An Event Apart, San Francisco 2011

I’ve spent the last week at An Event Apart  which was hosted at the magnificent Palace Hotel (pictured above) in San Francisco and I have returned a changed designer. A tweet on the event feed read: “I’ve been to An Event Apart and all I’ve gotten are these sticky-buns.” I could not disagree more with that person. I have gotten so much more out of it (although the cinnamon buns mentioned were very yummy indeed). I acquired an entirely new perspective on my approach to design.

Topics of the lectures revolved around content focused and responsive / flexible (cross-platform friendly) approach to design and development by utilizing progressive enhancement techniques. Significant importance was also given to an increased need for a more comprehensive planning approach in order to address content-design experience relevancy, workflow efficiency and performance of  final products.

Key Developments, Trends And Techniques

Mobile Web Design Moves (Luke Wroblewski,) Using Flexible Boxes (Eric Meyer,) The Responsive Designer’s Workflow (Ethan Marcotte,) and Design Principles (Jeremy Keith,) sessions focused on best ways of using design patterns and new standard based coding languages such as HTML5 and CSS 3 in order to make user experiences more accessible and relevant whilst increasing conversions.

Application of progressive enhancement concept was the main takeaway. It recognizes that users are unique, their experiences and context in which they interact with the interface is unique. Hence, what is presented to users should adapt to them instead of users adjusting to content. This concept and its individual coding and design techniques will  greatly impact the approach I will take in considering  and designing the experiences of future projects, certainly the mobile initiatives in 2012.

Impact On Efficiency of Workflows And Outcomes

Our Best Practices are Killing Us (Nicole Sullivan,) The Secret Lives of Links (Jared Spool,) Idea to Interface (Aarron Walter,) and Content First! (Jeffrey Zeldman,) strongly advocated significance of agile content and code planning through audits, collaborative reviewsand data driven decisions.

I have learned  techniques that will be used to plan and design more effective, flexible and scalable final deliverables. Among these are brainstorming reviews of early stage designs, interface contingencies  for unforeseen content, use of gathered data to increase functionality of the experience, and organizational tips to standardize coding conventions and in turn increase performance.

Bye, I hope to see you again

Last day was a full-day workshop was held by Luke Wroblewski, which was simply put amazing, a definitive point-and-case presentation of us simply not being able to ignore mobile anymore and as he says consider it to be the primary medium which we will be designing for in the near future. The entire presentation is available for download on his site if you want to review it. As you will see it’s rather extensive so I will not go into details.

Finally, I made a promise to myself to visit An Event Apart at least once a year (since they are held in multiple cities at multiple dates throughout the year.) And I would strongly encourage you to do the same if you:

  • are not designing solely to do your job but also to truly  improve the experiences of those using your products (or learn how to advocate that approach to others and yourself)
  • meet fun, like minded individuals, share opinions, discuss concepts and recent design developments as well as enjoy great food and parties (which are a bit of a sausage fest I must admit)