M. David Green, Dec 16

A Brief Introduction to Scrum

Aleczander Gamboa, Dec 12

"Learn by Doing" - How Foxley Disrupted the Web Design Industry

We chat to Foxley founder Bianca Board about her new business that's disrupting the web design industry, plus her best advice for emerging entrepreneurs.
Bryan Krahn, Dec 09

Why Entrepreneurs Should Start Strength Training (and Where to Begin)

Personal trainer and entrepreneur Bryan Krahn explains why strength training is the best kind of exercise for entrepreneurs, and how to get started.
Daniel Schwarz, Dec 08

How to Monetize Your Blog with Sponsored Content

Daniel Schwarz looks at native advertising, and sponsored content in particular, and looks at why it might be a fit for you and how to get started.
Aleczander Gamboa, Dec 02

Kick. Start. Smart: 3 Lessons for Emerging Entrepreneurs to Adopt

Aleczander Gamboa gives the three most important lessons every aspiring entrepreneur should adopt.
Abhishek Talreja, Dec 01

10 Tips for Generating Business Leads with Free Webinars

Abhishek Talreja shows you how to start using free webinars to build not only business leads, but your credibility in your niche's community.
Kevin Wood, Nov 30

How the Pomodoro Skyrocketed My Productivity & Saved My Business

Kevin Wood explains the productivity technique that gave him his focus back and kept him in business — the Pomodoro Method.
Eric Bahn, Nov 29

We Quit Facebook and Google to Build a Children’s Book Startup

Eric Bahn explains how he and his sister validated Read Your Story's business model and grew this children's book startup enough to go full-time.
Elio Qoshi, Nov 25

Open Source Email Marketing with phpList

Open source email marketing

Open Source Week

It’s Open Source Week at SitePoint! All week we’re publishing articles focused on everything Open Source, Free Software and Community, so keep checking the OSW tag for the latest updates.

Email marketing has been exploding in popularity. You might have heard of the likes of MailChimp and Emma advertising the use of their services to send a whole bunch of messages for prospects and profit. The number of ways to promote goods online is forever growing, and research shows emails are still the most effective. I like to compare it with the "desktop is dead" myth; while mobile is on the rise, desktop is here to stay. I believe the same about email.

Having said that, it’s no surprise that the number of services competing in the field have mushroomed in recent years, capitalising on demand from firms of all sizes to get access to that most personal of places, the email inbox.

While big brand proprietary platforms and their sponsorship deals have been busy establishing themselves, an Open Source alternative has been minding its own business, making regular releases and accumulating a committed base of users since the year 2000. Enter phpList, the email marketing app you can run yourself without paying for messages, subscribers, or additional features.

Why Use a Dedicated App for Sending Emails?

Marketing professionals have a habit of torturing words until they confess (usually to the greatness of their product). Maybe that’s why terminology around email marketing is confusing. If a ‘mailing list’ is just a list of email addresses, and a ‘mailing list manager’ is merely an application to handle and use these lists, then what’s the difference between Mailchimp, phpList, GNU Mailman, and mail clients like Thunderbird? Are Mailchimp and Mailman interchangeable? Unfortunately not.

Old-fashioned mailing lists are many-to-many mailing platforms; a variety of people send single messages to a group of others in a single act, and each member of the group can reply to the others (as healthcare workers at Britain’s National Health Service illustrated last week, when a 1.2 million long mailing list was crashed by 185 million unsubscription requests).

Thunderbird, on the other hand, is is a mail client which can send messages to one or more recipients, but is not designed for managing failed deliveries, recording delivery statistics, or sending to large lists of subscribers.

Mailchimp and phpList are one-to-many sending platforms; a single person sends a single message to a large number of recipients. If the message recipient wants to reply, they can contact only the sender — the other members of the list cannot be replied to directly, and are typically kept secret for the preservation of privacy. These and other popular email marketing platforms share a host of features not found in other software, including built-in email templates, easy integration of newsletter signup forms in websites and apps, and automatic email personalization based on subscriber preferences.

How does phpList measure up against the proprietary competition? Let’s compare its performance in three categories against market leaders (and no, mascot monkey-ness isn’t one of them).


HTML emails aren’t everyone’s cup of tea – packed with tables and inline CSS, the code behind them is a throwback to a less civilized era. Unpredictable rendering by mail clients makes producing beautiful messages a challenge, but some services ease the pain with a range of templates and point and click editors. phpList provides editors as plugins, with CKEditor being the best of the bunch. While it works well for text formatting and media embedding, it can’t handle complex layouts, and doesn’t apply template styles as you type. For floated images and table layouts it’s easier to do your designing in a dedicated app and copy and paste the HTML in afterwards.

