering, host Jason Rodriguez sits down with The Paciello Group‘s Larry L. Lewis, Jr. to chat about the importance of digital accessibility, why every business should invest in accessibility, and how it feels to use email with a screen reader.
Accessibility checks in Litmus Checklist make it easy to test your email against key accessibility best practices, identify areas for improvement, and make your emails more accessible to all your subscribers.
While a lot of email marketers claim that accessibility is a priority, not all of them have the resources and buy-in to create better, more accessible email campaigns. The lucky ones are required by law to create accessible campaigns. But there are a lot of reasons outside of just compliance to focus on accessibility. In this episode of Delivering, I sit down with digital accessibility expert Larry L. Lewis, JR. from The Paciello Group to answer the question, “Why is digital accessibility important?”
Welcome to Delivering, a podcast about email marketing strategy, design, development, and the broader email industry. Delivering is brought to you by Litmus, the creative platform used by over 600,000 email professionals to design, test, analyze, and collaborate on better email campaigns for happier subscribers. Learn more and try Litmus free for seven days at litmus.com.
[00:00:00.360] – Jason Rodriguez
My guest today is Larry L. Lewis, JR. Larry is the director of government sales and strategic partnerships at The Paciello Group and is founder of Flying Blind, LLC. Over the last 15 years, Larry has worked on digital accessibility and using adaptive technology to empower people with disabilities to become independent, productive, and efficient. Welcome the podcast, Larry, thanks for joining me today.
[00:00:21.250] – Larry Lewis
Yeah. Thanks, Jason, it’s great to be here. I appreciate the opportunity.
[00:00:25.110] – Jason Rodriguez
So, let’s let’s get started. I want to talk about a couple of different things. Most importantly around why digital accessibility is so important, but I want to start with a little bit of your history and some of the work you do. So you work with The Paciello Group. Could you explain a little bit about what The Paciello Group is and what kind of work you do there?
[00:00:41.550] – Larry Lewis
So, The Paciello Group is the digital accessibility arm for a larger company called Vispero. That’s V I S P E R O . Vispero is a group of companies that predominantly makes assistive technologies for people primarily with visual impairments, be it low vision or some residual vision or no vision at all. And a couple of years ago this organization got more interested in not just developing assistive technologies for persons who have disabilities but also creating an accessibility wing to to make sure that the content that others might be developing would work with the products that they were making.
[00:01:26.250] – Larry Lewis
So they did some things on the forefront to begin to build that and then part of that involves acquiring a group called The Paciello Group which was an independent company that ran by itself. Mike Paciello is the founder. It was an autonomous company that was bought by the Vispero organization who also bought a company called Interactive Accessibility, merged them together into The Paciello Group. So we, for all intents and purposes, we are the digital accessibility group of a much larger group. That gives us the strategic advantage of being really the only accessibility firm that has a direct connection to the products that are used by its customers. A lot of folks, among a lot of groups out there, there’s only one group that is that is part of a bigger umbrella of companies that actually influences the direction of the assistive technologies that many, many consumers choose.
[00:02:26.880] – Jason Rodriguez
That’s interesting. So I know The Paciello Group, so you guys do some consulting and you do a lot of training and then you also have a couple of products as well. I know the most recently released was the ARC Toolkit. The ARC is the, and correct me if I’m wrong, the Assistive Resources Center or Accessibility Resources Center. Do you mind going in a little bit about the tool kit and some of the products that you guys have released recently and how they’re used by people doing, you know, accessibility audits or researching their own digital accessibility?
[00:02:56.700] – Larry Lewis
So, from a big picture standpoint, Paciello, what really drew me to them is that their work really parallels my own personal beliefs about accessibility. Accessibility is all about being compliant with laws and managing your risk but it’s also about usability and making content that matters to the end user. It’s easy to use that allows them to perform tasks that that anybody else would perform. Being a visually impaired assistive technology user myself, that’s a big deal to me because at the end of the day we all want to do the same things: we want to shop, we want to pay our bills, we want to do all the types of things that you can imagine. And so usability has to be a part of accessibility as does compliance from a risk management standpoint. So we divide our approach to dealing with accessibility into products and services.
