An Event Apart: Day One

I had the opportunity to to attend a conference called An Event Apart in Austin, TX. There are a lot of web design and development conferences going on all the time, but I was particularly intrigued by the topics and speakers that were slated for the two-day seminar. There were topics on moving the web forward, preparing for generational content, and best practices for handling the wide assortment of devices one needs to design for.

After checking in, I was greeted with some swag from the conference sponsors and a fully catered breakfast buffet that is worth mentioning. The light-hearted and conference ringleader, Jeffrey Zeldman  (Author, Designing With Web Standards), kicked off the event with an hour speaking about his Ten Commandments of Web Design. Jeffrey’s commandments perfectly introduced the content for the entire event. It is almost as if it was by design.

Samantha Warren, who presented next, is a well-known designer from her involvement with Twitter. Her advocacy of responsive web design piqued my interest, as she explained how her use of style tiles provide an easy way to communicate design concepts between the client and the developer.

Being a designer or a developer, or even both, is increasingly becoming to mean, “wearer of many hats,” as Kristina Halvorson spoke to in her presentation about content and communication.  It’s important to understand the value in organizing and structuring the flow of your website’s content so that it is easy to navigate and presented in a manner that best suits your users’ viewing environment.

“How can I do this without a keyboard?” – Luke Wroblewski

After Kristina, all of the attendees were treated to a catered lunch. Following that, Luke Wroblewski–a former developer at Facebook and now CEO/Co-Founder of Input Factory–spoke of the mobile web. It was amazing to get to hear from someone who actually knows what it means to be a truly global presence on the web. When will you be convinced that mobile is important? When your site’s analytics show mobile views as 30% of your traffic? 40%? How about 60%? The answer should be now, because an increasing number of people are using their mobile device as their primary connection every day. From people like my colleagues, who use their phones and tablets because it is often more conveneint, to lower-income households who rely on cell phone connection to get coupons, pay bills, and interact socially, mobile is a huge piece of the pie. Much huger than antiquated browsers.

Having read Ethan Marcotte’s book Responsive Web Design, I was excited to listen to him enthusiastically speak to his interests. It was mostly about responsively handling components of a site so as to take advantage of features and usability concerns for various categories of devices. But, under the surface, the key take-away was the importance of content that was crafted in a way the makes sense on all of these devices.

Karen McGrane (Author, Content Strategy for Mobile) further enforced the increasing importance of designing with mobile devices in mind. The bottom line: your mobile site should contain the same content as your “full site”, but just be presented in a way that is most convenient for whatever device the user decides to use.

…and that was it for day one. Following the presentations was an after party and an after-after party, giving attendees an opportunity to mingle and network with other like-minded individuals, as well as getting an opportunity to discuss design and development with the presenters, themselves. Tomorrow, I’ll write about my thoughts on the content from day two.

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