When it comes to templates, most people feel the more the merrier, but phpList ships with none pre-installed, and but a handful officially available. In theory, you can use templates from any other application (including many published by Mailchimp on GitHub), but including more and better templates ‘inside the box’ would save us from hunting around.

Reports and Statistics

Once your message is signed, sealed, and delivered, you’ll be itching to see the impact it has had. Open rates, click-throughs, bounces, and conversions are all things you’ll want to check following a successful send. Like other services, phpList includes detailed statistics relating these and more going further than some, giving a complete history of each subscriber. This includes each open, click, visit, and change, including response times. It’s easy to see all subscribers who opted out of future messages, following which campaign, and for what reason (if one was given).

Unlike nearly all competitors, phpList does not include data visualisations – no bar graphs or pie charts found here. If you’re looking for a satisfying uptick in user engagement, you’ll have to use Piwik or Google Analytics (both are supported), or export the data to a spreadsheet and make graphs by yourself. Built-in graphs feel past due for phpList and some users will miss them.


Responsive web interface? Check. Fat finger friendly on tablets and smartphones? More or less. Sleek and modern? Heck no! The usability of email marketing apps varies wildly, and while phpList gets the job done across devices, its design belongs to last decade. No HTML5 inputs or modal dialogues are to be found, but pages are easy to navigate, with a practical aesthetic.

Akshay Sachdeva, Nov 24

5 Ways to Drive More Traffic to Your Site with Content Promotion

Akshay Sachdeva teaches you to get more out of your content marketing efforts with five content promotion methods.
Joshua Kraus, Nov 22

How Your Company Can Benefit from Contributing to Open Source

Joshua Kraus explores five ways that companies benefit from contributing to open source.
Parth Misra, Nov 17

4 Virtual Reality Startup Ideas Entrepreneurs Can Jump On Now

Parth Misra looks at four startup ideas waiting for the right entrepreneur in the virtual reality space.
Chris Ward, Nov 15

Web Summit 2016: IoT, Learning, Chatbots, Biohacking & More

Chris Ward talks about his experience at Web Summit 2016, with startups presenting ideas from many fields including IoT, messaging, biohacking and more.
Daniel Schwarz, Nov 09

10 Ways to Earn Money from Your Site

Once you're getting some traffic, it's time to earn money from your site. Here are 10 proven strategies you can use.
Alex Hollis, Nov 08

How Asking Visitors One Simple Question Boosted My Conversion Rate by 27%

Alex Hollis explains how he used customer feedback to identify sales obstacles and rapidly increase his product's conversion rate.
Stephen Altrogge, Nov 08

Use Indeed Prime to Get Matched with Only the Best Companies

Indeed Prime helps developers, product managers, data scientists, designers, and sales professionals simplify their job searches and land their dream jobs.
Julia Fayre, Nov 06

Bringing SEO In-House - An Agency's Perspective

Ehsan Jahandarpour, Nov 04

How to Improve User Experience with Customer Journey Optimization

Top growth hacker Ehsan Jahandarpour shows you how to improve your user experience and increase conversions with customer journey optimization.
Chris Holle, Nov 03

The Top 10 Reasons to Sell Your Website

Chris Holle of Flippa explains the ten most common reasons entrepreneurs sell their websites — and how to prepare for the sale.
James Spittal, Nov 02

How eCommerce Pros Can Reduce Checkout Abandonment Rates

Are you having trouble fixing high eCommerce checkout abandonment rates? James Spittal shares several ways to make sure customers get over the finish line.
John Wheeler, Oct 28

How I Made $2,000 in 1.5 Months Starting with a Google Form-Based MVP

John Wheeler explains how he created a bootstrapped minimum viable product and turned it into a moneymaker in less than two months.
Design & UX
Adam Hatch, Oct 27

I'm a Designer: How Do I Deal with a Cease and Desist Letter?

There are few things more disconcerting than getting legal notice from seemingly nowhere. But if you receive a cease and desist letter, Adam has your back.
Amanda Wilks, Oct 26

4 Great Ways to Get Actionable Customer Feedback

Amanda Wilks looks at four ways companies have tweaked customer feedback mechanisms to get more detailed, actionable information.
Rebeka Bergin, Oct 25

7 Morning Rituals to Kickstart Your Creative Productivity

How you start the day can determine whether it'll be productive or a wash. Here are seven morning rituals you can employ to make sure it goes the right way.