We have a couple of accessibility software-as- a-service type products that are out there. The one you mentioned is a tool called ARC. ARC is a monitoring service that also has some e-learning considerations, knowledge base considerations, and helpdesk services built into it, so that it’s really ARC is more or less our web-based portal for interacting with our customers from a monitoring standpoint. We have a tool that’s part of ARC called the ARC Toolkit and that is a standalone, free tool that we used to only provide to our customers but now we provide it to everybody for free.
And it’s more or less a Chrome extension that allows you to scan individual web pages using rulesets to ensure that your code is compliant. We have another tool out there called JAWS Inspect which is one of the big draws that brought me to The Paciello Group last year. JAWS Inspect is a tool that visually represents the screen reader user’s experience for sighted testers and sited developers. I’ve been a JAWS user all the way back to DOS for those old enough to remember DOS and JAWS is a great product, it’s made a huge difference in my life. Being able to work in a lot of competitive employment capacities, JAWS is not altogether easy for a sighted tester, QA tester, or a sighted developer to use. So we created a tool that basically creates transcripts of what the JAWS user hears—makes visual transcripts—associates them with the code on the page screenshots, allows you to test reading order, allows you to do some live testing, and that would come down on the side of our usability approach to accessibility. So ARC is more for your compliance and your monitoring and managing your overall program.
The ARC Toolkit is a little freebie that we offer to everybody hopefully as a means to drive them to more of an enterprise engagement with ARC and then we have JAWS Inspect, which is a one of a kind tool that there’s really nothing quite like JAWS Inspect.
I mean it is a wildly successful product for the Vispero Group as a whole and I’m really happy to be, one of my roles aside from managing our government business and in some of our reseller efforts, is to drive that JAWS Inspect sales efforts. So it’s super fun to be on the front end of something brand new.
[00:06:27.980] – Jason Rodriguez
So you mentioned you yourself are visually impaired so I think, that’s one of the things, like I’m a sighted user. I’ve run into that issue where I’d use like some like NCDA or VoiceOver to check things out and it’s definitely not a tool I use everyday, so I’m not used to that experience or navigating through pages or documents. So I’m kind of curious to hear more about your experience as someone who’s visually impaired using the web and email and what are some of the most common problems that you’ve encountered over the last however many years through using JAWS or just using any other assistive technology.
[00:07:05.110] – Larry Lewis
So, I always tell people that the main things that they need to check for in testing, or the main problems that I run into, and the first and foremost as is: is parts of a complex screen—are those parts reachable by using the keyboard.? So I don’t have the luxury and I’ve been able to pick up a mouse, point and click, and things magically happen. I have to be able to use tab key, arrow keys, combination of screen reader keys to to navigate to specific areas and your tab key is huge. So, I tell people as a starting point, like you have an assistant technology testing tool if you have a keyboard. Even if you don’t have JAWS or NVDA, tab and check out how the focus moves around a particular site. Are you able to get to all areas by tabbing or shift tabbing.
The second thing that I like to direct people to is: is what you’re interacting with is it is it operable? So, if I’m if I’m logging onto a website and I tab to a radio button, a group of radio buttons, are you a new user or existing user? Am I going to be able to up and down arrow through those radio buttons and press my space and enter key or enter key to select that radio button? That is what operability is. If I can do that with the assistive technology enabled or disabled it needs to be tested disabled first and then you would enable JAWS or NVDA or whatever and you would you would test that.
