Future of Web Design 2008 review
Yesterday, I attended the Future of Web Design in London. I enjoyed the conference which featured presentations about all aspects of the web design process from inspiration, through user experience, to design and deployment, and promoting and maintaining your website. Here's my short review of the day, with apologies if I do not mention every single speaker. These are my highlights.
Morecambe and Wise
Generally, I thought the presentations were much more my type of thing compared to last year which became a bit esoteric in places. The morning session featured some very good speakers including Andy Budd on the User Experience Curve [some nice analogies between great hotel service and website service and usability] and Andy Clarke and Steve Pearce who compared brand importance with user experience. Andy Clarke, in particular, was very entertaining and he described different types of design and the take-home message seemed to be that 'genius' or inspired design was best. It was observed that this was like 'one liners' from a Morecambe and Wise comedy sketch. An interesting and amusing comparison!
Design to Deployment with Cheese!
Jon Hicks described the website design and build process that he uses everyday and illustrated this with a 'fictional' site called Cheesophile that he created [arising from his love of cheese!]. For me, this was the best presentation because it featured some great CSS tips and tricks that I could use myself.
Negative letter spacing can be good for you
For example, I rarely use the letter spacing property on headings but the use of negative letter spacing was suggested to 'tighten up' headings. Jon also enthused about Fireworks as an image editing tool for the web. I heartily agree that it is much better than Photoshop in many areas.
Promoting your Website
Paul Farnell from Litmus described how they have promoted their online browser compatibility testing service. The use of satellite websites and 'unconventional' promotional methods were emphasized over standard SEO methods.
Satellite websites promote your main website
Satellite websites are websites that promote your main website by offering a complimentary, and usually free, service to your main business or by offering a subset of services [for example, Ta-da List]. Of course, another way of promoting your website is speaking at conferences [ahem.]
Website Maintenance and Iteration
Daniel Burka is chief creative director at Digg and he described some of the processes and ideas behind the evolution of sites like Pownce and Digg. The use of common design themes in the various elements of each site and adapting to user demand were two of the points that Daniel made. He also made the point that you need to make time for website iteration and not overbook with new projects. I know that very well, having not done enough work on some of my own sites recently...
Overall, I though that Future of Web Design 2008 was better than the 2007 version. However, there were some not-so-good bits including a couple of product pitches from chief sponsors Adobe and Microsoft that did not fit with the other presentations and [particularly from Microsoft's Silverlight representative] were overlong. The conference 'welcome bag' was also a bit of a waste of time because it only contained the conference brochure and two or three promotional leaflets.
For me, the best bits of any conference like this are the examples or methods that I can use in everyday work or in future projects. I want practical and useful tips and tricks and insight from web design experts. I think all of the presentations this year offered something along these lines but some were more relevant than others for a freelancer like myself.