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This past week I had the privilege of attending An Event Apart in Boston, MA. In my role as a Creative Technologist at Primacy, I’m responsible for collaborating with our graphic designers to create interactive online experiences. An Event Apart inspired me and gave me some great insights to bring back to the office and put into place. Here are my takeaways:
  1. “We don’t design for Browsers” – Jeffrey ZeldmanThe opening thought from Jeffrey Zeldman, a well-known leader in the industry and founder of Happy Cog. As web developers and designers, we need to remember that we aren’t building for technology - we are building for people. The web is a service technology and our work needs to service the people who use it.
  2. Bring Data and Research to the TableSarah Parmenter, a User Interface Designer and owner of You Know Who, reminds us that every decision we make on the web needs to be backed up by research and data.  Success comes from removing your own preferences and using data as a foundation to drive all creative and technical direction.  This data can come from a variety of sources including; Google Analytics, KISSmetrics, Chartbeat, Facebook’s Page Insights, etc.  From my own personal experiences, I find that it is much easier to have a positive conversation with a client while presenting a solution, when that solution is driven by data.
  3. Use Frameworks Not ProcessesDan Mall, Founder and Designer at SuperFriendly, emphasizes that passing the baton from project management to design to development does not create the best end result.  Instead, there should be overlap by the various departments involved.  All groups should start together, diverge, converge, and end together.  At Primacy, we often work within this agile flow.  A recent project of ours, child obesity 180, had every department involved at various points from start to finish.  Those involved were on the same page throughout the process and in turn delivered a successful product.
  4. Mobile Usage is IncreasingAccording to Luke Wrokblewski, industry leader and author of Mobile First, by 2017, 4 out of 7.5 Billion people on the planet will be using mobile devices. These devices will vary even more than today in screen size and resolution. We need to start shifting our focus towards designing/developing for screen size and not device type. In the future, we will be able to use media queries to detect not only the width of a screen, but also the height. The “fold” will no longer exist because we will be able to position content based on height. Given this advancement, we can design different interfaces for tall/narrow screens as well as wide/short screens.
  5. Build Your Websites with Progressive EnhancementsIf someone shuts off CSS and Javascript in their web browser, we need to make sure that they can still access the most important information on a page. Jeremy Keith, an Irish web developer and author of the blog adactio, suggests the following flow; write content first, then structure your content into html, then add styles via CSS, and lastly add behavior. Jeremy tells us to think of our websites like an escalator – even when it’s turned off, you’re still able to use it.
  6. Performance is KeyPaul Irish, a developer of Modernizr and HTML5 Boilerplate, leaves us with the following goals for Performance; web pages should load fast in mobile, and a page’s Speed Index (average time it takes to display page content) should be under 1,000ms on first view. Using developer tools such as webpagetest.org and Page Speed Insights we can achieve these goals. Within Primacy, many of our clients use Content Management Systems to populate their sites. This means that there is a lot of data being loaded onto a page, and some of this data may not be optimized, ie images. As a front-end-developer, it’s my job to look at a pages’ load time and ensure that any of my script, css, and html within a template loads in an efficient manner to balance out any un-optimized content.
  7. CSS4 is going to be awesomeLea Verou, an Invited Expert of the CSS Working Group, gives us a sneak peak into CSS4. The biggest change? CSS4 will have variables and act very much like SASS. For example, the variable gray will act like a function similar to SASS’s darken function. We will have the ability to add shade to a color by writing the following CSS: gray(10%, .5). This CSS translates to “darken this color by 10% and add 50% opacity”. I’m especially excited about this because browsers natively support CSS. With syntaxes like SASS and LESS, you need to use a compiler to output CSS for browsers.
  8. Seamless Transition is the futureWe are moving toward a point where we want to be able to transition content and experiences between multiple devices.  For instance, listening to music while out on a walk, then coming home and transferring that music to a desktop.  Or, viewing a recipe on a mobile device while at the grocery store, then shifting to a larger device at home without having to email the link.  Josh Clark, creator of Couch to 5k and author of Tapworthy, emphasized that this is where the future is going, it’s time to develop solutions to accomplish it.