And then the third is: so, we’ve got navigability, operability, and then is what is what I’m reading makes sense? OK. So can I start in a particular part of a page, move through a form in sequential order, move through a media player in a sequential order, is my captions button before my play button? OK. Because it may look a certain way to you, how is a screen reader rendering the tab order? It has to logically make sense, so it has to be navigable, operable, and logical is really my top three go-tos when I’m working with somebody brand new just to get them to understand how to interact with digital content.
There are rules out there, much like there are rules for building a building, for legal access there are rules out there specifically for developing digital content both in desktop and in mobile settings. We provide consulting aside from the products we offer. We provide front-end consulting to set priorities for organizations. We do complete—we used to call them audits—we’re now calling them accessibility reviews. We provide remediation guidance. We’ll even sell you a bucket of hours to use as you see fit to fix things to remediate things. We don’t like to get into the practice of coding for people. We’ve done it. We’d like to give them direction on coding and test it. And that’s just partly because there is a responsibility for handling folks code and you’ve got contractors involved in who owns what and everything else it gets a little bit complex and there’s a lot of tools involved with that.
[00:10:29.000] – Jason Rodriguez
Well,, I feel like that’s good too because then it’s not just you doing the work for them to be compliant. It’s kind of forcing them to learn what’s needed to be compliant and how to code things effectively. And I feel like that’s a great way to kind of force that education on them so that they know how to build more accessible interfaces in the long run. I like that.
[00:10:49.920] – Larry Lewis
Oh, I’m a big fan of lessons learned, right? What’s the lesson that you’ve learned? And now let’s put what we’ve learned into action for the next time.
[00:10:58.300] – Jason Rodriguez
Yeah absolutely. Obviously I work at Litmus, this is a podcast about email and email marketing, are there any major problems you’ve encountered with marketing emails in particular as a visually impaired user?
[00:11:12.710] – Larry Lewis
So there’s a couple. The first that comes to mind is this has nothing to do with Litmus it’s basically how it goes right?
So, when I get a marketing email a lot of times, I’ll hear something when I open it up and it will say image shape blah blah blah. Yeah. So JAWS or whatever I’m using, if I’m on my phone using VoiceOver and open it up, it’ll be the same thing they’ll be image shape. And then the list of numbers, maybe a .jpg, that is a simple fix because that this simply means that that image doesn’t have ALT text associated with it and it’s just reading the file name. So what I tell people to explain what this is and we use JAWS Inspect a lot for this I’ll take him to a graphic and I’ll show them how JAWS Inspect would speak their graphic. And I would ask them, “So this is all the information that you got reading and you couldn’t see the picture. What would this mean to you?”
And a light goes on it’s like, “Wow, I have no idea!” Yeah, that’s because there’s no there’s not a little 140 character blurb as to what that shape blah blah blah is, right? So, that’s the first thing a lot of things and you open up an email you’ll be hit automatically and it could be a decorative logo, right? It could be something really important. It could be a promotion Litmus is running and all it has to say is something like, “A Litmus promotion.” If there was a long description maybe you want to have a long description where the screen reader user could press enter to hear a long description.
There are things that you can do. You don’t want to have ALT text that’s too long and I often use the Twitter mantra. Keep it to 140 characters. Otherwise you’re going to lose it. We all in this day and age have a short attention span. You’re gonna lose the message if it’s longer than that. So that’s the first thing.
The second thing that might happen is that, you know, I might not, like links might be disabled—or not disabled—but links might not be labeled properly so if you’re telling me to go to such and such a link I might just hear something like a click here link and yeah know that that’s for more details or whatever. So the link has to be appropriately labeled if you want to take me somewhere else. Otherwise I’m just going to hear link I might hear a click link and I’m not going to know exactly where that link takes me.
Probably the third and most frustrating thing is, if there is—and every marketing email has a changing your preferences subscribe or unsubscribe or forward to a friend—that process can get a little dicey. Just in my own Paciello work business, I am not going to mention them, but I’ve used a customer service system that doesn’t make that the most easiest when you’re trying to unsubscribe, subscribe, maybe there’s a CAPTCHA involved that’s not the most accessible, and so that whole setting your email preferences or even forwarding that email to a friend can be a little dicey from time to time.
