They say October is the season, and this conference noob got a double first dose this year at two very different conferences.
Most recently was the <head> conference, which I attended with Prisca and Laura. You can see photos of our ‘attendance’ on Laura’s flickr.
Being a virtual conference, it had the freedom to ‘take place’ anywhere so most awesome was being able to watch local time, from localhome, as it were, speakers presenting from their own corners of the world, including Molly Holzschlag at some early hour in her morning, talking about ‘The Web as It Was Meant to Be’. Other highlights for us were Ann McMeekin on ‘Making Web Accessibility Sexy’ with some inspiring examples of people incorporating accessibility into beautiful design. Also Simon Wardley’s ‘Why open matters from innovation to commoditisation’ was interesting insight into cloud computing, not least due to Simon’s wonderful knack for fast-paced slide presentations!
And there were many more great speakers…
The first evening of <head> in London, we got to see live presentations in the generally not-open-to-the-public Centre for The Magic Arts, a great venue. We heard Jeremy Keith waxing philosophical about The Long Web; illuminating thoughts on issues of identity on the web from Gavin Bell; terrifying tales in Simon Willison’s Web security horror stories, plus a few others. The evening was finished off with the intriguingly cool Tim O’Reilly in conversation.
It was great for us to be three of the many international attendees at the world’s first virtual web conference :)
It was an amazing opportunity for me to visit this beautiful city to attend my first conference. I’d never been to Chicago so that in itself was pretty exciting. But getting to see speakers like Eric Meyer and Jeffrey Zeldman was oh-my-god-I-can’t-believe-it exciting!
It was a little nerve-wracking too at first. I still feel so new to this, and going to a conference at this stage in my skill-development seemed slightly premature. But the US is a pretty diverse melting pot and after meeting all kinds of people my first morning, I was a lot more comfortable. And most delightful was that none of it was waaay over my head, as I worried it might be. (I obviously had a great teacher ; )
I found all the speakers’ presentations interesting, inspiring, educational, illuminating, a pleasure, fun, exciting… but I did have a few personal favourites. Andy Clarke’s ‘Underpants Over My Trousers’ was a fun approach to design using comic book styles and traditions as inspiration for the design process. I also loved Rob Weychert’s approach in his ‘Design Lessons in Chess’. The analogy was an interesting perspective, applied to users and designers as chess players on the same board. It’s not that the user is an opponent exactly, but a ‘player’ whose moves we are trying to manipulate/guide as a designer – and the basic solution is limiting moves/options. Interesting isn’t it?
Curt Cloninger’s ‘What Would William Do?’ used William Morris’ art and design philosophies as a theme for his presentation. William once said: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” I really liked that quote… With the gorgeous backdrop of William’s designs, and a focus on craftsmanship, Cloninger gave us a glimpse of design in the context of a bigger picture – because designers: craftsmen, engineers, architects etc – ‘we make the world; homes, cities and online’ and that’s a great responsibility, one which we can use to make the world a greener, more usable and better place :)
I was also really drawn to the presentations with more of a focus on web-app design. Jeff Veen took us back in time to 1854 and the first use of infographics, (John Snow and the cholera outbreak,) which has arguably influenced the way we present data today. An enjoyable talk with a couple of interesting development anecdotes from Jeff’s Google days.
Jason Fried’s talk surprisingly captured my heart. I suppose it was the most enlightening for my position as User Interface Developer in my current full-time employment. Fried got down to some serious nitty gritty of user interface. It was called ‘Designing the Details’ and I really dig the details, because it’s those little things that make the user-experience more than just straightforward, but a really easy breeze that actually puts a smile on your face. Who needs to set user preferences when the application remembers them for you?
I didn’t take a camera to Chicago (I hear the *gasps*!) but I did make a friend who had a camera. And there are a few photos at my flickr of me meeting Eric, Andy and Robert at the first night’s social.
Looking forward to the next conference…. whenever or wherever that may be :)