The Event Apart 2016 – Day 2

Day two of An Event Apart Chicago is typically where you realize this is an educational marathon, not a sprint. Everything you learned on day one (and are still trying to absorb); the late nights; the deep dish pizza… it all begins to catch up with you on day two. Let’s go second wind!

Val Head

Val’s talk centered not just on animation, but how to make it part of your corporate culture. She shared many good tips on getting and keeping animation/motion design in the project conversation. I feel fortunate that my company is, not only open too but excited about, the possibilities of weaving motion into the sites we build. Now all I have to do is make it happen. I really liked her suggestion of putting sketches in front of the client. We do this sometimes, but I think we’d do it more often knowing we will get better feedback from the client due to the rough nature of a sketch.

Mat Marquis

Mat gave an incredibly good talk on tackling performance under pressure, or to put it another way, working performance into your already jammed workflow. Mat has an uncanny ability to tell his story with humor and gravity in turn. I like his down-to-Earth style, the fact that he wears Iron Rangers (like me) and that he re-enforces the idea that the impetus for change is on us. We can do it. We just need to take the reins, do what it is right and then beg for forgiveness later. Oh, and “doing what’s right” doesn’t have to be a monumental undertaking… do it in bite size pieces. Bring your team along gradually.

Rachel Andrew

Mrs. Andrew gave a fantastic primer on CSS Grid. I got a little academic at points, but overall it very informative and got me excited to give ti a try. The technology looks absolutely incredible. It looks easy to learn and use; spits out predictable results; and requires less code. Now we just need it to make it’s way into production. Until then, as she suggests, practice, practice, practice. I’m still curious to learn about what fallbacks we will need to use even after grid is included in the latest browsers. We’re still going to need to account for the people who don’t or can’t upgrade.

Code: Debugging The Gender Gap

I skipped this in favor of exploring Chicago for a snack and to visit one of my favorite coffee bars, Bow Truss. Based on the Twitterings, it sounds like I will have to catch it at some point.

The second half of day 2 is where the topics drifted away from the concrete and to the conceptual… At least in terms of my own day to day work. Designing for the extreme, stress cases, and the Internet of Things are all at the outer limit of what I am able to add (or need) in my daily work, but it’s still damn cool to learn about.

Derek Featherstone

Derek gave a very interesting talk on designing for the extremes, which in this case were somewhat analogous to what Eric Meyer calls a stress case. The difference being that “extremes” here refer to visitors with handicaps requiring them to use assistive technology to access the content on your site. Derek’s talk covered how making subtle design tweaks, along with good old fashioned progressive enhancement, to help these extreme cases can benefit everyone. At first, this wasn’t anything I saw myself using given the types of clients we handle, but then it started to click. Any form could benefit from this. Any pile of specifications in a table could benefit from this. If for no other reason than to dress up this otherwise tedious information.

Eric Meyer

Damn it. Every time Eric Meyer gives a talk I get a knot in my throat for some reason. I finished Eric’s latest book, “Design For Real Life” only a day ago, so a lot of what he covered in his talk was a valuable recap’. As with Featherstone’s talk there are only occasional times I would need to design for a stress case. Remembering to do it when those opportunities present themselves is the real key, and that’s the point Eric drove home. Your users are people. You can’t predict what kind of day they are having or why they are on your site, so design for the stress case (where necessary) to make everyone’s visit better.

Josh Clark

Josh Clark pinch-hit for Jeremy Keith (get well soon), and got my brain going about the possibilities of connecting physical items to the web with beacons. Before he got up there I had no idea this shit existed! (Sue me. I live in a corn field in Indiana!) We have a client who could use this very idea right now. I’m tempted to follow Val Head’s advice and buy a few of these things, mock something up quick, and pass it around to see if it sticks. It’s a little disconcerting, as a designer, to envision a web without a graphical interface, but it’s also a little exciting. Removing those frictions points, building things that make people’s lives better, that’s what it’s all about.

That’s about it; another huge day of new ideas, new techniques, and new technologies. Tomorrow Brad Frost has us for the entire day to talk pattern libraries. I am really looking forward to that.