[00:14:25.340] – Jason Rodriguez
Yeah, I feel like some of that’s unintended but I feel like unfortunately email marketers a lot of the time, or kind of traditionally, it’s just that kind of spammy thing where they don’t want you don’t subscribe so they make you jump through all those hurdles to actually get that which is not a great experience for anybody, regardless of their abilities. That’s definitely interesting. I think that alternative text is one of the key things we talk about both from people that are visually impaired but that there’s a lot of email clients that will disable those images by default. They’re not displayed. And if you’re using you know all image-based emails you’re not going to see that anyway. Using that alternative text to provide that additional context is a really, really great way to make your emails more accessible. I’m kind of curious, I know you work with government agencies a lot, which are obviously I know they are legislated by Section 508, they need to be Section 508 compliant. I feel like a lot of times, when people think about accessibility that’s like the main thing they think about is Section 508 compliancy, are there other industries that have different legislation that they’re governed by? Are there other, you know there’s the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines which aren’t really you know legislation in and of itself but it’s a set of guidelines that people should be following, what are some of the other things that people need to worry about outside of just being Section 508 compliant or what industries need to really focus in on accessibility that traditionally haven’t?
[00:15:50.070] – Larry Lewis
So, private industry needs to also be worried because as time passes there are more and more court cases on the books that set precedents for problem for problem areas. So we do a lot of business with banks. People will get a little funny when they can’t access their money.
I’m one of them I had a dust up with my own bank a couple of years ago before I joined The Paciello Group. So banks are a big one and you know when you have when you have litigation like what happened down in Florida with Winn-Dixie a couple of years ago, you had an online situation where they were unwilling to make some changes and the courts had to get involved to make the online process of shopping much easier for their clients. Well, I’m working with a with an unnamed County right now who is has been sued because some of the documents that, while they’re not government in there they’re basically state, they’re under a lot of the same legal expectations that if you have documents like house deeds and different types of documentation up there and you can’t read that particular documentation then there is a serious risk there.
So yeah know what transpired there was the commissioner’s office of a particular county got sued but then all the other parties all the other offices around the county found out about it and they’re like we don’t we don’t want this to happen to us. And so it became sort of a bigger engagement. It’s become more of a big engagement where we can help the entire larger group set priorities. We do a lot with universities. Again many state universities are loosely governed by some of the laws that you reference but more importantly you get into reasonable accommodation type situations where a student, you know, who’s taking any learning course, who can’t take an e-learning course there’s a reasonable accommodation issue for that for that university. They have to provide a means for that e-learning, distance learning, course which it’s happening a lot more these days, to be accessible.
And so, we work across verticals. I work very much with our federal groups. I also work with some of our reseller opportunities, resellers of our tools primarily. And then I have my own contacts and folks who come to me just from other walks of life where I’ve worked who often need help.
So I would say we’re fairly strong and in the banking and education-type industry. We’re becoming stronger in the federal business, the federal business, you know, everybody goes gravitates to it. So, I think that the distinction that we offer is we also provide JAWS for Windows to most of these government clients and can offer them some services that others cannot because we are directly connected to the folks who manufacturer JAWS.
[00:19:00.030] – Jason Rodriguez
Yeah, I feel like finance and higher education are like two of the big ones that I was here about and that’s one of those things I didn’t think about that much until a couple of years ago. I did a workshop at what was called HigherEdEeb which is a conference for web developers at higher education institutions. And I had talked to about six different people that all of their universities got sued for accessibility issues and that’s become such a strong focus for them over the last couple of years. And I’m coming from, you know, kind of the agency world and B2C type stuff and that’s never been an issue. So, it’s I feel like it’s good that more of these things are coming out and there are more of those legal issues that are you know it’s it’s kind of bad that we have to force people to think about accessibility but it’s good that it’s actually happening.
