University of Abertay Dundee

Yesterday I made the trip by train up to Dundee to speak to the students at the University of Abertay in Dundee. My slides and some supporting links from the presentation can be found here, although the slides aren’t particularly useful standalone.

The University had asked me to come and speak about what I felt was important in terms of web design and development today and also what I saw as being important in the future, given that students on the course today had anywhere from 1 to 3 years to go before they would be graduating and working in the industry. This is a pretty broad subject, and I knew that students were interested in a range of web roles, so I decided to home in on some of the core skills that anyone working on the web needs to have and also look at some of the interesting things that are becoming a possibility.

I get pretty nervous about presenting and like to be very organised and have time to set up so I was a bit thrown by the fact that so many people showed up to the talk we had to move from a small informal room to an incredibly steep lecture theatre. The experience of presenting in this room was a bit like speaking to people some of whom were on eye level and others stood at the top of a hill. I also ended up presenting without my notes and onscreen timer as with only a short time to set up I could only get the projector and my laptop showing the same slide – rather than having Keynote’s presenter view on my screen. Thankfully, I’d rehearsed this a few times and so knew the presentation well enough to do it without my notes. I had printed out a copy of the slides and notes – 4 slides to a page – using Keynote, however somehow they had ended up in a strange order on the page which was confusing rather than helpful!

Despite presenting uphill and without my notes I think the session went well. My hope had been that I wasn’t coming to speak to the students with anything amazingly new, but that what I was saying would underline the things they were already learning and demonstrate the importance of these things in the real world. In the second part of the presentation I talked for a short while about some of the interesting things that are on the horizon with regards to HTML5, CSS3 and also with typography on the web. Many of these students have 2 years to go before they graduate so by the time they are looking for work these technologies will have far better browser support and be skills they need. As students also get to do a larger project in their final Honours year this is potentially a great chance to play with technologies that might be harder to use commercially at the current time but make a great study for a final project – and mean that the project is an interesting concept to show off.

I finished up the presentation with some suggestions gleaned from my recent blog post as to how students can best prepare themselves for work in web design and development so thank you to everyone who contributed to that.

In the evening I re-ran the presentation, slightly tweaked for an audience that consisted of people from local design studios. Having had to get up at 4.30am to travel to Dundee I was pretty tired by that point and grateful to be in the smaller room and to be able to get my notes up on screen!

I really did have a lovely day, the feedback that I gave had so far has been good and I really enjoyed talking to all the students and hearing their questions. Many thanks to Malcolm and all the folk at Abertay for making me feel so welcome.


Craig McCreath March 26, 2010 Reply

I’m glad you had a good day, we enjoyed having you!

I personally found your presentation very informative and appreciated how friendly you were to everyone who came up. I have no idea how you could keep your voice for that long during the day… thanks!

Aileen March 26, 2010 Reply

Hi Rachel. I was at your talk yesterday afternoon. I am a 1st year web design student, although I already have a company that does web design, so I am doing it back to front! I hope in the future I can combine some design and basic development – but defer to experts for the more techy stuff. Your lecture was really useful because it helped me understand that I don’t need to know everything, but having a basic understanding and knowing when I need expert help and where to get it will be crucial. Having browsed your sites today I came across perch and I think that could be very useful for my business – so watch this space – I may try it out when I redesign my own website very soon with a view to offering it as a basic cms for future customers,

Thanks for coming up to Abertay!


Nick Edwards March 27, 2010 Reply

It was good to have someone from the industry come and speak at the uni (it doesn’t happen that often) – probably why there was such a good turnout!

Thanks for the advice about my honours project too 🙂

and a final thanks from me for coming to Abertay!


Pavel March 28, 2010 Reply

The presentation was really good and I think all of us students enjoyed having you here at Abertay Dundee.

We’re also looking forward to more events like these 🙂

Best wishes from a 2nd year student doing WDD

James Chalmers April 1, 2010 Reply

Hi Rachel, very much enjoyed your afternoon presentation. A very well presented presentation…!

Just wanted to say thanks for taking the time to do that and especially promoting the discussion afterwards. You have got me all keyed up about HTML5…

By the way, off topic: any thoughts on the iPad? How do you think it will impact the future of the web? Any chance it will push for a more rapid acceptance & usage of HTML5 features? Will we be developing multi-touch geared sites in a few years?

All these questions…

Keep up the good work,
Kind regards,

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