On Thursday (21st July) I attended the final leg of the Insites tour in Bristol. Insites was a mini tour of four cities in the UK where Keir Whitaker and Elliot Jay Stocks asked questions to established people within the web/design industry. For the Bristol leg of the tour we were lucky enough to have a great range of guests: Mike Kus, Jon Tan, and the curly haired hippy himself, Elliot Jay Stocks (description credit goes to Jon Tan).
The evening started off with a few pleasant surprises, as despite not going along with anyone, I was almost instantly recognised by several people who follow me on twitter. It was kinda weird meeting people who I’ve only ever seen avatars of before, but all of them were really nice and welcoming so it didn’t take long for me to settle in.
Insites was actually the first proper web related conference that I’d ever attended, so I wasn’t sure what to expect, although from what I’ve heard about other events I would guess that the format of the evening was probably unfamiliar to most of the audience. Each guest was interviewed by either Keir or Elliot with questions from the audience being allowed (and encouraged) at any time. I was surprised (and delighted by) how un-formal the whole thing was. There were breaks in between each interview and with a relatively small amount of people (around 60ish at a guess) there was a really friendly atmosphere where everybody seemed happy to chat about anything.
Something that made the evening extra enjoyable for me was how different all 3 of the guests were in their attitudes and outlook on design and the web. It also helped that Keir and Elliot posed some really interesting and relevant questions to them, and all 3 guests were open and honest with their replies so I really felt like I was being given a true insight into their lives within the web/design industry. And if there was a burning question that hadn’t been asked then you were given plenty of opportunities to ask it…something that I probably did a bit to much in hindsight!
Something that all the guests did seem to share an opinion on was by and large preferring to move away from client work as much as they could and instead aim to work on their own products as much as possible.
In particular Jon Tan made it obvious that he was following a career path based around what makes him happy and fulfilled over what might make him super rich, and that he was doing it because he enjoys it, and wants to make a difference and make the web a cool and better place. A view that I heartily applaud and makes me love the design industry even more.
I also really liked Jon’s talk about making quality content a strong priority, and that in most advertising sites the content is great at initially attracting you but as soon as you dig a little deeper you realise that it’s all rubbish.
Due to the nature of the Insites tour, all of the people who attended came with an eagerness to meet new people, and talk to each other during the breaks, whether that was discussing work, design methods or tips on dealing with clients, basically anything that most designers can encounter during their average working day. This lead to me meeting with a few really nice people and having good discussions outside of the talks with the guests and finally starting to see how other web designers go about working.
On top of this there was a load of great prizes given out throughout the evening and making one for the best question asked is a stroke of genius as it made sure everyone wanted to ask something! Also the letterpressed coaster by mailchimp were a really nice momento of the tour and I’m quite happy that I managed to end up with an extra one at the end when there was quite a few left over.
Overall for my first web gathering, it was a really great experience and I really hope Elliot and Keir decide to do Insites2 in the future. I now also can’t wait until October as myself along with all the other lovely chaps at Love Creative will be attending the Bristol Web Developers Conference, but in the meantime I’m currently trying to decide if I should book tickets to New Adventures in Web Design for next Jan! I hear they’re selling like hot cakes, so I’d better make my mind up pretty fast…