[00:19:49.360] – Larry Lewis
Well, I tell people there are three reasons why—I’m sure you’re going to want to get to that—three reasons why accessibility. Well, accessibility first and foremost is a civil right. Secondly it’s all about risk management. If you don’t do it you have a higher risk. If you don’t attempt to do it, that’s even worse, and if you push back after you’ve been called out on and don’t do it it’s even worse. And then the third reason is it makes good business sense. So I mean there is a lot of, at the risk of sounding irreverent, a lot of disabled dollars on the table.
I mean, I have a house. I have a car, I don’t drive my car but I have a car.
There are a lot there a lot of buying opportunities that I feel like a lot of people, a lot of organizations, miss. I worked with a mortgage company about a year and a half ago and walk them through how all of the obstacles for me applying for a line of equity, just going through the process, and they were just amazed that there were so many difficulties as it, again, relates to navigability and operability primarily.
So, not only is it a civil right. Not only is it about smart risk management but it’s also from a commercial standpoint it’s a smart thing to do.
And I’m just talking about people who are visually impaired and there are people in wheelchairs, people who are hard of hearing, people who are missing limbs, who can’t use a keyboard and maybe..
Does your team rely on cloud storage solutions to save and organize your email’s code? You’ll love our newest integrations with Google Drive, Dropbox, and OneDrive.
Say goodbye to copy and paste errors
Each email team is unique, and so are the tools and workflows they rely on to get email campaigns out the door. No matter which tools your team uses, we want to make sure that you can utilize Litmus to improve your campaigns.
But we also know that manually getting your code into Litmus can open up the opportunity for mistakes. That’s why we’re set on a mission to integrate more seamlessly with the tools your team relies on the most. There is a whole set of integrations available with Litmus—each of them designed to automate manual steps that slow down your workflow and eliminate the risk of errors. Today, we’re excited to introduce our newest addition to Litmus’ suite of integrations: Direct connections to your favorite cloud storage tools—Google Drive, Dropbox, and OneDrive.
Import HTML files from your cloud storage tools into Litmus with the touch of a button
Connect Litmus to Google Drive, Dropbox, or OneDrive and import your HTML files into Litmus in just seconds. Avoid tedious manual steps and get your emails out the door, faster.
Upload your code to Builder to quickly and easily edit and test your email.
Upload an email to Proof to kick off email reviews faster than ever before.
Upload your email directly to Checklist for a guided pre-send check of the critical elements that affect email performance.
Stop wasting time switching back and forth between tools and free up more time for what truly matters: Creating awesome email experiences for your subscribers.
Connect Litmus with your favorite cloud storage tool today
Litmus’ integrations with Google Drive, Dropbox, and OneDrive are available on all Litmus plans. So if you’re a Litmus customer, you can go ahead and connect Litmus to your favorite cloud storage service today. We can’t wait to hear what you think!
There’s a misconception that implementing email accessibility is hard. Many marketers think that you need coding skills to make your emails more inclusive.
But it’s not only the code behind emails that affects accessibility, although that is important. A lot of the time, revisiting email copy can greatly improve the experience for subscribers. Ensuring your copy is readable and easy to understand goes a long way in making your campaigns more accessible. With these five easy tricks, you can make it happen. Here’s how.
1. Keep your copy concise.
It’s tempting to cram as much copy and content in an email as possible. But there are many reasons why shorter, more concise copy is desirable.
According to Litmus research, the average attention span in email is just 13.4 seconds. In a talk from Litmus Live 2018, speaker Tom Tate looked at what that means for email copywriters. If the average adult reader can read between 250 and 300 words per minute, then the ideal length of copy in an email is just 50 words.
But it’s not just attention spans, either. Many people suffer from cognitive disabilities that make reading difficult. Everything from traumatic brain injuries and dementia to dyslexia can affect a person’s ability to read. Longer texts often make the matter worse.
