I attended Web Directions South 2013 last week, my very first conference relating to the web industry. Admittedly, I'm a bit wary of conferences of this creative nature. I've reasoned that designers, artists and the creative types aren't always the best at sharing their thoughts and processes on such a large scale.
With that being said, the majority of speakers at Web Directions did a great job of communicating their ideas with spoken word, slides and a few GIFs and videos which never go astray in a 45 minute presentation.
While I didn't come away with an extensive set of notes or a 12-step program to becoming kick-ass, I took away a few bite-sized chunks of information that I can chew on.
On day one, David Demaree tackled "The Weight of the Web". He proposed that removing rich media from our sites completely, such as videos and beautiful images, isn't a solution to the problems we face today as a result of a multitude of screen resolutions, devices and technological constraints. David believes, and I tend to agree, delivering this rich media is what the web does so well, and with the help of scalable graphics, responsive design techniques and adaptive content, we can do our medium justice. Nothing new here, but I suspect the more we address the issues the closer we are to finding a long-term solution.
David's presentation was the only one that caught (and held) my full attention from day one. But the day two line-up had me more excited.
"We evaluate tomorrow's technologies by how well they accomplish yesterday's tasks"
Scott Jenson gave the second mornings keynote and opened with "Beyond Mobile, Beyond Web", an interesting talk diving into the sociology of design, breaking down the structure of scientific revolutions and elaborating on value vs. pain in a user's experience. He went on to say, when it comes to building an app or product, we can do two things well:
- Increase the VALUE of the product (which doesn't mean throwing features at it until something sticks).
- Decrease the pain required in using the product.
I appreciate speakers like Scott, who has more of a thoughtful approach to the products around him that he uses on a regular basis.
Additional reading: "The structure of scientific revolutions" - Thomas Kuhn.
Pasquale D'Silva was up next. By far the most entertaining speaker I saw over the course of the conference. Just the right amount of humour, video clips and animated GIFs to breeze through a 45-minute presentation without losing the crowd. While his accent didn't quite sit right with me (he's Australian but literally speaks like he's from a Pixar film) I enjoyed what he had to say about making interfaces more human through the use of animation. His takeaway points:
- Static interfaces suck
- Good animation is invisible
- Animation is a clue
- Learn from the classics
Additional reading: "12 principles of animation" - Walt Disney
I was probably most excited about the next speaker, Aarron Walter (Yay!), lead UX at Mailchimp (Boo!). His book Designing for Emotion has been something that I referred back to many times in my previous job, and got me really excited about design. Aarron spoke a lot from experience and how Mailchimp are creating systems of connected data, connected teams and connected people to create a culture of inquiry. Some interesting stuff, but perhaps my expectations were a too high. Plus, he mentioned a blog he'd penned for A List Apart that basically IS his presentation. Thankfully, I hadn't checked my feeds in a while to catch it.
Golden Krishna, new products division of Samsung
The final speaker I thought worth mentioning was Golden Krishna, speaking around his famous (or infamous) article, "The best interface is no interface". While most of his presentation was demonstrative of real world examples rather than the thought process behind this mantra, Golden managed to do a great job of how our interfaces, and technology, can get in the way of what we are actually trying to achieve. Sometimes, less is more.
To sum it all up, I enjoyed the conference. For me personally, much of what I know was learnt from immersing myself in books like Aarron's and blogs that many of these speakers write on, so it was great to hear them flesh out an idea or two in real life. It won't be my last (and only) Web Directions South conference and I'm aiming to try and get to a few more in the future.