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New Adventures in Nottingham

Posted in on 23 January 2011

I’ve just come back from the New Adventures in Web Design conference which was a one day conference in Nottingham. The event was created and organised by freelance web designer, author, and speaker Simon Collison and it was the first event (I assume) under the New Adventures name. Overall I really enjoyed it and here’s my review.

Introducing the conference

Inside the Albert Hall venue The conference was very affordable and this was one reason I attended. To be honest, some of the more established (London) conferences (for example, Future of Web Design) are pretty much beyond my freelancer’s budget these days. They may have different objectives and audiences but conferences that cost more than £300/day (plus expenses, travel etc) are not for me. Of course, travel and accommodation in Nottingham added to the cost but New Adventures just seemed better value from the get-go.

Left: Inside the Albert Hall venue.

The second reason for attending the New Adventures conference was the speakers who are all well known and highly regarded in the web design industry. A list of well-known faces is not a pre-requisite for me to attend a conference but creative talent and some potentially interesting topics is a good start.

Thirdly, the conference website and the reputation of Simon Collison was an influence on my decision to go. I didn’t know every single detail when I booked but I was pretty sure that this would be a high quality event.

Right. Good value and high quality. Sounds good so far!

The day itself

The conference was in the Albert Hall, Nottingham, which is an ornate venue dominated by a large church-type organ behind the stage. Disappointingly (or luckily), only one speaker made a Frankie Howerd-type joke about a large organ. A missed opportunity I feel ;-)

Conference schwag: The conference registration pack contained a small newspaper (buy it here) (containing conference/speaker details and specially commissioned articles), HTML5 element flowchart (how to decide or organise content elements), badge (from Erskine Design), a bookmark, and sponsors’ messages. The newspaper is not something I’ve seen at other conferences but it exemplifies the amount of work that must have gone into this conference.

This was a good fast-paced approach

The conference featured ten speakers and two Q and A sessions in 30-35 minute slots. I thought this was a good fast-paced approach and it gave each presenter time enough to get their point across and, for me, it meant the day went by very quickly.

All the speakers gave me something to think about but I would highlight Greg Wood, Elliot Jay Stocks, Sarah Parmenter, Tim Van Damme and Brendan Dawes as those that made the best connection with me. I think this was (mostly) because I felt that their presentations were more closely related to my freelance work.

In the case of Brendan Dawes, who talked about product design, he just gave a brilliantly entertaining talk at the end of the day and he’d get my vote (if there was one) for the best presentation.

More about (some of) the presentations

Elliot Jay Stocks talked about design principles and highlighted websites where he thought the designs were poorly implemented. He urged greater thinking about each design decision. Think about why you are dong something. Don’t just add a rounded corner for the sake of it.

… we could all spend more time enhancing website content

Greg Wood spoke about his personal website where each article is editorially designed with a different layout and visually enhanced content. He also described a small survey where he compared articles with and without editorially designed content and the effect on readers’ comprehension. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the article with more visually interesting content gave readers a better understanding. Even though you might have predicted this result, and you would not want to use this approach with all websites, I still think there’s a lesson here that we could all spend more time enhancing website content.

Sarah Parmenter described how color choices for a web design could be influenced by global color preferences. For example, the color for ‘love’ is different around the globe. She described how different text (copy writing) and design decisions can influence website visitors and gave several website examples.

Info: UXmovement was referenced in some of the examples.

Tim Van Damme talked about how he started his web design career, described how web design feedback from clients should help improve your designs and gave some common sense advice about building relationships with clients. He also described how designs should be appropriate to the context. A restaurant website would have more ‘designed pixels’ than a web app for example. Whatever you do, don’t use Flash. Tim doesn’t like it!

… pacing and framing in comics helps give the reader a better sense of the action

Andy Clarke talked about the timing in movies and comic book design and how the methods used there might be applied to web design. In particular, he described how pacing and framing in comics helps give the reader a better sense of the action. For websites, he explained that we could use similar methods to slow things down at some points of the website process and create better experiences. This was a really interesting idea and Apple was cited as a website that did this. However, I think it would have been useful to show website examples to solidify these ideas.

More: Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud was cited as the book for this subject · Amazon UK · Amazon.com

Brendan Dawes gave a hugely entertaining talk about the products he loves (I never knew that some pencil brands have a big following!) and some that he has designed and made. The overall point was that we should make less products but make them better. Brendan has a great presentation style that is funny and informing at the same time. It was an excellent finish to the day.

I’ve only (briefly) described some of the presentations here but all speakers had excellent presentation skills. All the talks gave me something to think about.

More: Some great Sketchnotes on the presentations by Ubelly · The Twitter hashtag for the conference is #naconf · More reviews of the conference

Anything not work out?

The seats were bloody hard (although those at the sides were much better) but there were breaks between each speaker which helped. The registration was slow and it delayed the start of the conference. Perhaps pre-registration the night before would be better? Additionally, the venue’s facilities seemed a bit lacking because a single male washroom for 600+ conference attendees was not ideal.

It’s not the fault of the organisers but, where I stayed, the Holiday Inn Express breakfast was poor. We actually went out for breakfast on one of the days.

It would be easy to improve (most of) these for next time and the conference’s good points far outweighed any negatives.

Would I go again?

… an entertaining and stimulating day of presentations

Yes! Overall, it was an entertaining and stimulating day of presentations with a friendly and enthusiastic atmosphere. The whole event was well organised (it must have been an incredible amount of hard work) and you would not have known that this was the first conference under the New Adventures banner. Everyone in the conference team deserves big credit for creating and running the event.

It was also a good opportunity to meet to meet a few folks with similar jobs, some of whom, at the start of the conference, I only knew through Twitter.

Let’s have another New Adventures in Web Design conference! Easy for me to say, I know, but I hope that New Adventures will be repeated.

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Comments

  1. Jeorge Peter

    Nice information list. I’d like to put some presentations that could enhance my websites. And I think it will be more fun to have more time spending with this.

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