2. Use shorter sentences.
Long, complex sentences can make your email copy more difficult to read. Short sentences are easier to understand, allowing your audience to focus on the content. Don’t make them spend their energy on unpacking complicated sentence structures. Whenever possible, split longer sentences into two.
3. Limit your use of jargon and difficult words.
What’s true for sentences is true for individual words, too: Shorter is better. Longer words are harder to absorb and require more concentration from your readers. If you can, replace complex words with simpler, shorter synonyms.
Readability testing made easy: The Flesch Reading Ease test
Readability tests are an easy tool to find out how easy it will be for someone to read your text. The Flesch Reading Ease test is the most popular one. It’s based on the average length of sentences and words in your document and ranks copy on a scale from 0 to 100. The higher the number, the easier it is to read your email copy. A score of 60-70 is considered plain English that’s easily understood by 13- to 15-year-old students. That’s the score you should aim for with most marketing copy.
It’s hard for people to read and understand long, uniform blocks of text. That’s especially true for people who live with cognitive and situational disabilities. Creating hierarchy means creating visual differences that reinforce importance. That helps users quickly consume content in email.
Creating visual hierarchy is a design task, but it starts with your content and your copywriting. Use the power of headlines and paragraphs to create a content hierarchy for your campaign. That makes it easier for your subscribers to scan and read your message.
5. Localize your content for global audiences.
If you’re sending to global audiences, translate your copy into local languages. Don’t just rely on operating system or browser translations. If you don’t have translation resources in-house, using a respected translation service can help. Plus, go beyond translation by localizing copy with language and content that fits your audience.
Interested in more email accessibility resources?
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Sending great email at scale is no easy task, and it’s our mission to help email professionals like you get access to the knowledge and tools you need to make it happen. We’re excited to share that Litmus released an update and now comes with new features and enhancements that help you streamline your email production process and expand your testing to ensure that your campaigns are nothing but perfect for everyone.
Here’s what’s new in Litmus:
1. Make your emails accessible to everyone with Accessibility Checks in Litmus Checklist
For the majority of brands, . But it’s also true that many marketers don’t know how to get started with making their emails more inclusive.
The truth is, implementing key best practices isn’t all that hard. With the right tools, you can identify areas for improvement and make small changes to your emails that have a big impact and make your emails better for everyone.
With our new accessibility testing tools in Litmus Checklist, we help you do just that. Instantly see whether your emails follow key accessibility best practices and get actionable advice on how you can make your emails more inclusive.
Are you looking to optimize your emails for screen readers? Only Litmus lets you listen to an audio recording of your email before you send, so you can be sure subscribers using screen readers will have a great experience.
2. Create and customize Email Analytics tracking codes easier than ever before
No matter your coding knowledge, it’s now easy for anyone to create and customize tracking codes in Litmus Email Analytics. Our new tracking code generator lets you set appropriate start and end dates and add custom parameters in just seconds.
Your security and privacy guidelines don’t allow you to collect and retain personally identifiable information (PII)? That’s a great best practice and, with Litmus, it’s now easier than ever to eliminate PII from your Email Analytics tracking. Protect your customer’s data while still getting the insights you need to evolve and improve your email marketing strategy.
3. Integrate Litmus with Google Drive, Dropbox, or OneDrive
If your team relies on cloud storage solutions to save and organize your email’s code, you’ll love our newest integrations with Google Drive, Dropbox, and OneDrive.
Connect Litmus to your favorite cloud storage tool and import your HTML files into Litmus Builder, Checklist, or Proof with the click of a button. Say goodbye to tedious copy and pasting (and the errors that come with that) and get your emails out the door, faster.
4. New and updated clients in Litmus Email Previews
The landscape of email clients and reading devices is constantly evolving, and we’re here to help you make sure that your emails look great and perform everywhere. Over the past months, we’ve added the following email clients to Litmus Email Previews: