Future of Web Design 2011

Rachel Andrew

On 17th May 2011 I spoke at Future of Web Design London on the subject of 10 Web Development Tips a Designer Should Know. Speaking at conferences is a fairly weird thing. While I’m happy to talk and write about the stuff I do for anyone who finds it interesting, I certainly don’t think I’m any better than any other person doing this stuff. I’ve just been doing it a while and am reasonably able to articulate my thoughts about it.

However when you speak at a conference you essentially say, “Look at me. I have important things to say!” I find this genuinely unnerving as I have no idea if what I have to say will be relevant or interesting to the particular bunch of folk in front of me. In this business it is impossible to make assumptions as to the skillset of people, based on what they say they are or do. One person who claims the title “web designer” may be barely able to string a line of html together, another will be a competent front-end developer and also able to write a fair amount of PHP in addition to design skills. The survey I put together while preparing the talk only served to demonstrate this point, and you can see the survey results here.

In addition, many of the great speakers out there I would consider to be visionaries. People who help us see what we will be doing in the future and get excited about it. I’m no visionary, I’m just a person who builds web stuff. My writing and speaking is purely practical, “here is a problem – this is how I deal with it, this might be useful to you too”.

So, speaking is scary, but the nice thing about it is that once you get offstage people at the conference have seen you spout about stuff, and so know what you are interested in. Often that means they are then happy to come chat to you about the things they agree or disagree with – and interesting ideas come out of that. I have plenty of writing and speaking material currently germinating in my head based on conversations I’ve had over the last two days.

That is one reason why an early speaking slot is a bonus, another being that I could then just enjoy the rest of the conference as an attendee, and Carsonified really do put on a fantastic show. Aral Balkan closed day one with his new presentation, “Making the New Everyday Things”. Aral is a great speaker – and all round nice chap – and much of what he said really struck a chord in terms of what we are trying to do with Perch.

Starting Day 2, Ethan Marcotte‘s talk on Responsive Web Design was excellent for designers and developers alike. I’ll be getting a copy of his book once it is released on June 7th. I also really enjoyed seeing Paul Boag‘s energetic talk on “Getting Down to Business” – his points about how running your own business can end up being more difficult and stressful than working for someone else certainly rang true as I think back over ten years of running my own company. Bruce Lawson, filling in for Molly, did a great job with his presentation, rivalling Paul Boag for peculiar stock photography on slides. I particularly liked the notes about which web development techniques drain phone battery life, useful stuff to know and – despite being the owner of a battery hungry Android device – not something I knew much about.

If you were there and saw my presentation, I hope you found something useful. The slides are on Slideshare and there are a bunch of links for further reading. Attendees and Think Vitamin members will also get to see the video once it is available. I am now trying to rest my voice after all that unaccustomed talking, as I’m speaking at Microsoft Tech.Days on Monday.

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