The Future of Web Design (FOWD) is a great way to keep in contact with the latest trends and issues in the web industry. Every year we gain access to leading thinkers in the field; this year was no exception.
The day started off with a surprise presentation from Danny Somekh on “Agile Branding & Creative Development”. Taking the concept of agile programming beyond programming and using it as part of your full creative process is something new. Danny presented a clear and confident argument on how we as ‘creatives’ can use the process to enhance the commitment and quality of the final products, achieved through the right levels of client engagement with a good team of collaborators behind it. The key point that I got from this talk was that creating a safe environment for creative ideas helps nurture creativity in a way that will show in the final outcome. This is something I believe to be very true and often over looked.
Next up was a powerful keynote address from Jim Coudal from Coudal Partners. Jim’s talk looked into creativity and how we use various techniques to gain creative ideas. He introduced the notion that when coming up with ideas or solving problems we always have one constant and one variable. Jim went on to talk about ways in which we can find the constants that we need by looking back into the past, or looking around into the wider world through discussion with others. Always hold onto that initial enthusiasm, because there might be a reason why you get bored of a project. These are key ideas that I think help in the creative process, but a lot of what he was saying seemed to me to be things we tend to do intuitively.
Then came Megan Fisher on “Designing Effective Mobile Interfaces”. Megan took us through more of a beginners’ guide to designing for the mobile web, citing Mobile Web Design by Cameron Moll as the chief inspiration for this talk. If you have read the book then you won’t have found much in the presentation new. A few key concepts were made clearer, such as identifying key areas on the site that mobile users will want to access being a great way to figure out the flow of the page. Keep mobile site design using single columns as you have to take into account small screen resolutions. I think a lot of these ideas are very key to desiging for the mobile web. Unfortunately, nothing new was brought to the table with this talk.
Goodbarry are well known for putting personality behind everything they do, so I was looking forward to the next presentation by Brett Welch. “Beyond Pixel Pushing: 3 Steps to Building Better Websites and Happier Clients” was a very funny and useful talk. Brett outlined a clear methodology for adding value to your projects by using a process he liked to refer to as BUSTA. Helped along the way by Busta Rhymes this point was put forward very effectively. The main idea behind this methodology seemed to be in getting the business more involved with their online strategy; an idea that has been presented before but one that I fully agree with. If a business has a clear online strategy there is always a higher chance that their website will succeed.
Up next Mark Boulton, founder of one of the UK’s most high profile agencies. Mark’s presentation on “Typography’s not on the Web, it IS the Web” was a very informed talk on the state of typography today. Beginning his presentation with a personal background on how he was taught by professionals in the print industry, Mark went on to explain why typography is where it is today. He ended his talk by addressing the issue with font embedding. A key point he made is that everyone has the ability to be a designer. Clients will want to add style to their pages, but as professional designers you should help people make good design decisions. An issue that I can totally agree with after observing how clients like to use our content management system; there is definitely room for research into this approach.
With my interest in the area of accessibility, I was really looking forward to the next talk by Robin Christopherson.“Designing for All in a Web 2.0 World” was one of the most insightful talks I’ve ever been too. Robin is blind and went through his presentation showing us examples of the stumbling blocks that he has to face on a day to day basis on the internet. When using Google Mail on a screen reader, it was shown that there were several empty elements on the page that were read out, something a company that large should know about. What transpired is that a lot of disabled users share the same needs as users of mobile devices. If we were to sign post the more accessible versions of the site for disabled users, those users would have a greater enhanced experience. This is something I really feel needs to be researched further.
Last up before lunch was Mike Kus, Carsonified’s very own graphic designer. As expected his slides were very well designed. “Graphic Design: The Forgotten Web Standard” looked at the issue that all the talk about standards and code across the web tends to neglect discussion on the design stage of the process. He moved through the talk discussing various key ideas on the medium failing to hold onto one main thread. He ended the session with a sped up version of his design process, proving that design isn’t instantaneous. I didn’t really come away from this presentation with any really insightful points, but found that the idea of creating more discussion around graphic design reiterated key ideas Jim Coudal and Danny Somekh were saying earlier.