2 days, 15 speakers #smashingconf
Last week the Smashing Conference, well-known when it comes to web design and web development, took place in Los Angeles. Needless to say that it was absolutely necessary for me to fly about 15.000 miles to attend. Almost the same conference was actually held in the UK a few weeks prior to this, but let’s forget about the distance.
Located at the beautiful Santa Monica Pier (oh yeah, now guess what) in Santa Monica, more than 300 people from all over the world met for the conference, workshops, party and the #smashingconf photowalk, which was one of my two days favorites.
The topics that had been dealt with were kind of varied, but always “Forrest Gump” related. It’s sort of an in-joke but those of you who saw the movie know why.
They gave a broad hint by adding a Forest Gump slide to every talk. So, this leads many of us, me included, to the more or less strongly believe that Tom Hanks is going to be the second conferences day’s mystery speaker. Actually he wasn’t, just to make this clear. It was Cameron Moll, who did a pretty good job and made a statement propably everyone had experiences over the years:
But let’s get back to topic.
There’s definitely something about performance optimization going on these days. While the idea of it is absolutely not knew, it’s recognizable not only in terms of technical aspects, but also due to project workflows in general. Steve Souders (Design / Performance) opened with a statement I totally agree with.
It makes work much easier to happen in small interdisciplinary teams and bringing devs, designers, marketers and project managers together at an very early project stage improves communication and increases the number of overlaps. This is so true and out of my experience I can fully agree with it.
Referring to websites in general, performance plays the key role. Users expect sites to render in less than two seconds, so speed is THE factor for great user experience. Because this is what users are really after. Due to this bigger budgets on performance optimization can be expected in future.
Both, Trent Walton (future of the web) and Petty Toland (Design consistency) addressed another major point in their talks. It’s particularly important to understand that people see things completely different and therefore it’s essential to create interface designs clients really can understand. Sounds pretty clear, though. But let’s face reality: in times of hundreds of thousands of different devices that range from smartphones to wearables to household appliances and TVs, designing responsive for just three kinds of devices (desktop, smartphone and tablet) is overtaken.
! It’s the nature of the web to be flexible and should be our role as designers and developers to embrace this flexibility, and produce pages, which, by being flexible, are accessible at all. Trent Walton
Walton definitely spoke from the heart of our developers by approaching that times of psd to html are over and showing up with finished png is like showing up with a statue. We all know this typical situation in a meeting with customers where designs in form of pngs are being discussed. The first 20 minutes are filled with concerns about logo sizes, missed term links and all those tiny little things. Instead of talking about every single detail prototyping should be the way how projects are to be proceeded in future. Designs should more be a plan for arranging elements to accomplish a special purpose. Living styleguides, here we go again.
! If a picture is worth a thousand words, a prototype is worth a thousands meetings. Trent Walton
Andy Budd (ux / user experience) was very refreshing when he talked about the job of UX designers in general, because there are only a few which have a deep understanding of the matter and know how it works. It will always be a niche and it’s not a whole field of design, especially as not every designer is a UX designer. User experience design is about the way people perceive a product and it means more than creating wireframes, because they are no rocket science and definitely not the solution for every kind of UX problem.
As important predictability and reliability are, todays designs are often no longer spontaneous and surprising. We are thinking in components which leads to lack of creativity and results in a web that is full of predictable and boring designs. A bad idea will always be a bad idea, even with hundreds of iterations.
Last but not least let’s not forget about websites’ content strategy. It’s still common to start the design process without any content strategy or even content, which is the worst possible way - particularly when it comes to complex and comprehensive requirements. As it is in the case of development when living style guides are defined, content style guides should be created as well because addressing questions at an early stage is definitely important.
My personal favorite speaker was Aaron Draplin (design) - he definitely killed it and his session was the absolutely most amazing of all. Lots of music and stories about his work - starting from not paid work for friends up to logo design for the president of the United States. Well, don’t want to recap, you definitely have to see it.
As mentioned in general it’s all about performance, responsive design and advanced workflows these days. Websites have to be accessible and predictable, but at the same time we have to focus on individuality, creativity and even more professional workflows that meet the requirements of complex web applications.