Web Directions @media 2010

I’m back home this weekend after Web Directions @media. The first day saw me present on “Core CSS3”, in the design track, and the perspective I took on the use of CSS3 was the perspective I take as a developer. I took a look at the parts of CSS3, certain modules and parts of modules that can safely be implemented, have reasonable browser support, degrade gracefully when a browser doesn’t have support and also have ways of working around lack of support – usually using JavaScript.

You can take a look at my slides, and also resources and the worked examples here.

I was pretty relieved once my own presentation was over so enjoyed just being part of the crowd for day two. The day opened with a keynote from Andy Clarke, who is a friend and inspiring speaker. I certainly could learn a lot from his presentation style. Afterward several people asked me my thoughts on the presentation – given that my pragmatic approach seems on paper to differ so much from Andy’s Hardboiled ideas. I think that one of the things Andy does really well is cause people, including myself, to think. He challenges current wisdom – which we definitely need in our industry. I would love my design agency clients to hear Andy speak as I think they could learn a huge amount about the modern web from his thoughts, ideas and sheer passion for the web.

However, I do feel that some of the fantastic stuff that Andy has to say gets lost as soon as he shows that slide of IE6 being served completely barebones, no-design CSS. I think it gets lost when he says it is ok to have a much simpler design for IE8 – the current version of Internet Explorer. I think it gets lost because the reality is it is not difficult to serve IE6 a simpler version of your design, not perhaps trying to hack in support for opacity and Alpha PNG images, but a reasonably designed experience. I don’t spend a lot of time messing about with IE6 these days – but the sites we develop all have a decent implementation of the design in that browser and one that our clients are comfortable with.

When it comes to IE8 – or even Firefox which lags behind Webkit browsers in some instances – I don’t think it is helpful to say simply design for support. I think it is entirely reasonable for clients to expect a site to look pretty much the same in the most recent desktop browsers. Understanding and designing for the different experience of a phone, games console or iPad is one thing, but the desktop – clients and designers generally expect that to be one thing. I say that as someone who has long been a exponent of the fact that sites do not have to look the same in all browsers and all devices – I wrote this in 2002! However that has to be balanced by practicalities and the reasonable expectations of the people we do this work for. In addition, the fact remains that it is very easy to add support in IE8 for most of the things Andy demonstrated with some pretty trivial jQuery (for example). If you are going to use Modernizr to detect support and write different CSS you are already using JavaScript, why not go the rest of the way and implement transitions and so on with JavaScript? Yes there will be a very small number of visitors potentially with IE and no JavaScript but very few, a much much smaller number than those who will lose out on the interface if you cut out everyone with Internet Explorer.

I think that what Andy showed us was inspiring and I hope every designer and developer in that room was encouraged and excited by the possibilities. However my take is that an approach that attempts to recreate that experience at least for all modern desktop browser users is a requirement for most of us. The good news is, of course, that with Internet Explorer 9 we are going to find that the latest version of IE will support a lot of this stuff, and so the scene shifts again and the decisions we and our clients make may well be different in a few months time.

Other highlights of day two for me included Relly Annett-Baker‘s presentation, “All the Small Things”. Relly is an engaging speaker and understood that the audience she was talking to were designers and developers who sometimes end up having to write microcopy because no-one else does it. Her presentation was very funny but also drove home serious points about how to help our users with the messages we display at login or through a checkout process.

The day finished with a presentation from Scott Berkun – “Myths of Innovation: remixed and remastered”. When I saw his name on the schedule I thought it looked familiar but until the session started didn’t immediately place him as the author of a book I was reading while preparing for presenting at @media, “Confessions of a Public Speaker“. If you do any public speaking, and particularly if you are nervous of speaking I would recommend this book highly. I have read many books on the subject but this book has a practical tone, and contains advice from Scott’s many speaking engagements around the world. Having now had the chance to see him present I would recommend it even more as he obviously knows what he is talking about as his was an excellent presentation. Thinking about ideas and innovation was a great way to finish the conference, the subject speaks to everyone in all the different roles attendees are employed in on the web. I am going to try out the idea of writing down ideas and thoughts in a journal for the next few months to see where that takes me. Scott also comes highly recommended if you need someone to order Dim Sum for you. I think our group of assorted geeks may well still be in the restaurant right now had he not taken charge and made sure that the non-fish eaters and vegetarians were all catered for!

@media 2010 was a thoroughly enjoyable event. John and Maxine from Web Directions managed to bring their own organisational style without damaging the feel of a conference that is pretty important to a lot us in the UK. It would have been sad if it had turned into a import from outside rather than keeping a distinctiveness about it. In terms of content, even as someone who gets information better by reading than listening, there was some truly great stuff. I have returned home tired but I feel that my work and thinking has been refreshed by the experience. That is what conferences should do. A chance to sit back, listen and find ways to improve what we do and how we do it.

One Comment

Sajjad July 9, 2010 Reply

Dear Rachel
I am Sajjad from IRAN , today now , I finish your book (The CSS Anthology: 101 Essential Tips, Tricks & Hacks, 3rd Edition ) It’s very good book & I enjoy studing the book & learn many thing about css in web desining .but your book is translated in persian & I used it .
from Sajjad (Iran – (north – Rasht))

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