Last Friday myself and developer Lyndon Cox (he’s too cool for Twitter apparently) attended the Web Developers Conference (WDC2011) in Bristol. Big thanks to our chief at Love Creative UK for very kindly providing us with the tickets!
Hang-on, I hear you say, wasn’t the last blog post about a web conference….Liam do you actually do any work any more, or just spend all your time socialising at these geeky meet-ups?
A valid question, but inaccurate for two reasons.
- Sadly I will have to wait until next year before I’m attending my next conference (New Adventures in Web Design if you’re interested).
- While these events are fun and a nice change from sitting in a studio all day, they are all about learning and that involves attending a lot of talks so the day can’t be spent at a bar…that’s what the after party’s for!
The Odeon was the location for this years event, and while it was slightly weird sitting in a cinema and not seeing a film, it was a perfect choice of venue. The screen was nice and large for the speakers slides and the seats were comfy enough!
The first talk of the day was from a chap called Neil Dennis from a company named Strawberry Soup. He spoke about how the company was founded and some things that he wished he had been told when they first started up. I don’t remember all of the things he said but here are the points that stuck with me:
- For a website they charge 30% up front, 30% on completion of the design and the last 40% on completion of the whole project.
- He empathised the need for a solid contract stating exactly what work will be carried out
- Make sure you have some form of legal backup.
The second presentation was by Rob Hawkes who works for Mozilla. His was probably the most technical talk of the day as it was all about the new and upcoming features of HTML5. I’m not going to go into details about them but I’d suggest looking into all of the following:
- Media Capture API
- WebNFC API
- WebSMS API
- WebTelephony API
- WebVibrator API
- Boot to Gecko OS
The third presentation was by some guy who I can’t remember, and I can’t recall much of what he talked about either so I guess it didn’t capture me that much. The one thing I do remember him talking about was on Post Project Analysis, and the points he made were very good:
- Think about how the project went. Could it have been better? How so?
- What about the project made you happy, proud and excited?
- What about the project made you bored, frustrated and mad?
- What have you learned?
Award for the most barmy talk of the day has to go to Elliot Kember. The man is either a genius or insane – strange how those two qualities always seems to be connected!
- Rubber duck programming (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rubber_duck_debugging).
- Actively seek to do things that are outside of your comfort zone until you get comfortable doing them.
- Accept that doing something new will result in you getting stuck and feeling stupid, but don’t let that deter you.
- You will learn more by doing real work than by simply studying it. E.g. It’s easier to learn french while being in France than it is to learn it at school, then the same is true for coding.
The fifth presentation was more of a project walk-through than anything technical or theory based. It was done by Paul Annett who is currently re-designing the direct government website. Watching him show how the typical user might navigate around the website and highlighting some of the user feedback issues they had encountered was really interesting and if it made me learn anything it was that user-testing is invaluable and you should do as much as you can!
- Old site http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/childbenefit/
- New site http://alpha.gov.uk/do-i-qualify-child-benefit/
Although the earlier presentation from Elliot came very close, I think this talk by John O’Nolan was probably my favourite of the day. Maybe I’m slightly biased as I consider myself to be a designer above anything else and his talk was all about designing for emotions and the cognitive psychology behind User Experience Design. There was so many good points made during his talk that it was impossible for me to remember then all, but I’ve listed the ones that I managed to scribble down:
- It’s important to understand your audience and what they care about.
- Think about how users will want to interact with your product. Don’t simply think about what you want people to do with it!
- Aim for your design to make users have an emotional response, as emotions lead to action.
- Make sure that response is not average. No one remembers average. Be great or be terrible, don’t be average.
- Try to stay happy, feeling happy helps you to think outside the box.
He promised that his book (Designing Emotion) would be out soon (for real this time), and for asking a question I should be in line for a free copy, so I’ll be sure to post a review of it in my books section when I have it!
The final presentation of the day was done by Paul Boag. I’d never heard of him before but apparently he has a podcast so look him up if you’re so inclined as his talk was pretty informative about how to be successful in a freelance life and how you need to establish good working habits.
- Stay in control/organised by having one place to keep your stuff. E.g. a to-do list.
- Each day has a beginning and an end. At a certain time call it a night, close your computer and walk away.
- Only check your email a few times a day, otherwise it will constantly be disrupting you, which makes you waste more time
- Work to time slots. He recommended trying 25 minute sprints. You work hard for 25 minutes then take a 5 minute break and repeat. This helps prevent boredom and you don’t tire yourself out.
I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the event, as I wasn’t expecting anything too grand, due to it being fairly cheap in comparison to a lot of other conferences. However both the venue and the talks were great as well as being informative and genuinely helpful for anyone working in the web industry, even if you’re not the most technically minded person. I’ll definitely be going next year if it’s on again, and if you’re reading this and hoping to get into web design (or are one of the lucky ones who is already working in this industry), then I recommend that you do as well!