Web Design Day 2012, Pittsburgh

Over the weekend, I attended Web Design Day in Pittsburgh, PA. There were a lot of great speakers, I met a lot of great people, and it was an all-around fun event! Here are some of my notes from the talks.

The day was formatted similar to An Event Apart, where there was one speaker per time slot, and every talk was in the same room. While all of the speakers were great, I’m going to talk specifically about just a couple. First up was Kevin Hoffman (@kevinmhoffman), who talked about something I loath- meetings. He proposed a simple framework to make meetings more effective; he specifically spoke to 4 roles that should be assumed at meetings:

  • Facilitator, who should remain neutral by moving the conversation along but never interjecting his or her opinion.
  • Recorder, who will take notes in a very public fashion, like on a whiteboard. This will aide retention as well as prevent people from reiterating.
  • Group Member, who should come to the meeting with ideas!
  • Leader, who designs the meeting, decides what it will be about, and who should attend.

A few other take aways I got from his talk:

  • Propose ridiculous ideas at the beginning of the process
  • At meetings, discussing helps us retain 70% of what’s talked about.
  • Doing things on our own has a retention rate of 90%.
  • In meetings, hierarchy should disappear. Bosses and employees are the same.
  • “Sketching is an awesome thing to do in meetings.” (Sketch notes here)
  • Reduce deliverables! Most of the time they create overhead.

Next up was a talk I was particularly excited for: Becoming a Web Design Champion, by Meagan Fisher (@owltastic). I think she does amazing work and was really interested to see where she gets her inspiration.

  • Studying other fields will make you a better designer.
  • On that same token, varying your sources of inspiration will make sure you don’t just do whatever is trendy at the time.
  • She also spoke about her diverse work experience, speaking particularly highly of start-ups, which early on can function a lot like being a freelancer; if you’re invested in the company, it will be a lot of fun.
  • She talked about technique, saying that creating website concepts, especially responsive ones, are much easier with CSS3 (while is good- I’m terrible with photoshop and just fine with CSS).
  • Be Principled! Clarify your goals and create your own principles for design. They will serve as a baseline for your work and make you think about why you do things.
  • Take Critiques better.
  • Start the feedback process early on. It allows for better iterations and better projects.
  • Finally, Go out on a limb. Challenge yourself, and work on your own projects.

Brad Frost (@brad_frost) also gave a great talk called Responsive Design vs Separate Mobile Sites: Presidential Smackdown Edition, where he took a look at both President Obama’s and Governor Romney’s mobile presence.

  • 55% of American Adults access the mobile web. 31% of those adults use mobile as their primary access.
  • He talks about the Mobile Hierarchy of Needs (Slide 37 here). Number 1: Access
  • Mobile users will do anything they can, as long as it’s presented properly.
  • Conditional Loading is a necessity! Progressive (and agressive) enhancement is your friend!
  • 71% of mobile users expect site to load at least as fast as the desktop, regardless of connection
  • 74% of those users will abandon a site after 5 seconds.
  • Unfortunately, 86% of responsive/mobile sites weight as much as the desktop!
  • Users only care about one thing: “Can I do what I came here to do?”

The last talk I’m going to put here is Daniel Mall’s (@danielmall): Hulkamania and Design. This was I didn’t know much about (except that the title is awesome). I was really glad I stuck around for it!

  • Demandment #1: One at a time. Every client has their own needs and problems. Deal with them one at a time.
  • When trying to manage a lot of data, designing a fake CMS might be helpful just so you can visualize it all.
  • Humans > Algorithms.
  • Demandment #2: Giants are made. Sometimes we make giants out of projects when we don’t need to.
  • Related content is key in creating. Do this and do it well.
  • Work smarter, not harder.
  • Demandment #3: Experiment.
  • Create invisible deliverables: things that will help you with the project.
  • Demandment #4: Encourage the Adjacent Possible
  • Try the next logical thing
  • Put 2 things together that normally wouldn’t go together and see what happens.
  • “Creativity is just connecting things.”
  • Demandment #5: Turn Heel (be the bad guy)
  • Find opportunities to become a client to see what it’s like.
  • Demandment #6: Enjoy yourself!

That’s my recap, though a bit incomplete! I don’t mention my notes here, but Geoff Barnes (@texburgher) also gave a great talk. You can find his slides here.

You can also check out all of my sketch notes on Flickr here.