Email Development and Design: Alice’s Touch in Email Marketing

Email marketing. A strategy that we continuously encourage marketers to embrace. Inboxroad is determined to provide you with expert insight into the wonders of email marketing. On that note, we are proud to present to you Alice Li.

About Alice

Alice is a Squarespace Staff Engineer who is “currently working on Squarespace’s Campaigns Composer ESP product”. Prior to this, she “worked in the email marketing industry for 13 years as an email developer at large ESPs like Oracle and Epsilon, to the vendor side at Litmus, and the client side at Shutterstock.”

“During my time in the industry, I’ve focused primarily on pushing the envelope with innovative email development techniques (like interactivity, dark mode, and Accessibility) and then teaching them by writing guides, doing webinars, speaking at conferences, and conducting workshops on them. And occasionally, some cool folks will deem me also-cool enough to bestow some awards upon me.”

Examples of speaking events that Alice was a part of include Mailcon and the Email Evolution Conference. Excitingly, she won several awards such as Validity’s Email Hero Awards for being “Most Innovative”, EEC’s Stefan Pollard Email Marketer of the Year and The One Club’s ONE Screen Award for “Best Movie Poster Design”.

Being a celebrated member of the email marketing community, we asked Alice how she found herself contributing to the industry and when it began playing a large role in her life.

“Like so many other #EmailGeeks, I ended up here by accident. As far as I’m aware, no one goes to school to learn email marketing — but being that email is a multi-billion dollar industry and keeps growing, maybe they should!

I got my first job in the email industry through a recruiter randomly reaching out to me on They gave me an on-site test where they provided a flat JPG on a PC with no internet connection so I couldn’t look anything up, and was told to turn it into an email by writing HTML/CSS by hand into Notepad, and I was the only candidate that passed. It was then, and only then, that I learned what email marketing was on the job. Being immersed in the world of email-specific design and development was a fascinating and challenging niche for me.”

The accessibility of Email Marketing

Email marketing can be considered somewhat underestimated in the marketing arena. It is a field that requires consistency and engagement. In our blog, we have several posts dedicated to guiding marketers through the world of email marketing and deliverability. Accordingly, we were interested in Alice’s opinion on the possibly undervalued nature of email marketing.

“Perhaps its ubiquity. Email marketing is simultaneously accessible (with a lower-case “a”) enough that everyone thinks they know email, but a small percentage of folks actually understand email marketing and the impact it can have. Every year, clickbait articles come out claiming that “Email is Dead” due to the rise of some other form of communication. Yet every year, email marketing grows.”

For this reason, any marketer entering the realm of email should have some clue on the significant marketing metrics pertaining to email. In Alice’s view, “on the development and design side, knowing what devices my audience is using to interact with the emails I build is crucial. I’ve built emails for a wide range of clients from B2B companies that only use Lotus Notes, to pharma companies with their infamous super-strict regulations, to (my favorite) design-focused audiences who only use the most modern ESPs.

Having that range of experiences and internalized understanding of how users will interact with my emails helps to tailor the kinds of features my team and I will invest time into building. For example, a design-focused audience would be able to view, appreciate, and potentially convert at higher rates to a fully-interactive email with all the bells and whistles. However, the time investment into building an email like that would be wasted on an audience that’s primarily viewing on Outlook.”

Future Outlooks

The past and present importance of email marketing is clear in terms of its stability and success. When we look to the future, the role of email marketing might become somewhat unpredictable. To grasp the prospective nature of email, we invited Alice to discuss how she envisions the changing landscape.

“I think email marketing will continue to grow and become more accessible to the average person. At Squarespace, we’re focusing on making it easy for anyone to start sending out well-designed email campaigns, just like we’ve made it easy for anyone to build a beautiful website. Especially during COVID where so many businesses are beginning to invest more heavily on the digital side, I’m a big believer in lowering the bar to entry so that anyone from small business owners to individual influencers can feel confident that their email marketing campaigns or newsletters look professional across all platforms.”

Regarding email marketers, Alice believes that “knowing your audience, listening to your audience, and cultivating your relationship to your audience” are necessary skills for them to develop.

“Email marketing is usually a function of the CRM (Customer Relationship Management) team at many organizations, and we often lose sight of the “relationship” aspect of it all. To foster a healthy and productive relationship with anyone, especially your audience, we need to remember that it’s a two-way street. Oftentimes hitting “Send” on your campaign can feel like shouting into a void, but we need to find ways to understand what the audience is telling us and to empathize with those needs.

Aside from paying attention to your metrics, there are some great design techniques to get that crucial customer feedback to help marketers hone their listening skills — these include interactive email sections like sentiment scorers where users can directly provide feedback about how they felt about your email, or product rating forms that customers can fill out directly in the inbox.”

Alice Recommends:

“There’s so much great content out there that it’s difficult to choose just one! I adore the work of Mark Robbins, Justin Khoo, and Rémi Parmentier. And… hopefully it’s not too cheeky if I recommend my own blog posts that I’ve written on the subject.”